“We are here to express, through a Jewish lens, our deep opposition to the developments we’re seeing right now, and our refusal to sit silently in the face of the oppression that is coming,” said Lex Rofes, who organized over 75 people outside the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island on the East Side of Providence, “to protest Jewish communal silence on the appointments of Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and others,” by President-elect Donald Trump.
Those standing outside in the rain with signs were concerned that some Jewish groups are being silent on the appointment of anti-semitic, supporters of neo-Nazism such as Steve Bannon. Even as the Anti-Defamation League calls Bannon, “hostile to core American values,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has declined to comment, saying “AIPAC has a long-standing policy of not taking positions on presidential appointments.”
The rally outside the Jewish Alliance sought to “express Jewishly our disdain for Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, anti-semitism and other forms of discrimination that many newly-chosen members of the incoming administration embody.”
Sam Rubenstein is a student at Brown University and a member of J-Street at Brown. J Street has a petition on its website to “Keep Bannon out of the White House.” Rubenstein, whose sense of social justice is rooted in his Jewish faith and identity, did not see the gathering as a protest of the Jewish Alliance, but as an “opportunity to call them into this work… to resist the hate that we’re seeing around this country.”
“We’re looking for leadership,” said Rubenstein, “We need them in a new way. We need them as protectors and we need them as activists.”
“After the election,” continued Rubenstein, “the alliance put out a statement saying they would ‘defend the civil liberties of every American and speak out against anti-semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry. I think that’s great, and I think that we’re here to say we take them at their word and we are expressing our support, our expectation and our demand that they act on that.”
Naomi Chasek-Macfoy is a Brown University student. “For members of the [Jewish] community who look like me… who are black or who are of color, the choice [of standing up against bigotry] is actually very different,” said Chasek-Macfoy. “There aren’t any halls of power to cling to, or any halls of power that have ever been able to protect us. So when we turn our backs on the communities most explicitly targeted by new and old regimes of power, we turn our backs on ourselves.”
“Our communal institutions have spent so much teaching us he lessons of the Holocaust,” continued Chasek-Macfoy, “that we must stand up early and often and say loudly, ‘Never again!'”
Representative Aaron Regunberg is proud of his Jewish heritage and identity, especially his community’s long history of “engaging in the fight for justice and equality.”
“We, of all people, need to speak out against these acts of violence, and in a world where personnel is policy, we also need to speak out against appointments of violence,” said Regunberg, “I would argue that the appointment of Steve Bannon to senior White House advisor, is an act of violence by the incoming Trump administration.
“Steve Bannon has provided a platform and in doing so has knowingly supported and empowered the segments of our society that most closely resemble Hitler’s brown shirts. That’s an inflammatory comparison, but I use it thoughtfully. It’s not the ‘alt-right’ it’s neo-Nazism and we need to call it that,” said Regunberg, to applause and cheers.
Regunberg said that prior to the election, he had never experienced explicitly anti-semitic targeting, but after Trump’s election he has been subject to “multiple online attacks.” And this is nothing compare to the “outright attacks” being experienced by Muslims, immigrants and people of color.
Appointments like Steve Bannon are not normal, said Regunberg, “but they will become normal if they are treated as such.”
Lex Rofes was kind enough to share Sam Eilertsen‘s video from the event: