I don’t want to sound hypocritical. Because my wonderful daughter was born 23 days ago I will not be at AIPAC this year. However, I want to challenge those who are planning to walk out on Donald Trump’s speech to think of the implications of this.
As pointed out in an article written by two of my classmates whose opinions I deeply respect, Bava Metzia 37b says that “silence is tantamount to consent.” I would never argue for silence as regards Trump. I find heinous his attacks on Muslims, Hispanics, the LGBT community and the differently-abled. As one who served on the board of the immigration reform group Humane Borders, who spoke in Tucson about the importance of civil marriage for all people regardless of their sexual orientation and who worked for a Muslim nonprofit group in Chicago as well as partnering with the 96th Street Mosque in Manhattan and the Islamic Center of Long Island, I find Trump’s remarks deplorable. His refusal to condemn KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and then feign ignorance was inexcusable. His mocking of reporter Serge Koveleski and then saying he didn’t know of him was childish, small-minded and unconscionable. This man is a paradigm for what is wrong with America, and the racism and xenophobia he has shown makes me feel that I am living in the jingoistic age of 1898 rather than in the “progressive” age of 2016.I support those who speak against him and challenge him.
At the same time, there is a way to challenge Trump without walking out of the room and which I believe would be more productive. Leviticus 19:17 teaches us “You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; but you must surely reprove your neighbor.” Trump needs to be challenged on the points he makes. He needs to hear loud and clear that appealing to people’s animalistic, base natures will not work, that we subscribe to a higher power of pluralism, multiculturalism and respect for all. Walking out of the room does not give that message to Trump; rather it gives him increased attention and a podium to speak to those who might be more embracing of his views. Let him speak in accordance with the first amendment of our founding fathers, but do challenge his message of racism and intolerance.
I wish I could be in the room to model this principle in which I believe so strongly. There is a middle road between silence and walking out. I hope that this high road will be taken tomorrow.