Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the Orthodox Jewish rabbi who supervised Ivanka Trump’s conversion and is close to the Trump family, has withdrawn from offering the invocation at the Republican National Convention following intense public pressure.
Lookstein informed his community on Friday that he would be withdrawing, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
“Unfortunately, when my name appeared on a list of speakers at the convention, without the context of the invocation I had been invited to present, the whole matter turned from rabbinic to political, something which was never intended,” he wrote. “Like my father before me, I have never been involved in politics. Politics divides people.”
The campaign to push Lookstein to withdraw was led by students and alumni from the Ramaz school, an elite Jewish prep school in Manhattan that Lookstein once led. The petition gathered 750 signatures by Friday morning, and stands at 826 as of this writing. It reads, in part:
Donald Trump openly spouts racist, misogynistic rhetoric; he advocates torture, the expulsion of millions of families, some long settled in America, and insinuates that some citizens of this great country are somehow less than others.
To embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught. As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the Modern Orthodox community, this is a shanda [shame] beyond the pale.
It’s a truism, but first they came for the Mexicans, and I said nothing. Then for the Muslims, and I was silent. Even if you are only looking out for what you believe is the self-interest of your community, you should know that Jews are never far behind on this list – that the world is a better place when we care about our fellow citizens and practice tolerance and celebrate difference.
The petition also accuses Trump of using a “dog whistle” to appeal to antisemitism, and claims that Trump “said he didn’t know anything about” David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan (whom Trump had previously disavowed, and whom he disavowed again).
Signatories alleged that despite all the good that Lookstein, aged 84, had done throughout his life, all of his contributions “will be flushed down the toilet for ten minutes on stage in Cleveland.”
Those who signed were passionate, and often intolerant: one former Ramaz student deleted a comment defending Trump from her Facebook page.
Lookstein circulated the prayer he was to have delivered:
Almighty God: We know that we are living in very dangerous times, when all of these blessings are threatened from without, by forces of terror and unimaginable brutality, and from within, by those who sow the seeds of bigotry, hatred and violence, putting our lives and our way of life at risk. And so we pray, Dear God: Help us to form a government which will protect us with sound strategy and steady strength; which will unite us with words of wisdom and acts of compassion; and which will thereby bring peace and harmony, safety and well-being to our beloved America and to all of humankind, and let us all say, Amen.
Recently, Lookstein has endured criticism from the Israeli rabbinical establishment, which nullified one of his conversions, over the objections of many Orthodox Jews in Israel, many of American origin. It is unclear whether Ivanka Trump is affected.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.