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February 6, 2019 1:14 pm

Trump State of the Union Address Draws Mixed Reactions From US Jewish Groups

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US President Donald Trump delivers a State of the Union address at the Capitol in Washington, DC, Feb. 5, 2019. Photo: Doug Mills / Pool via Reuters.

US President Donald Trump’s annual State of the Union address on Tuesday drew a wide range of responses from American Jewish groups.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) praised Trump’s speech, which featured several noteworthy Jewish-related moments, and accused Democrats of using their guest invitations to “highlight radical positions their base wants to hear, but which are out of step with mainstream America on things like transgender issues, climate change activism, ‘open borders’ immigration reforms, gun control, and the ‘resistance.’”

“The State of the Union is an opportunity reflect on the freedom we enjoy as Americans and the heavy responsibility our elected leaders bear to defend our freedom. Democratic members of Congress could have focused, as President Trump did, on what unites and strengthens us. Instead they chose to put forward divisiveness and partisanship,” the RJC charged in a statement.

Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) Executive Director Halie Soifer, on the other hand, asserted that Trump had delivered a message “characterized by fear and empty words.”

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“Tonight was a missed opportunity for the president to lead and unify the country after a painful period of obstruction and a 35-day government shutdown,” she said. “There is no onslaught of immigrants or security crisis on our southern border, and the US military must not be used for political purposes. We reject the president’s ongoing obfuscation of the truth.”

“In response to the president’s call for unity, we are unified in support of political change that will restore moral leadership and credibility to the White House, and our mission is more important now than ever before,” Soifer concluded.

B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said, “We are encouraged that the president expressed his support for the longstanding US-Israel alliance and highlighted the 2018 move of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Israel’s rightful capital. We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s hegemonic tendencies in the Middle East and the existential threat it poses to Israel. We welcome the president’s forceful commitment to keep Iran and the threat it poses globally in check.”

“We appreciate the special attention given during the address to the frightening rise of antisemitism in the U.S. with the inclusion of Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting survivors Judah Samet and injured police officer Timothy Matson as special White House guests in the House gallery,” they added.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted, “On #SOTU: Thank you @POTUS for your strong condemnation of anti-Semitism and commitment to protecting the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

The AJC also highlighted the moving gesture of Congress members singing “Happy Birthday” to Samet, who turned 81 on Tuesday.

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder stated his organization was “grateful for the president’s unambiguous declaration that ‘we must never ignore the vile poison of antisemitism, or those who spread its venomous creed. With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs,’ and for the public recognition he accorded to Holocaust survivors Judah Samet and Joshua Kaufman as well as the US Army veterans who liberated the Nazi concentration camps 74 years ago.”

“We send our great appreciation and thanks to President Trump and hope his words resonate everywhere,” Lauder said.

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