Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh have a direct message for Donald Trump: stay out our city until you’re ready to denounce white nationalists.
On Saturday, a gunman opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, killing 11 people who were attending religious services. Though the gunman had expressed anger with Donald Trump and believed the president was under the control of Jewish interests, he had also parroted conspiracy theories pushed by Trump that Jewish billionaire George Soros was funding anti-American protests and movements.
Trump has come under fire for stoking racial anger and emboldening white nationalists, and a group of Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh are now calling on him to denounce these groups. Eleven members of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, wrote an open letter to Trump demanding that he stop using divisive and racially charged language that enflamed hatred among many of his supporters.
“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the letter read. “You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.”
“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.”
Many have criticized Donald Trump for his reluctance to denounce white nationalists, as many racist groups have celebrated Trump’s presidency. After white supremacist groups stoked violence at Charlottesville last year, including one who drove a car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one, Trump was hesitant in calling out the racist groups.
“You also had some very fine people on both sides,” Trump said afterward, via ABC News. In other remarks he decried the removal of Confederate statues as changing history.
More recently, Trump has been accused of stoking racial anger with attacks on a migrant caravan of people from Central America working their way through Mexico toward the United States. Trump has called the group “hardened criminals” and passed along conspiracy theories that the caravan includes people from the Middle East trying to infiltrate the United States, while refusing to offer any evidence of either claim.
The Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh who denounced Trump called on him to respect all people.
“The Torah teaches that every human being is made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. This means all of us,” the leaders wrote. “In our neighbors, Americans, and people worldwide who have reached out to give our community strength, there we find the image of God.”
“Here in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we express gratitude for the first responders and for the outpouring of support from our neighbors near and far,” they wrote.
A group of Jewish leaders told @realDonaldTrump that he is no longer welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism: "For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement." https://t.co/Rpucz2fHEK #BigotPresident— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) October 29, 2018
Donald Trump did make a statement decrying the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the anti-Semitism that caused it, but has not made any statements on white nationalism specifically.