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Protesting Trump remarks, US rabbis cancel traditional call

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Washington (AFP)

A coalition of rabbis is boycotting a phone call held with the US president ahead of the major Jewish holidays each year, accusing Donald Trump of "abetting the voices of hatred" in remarks following a neo-Nazi protest this month.

Several top rabbinical organizations announced they would not convene the conference call with Trump in light of his ambiguous statements surrounding recent bloodshed in Charlottesville, Virginia at a rally organized by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Trump's predecessor Barack Obama would hold the call ahead of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in what was considered a nonpartisan tradition.

But Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, told CNN the consortium of rabbis canceled this year's call because of "an issue of moral leadership."

"Anti-Semitism witnessed in Charlottesville was terrifying and frightening," she said Thursday, adding that "since President Trump's election, there's been a rash of this kind of activity."

"Since his campaign, he refused to clarify and distance himself from anti-Semites, racists of all kind," she added.

Trump came under sharp criticism for evoking moral equivalency between white nationalist groups and counter-protestors, saying blame for violent clashes between the two groups existed "on many sides."

One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed during the violence when an avowed white supremacist plowed his car into a group of counter-protestors.

"The president's words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia," read a statement released on Wednesday by the rabbis, who represent several denominations of Judaism and a range of political backgrounds.

"Responsibility for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, including the death of Heather Heyer, does not lie with many sides but with one side: the Nazi, alt-right and white supremacists who brought their hate to a peaceful community," they said.

"We pray that President Trump will recognize and remedy the grave error he has made in abetting the voices of hatred."

Prominent Jewish members of Trump's administration -- including his daughter and son-in-law -- have mostly refrained from making public statements regarding the president's remarks.

A few who have spoken on the matter, including his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have defended him.

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