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Montana rabbis appalled by Senator Daines' support of racist incitement
Guest column

Montana rabbis appalled by Senator Daines' support of racist incitement

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An open letter to U.S. Sen. Steve Daines:

The Montana Association Of Rabbis (MAOR), representing rabbis in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula and Whitefish, is unanimously appalled by the ongoing torrent of racist incitement and personal attacks that President Trump continues to direct against Democratic women of color in Congress. MAOR is unanimously appalled and surprised by Senator Daines' support of the president's views and attacks.

Montana deserves and expects more from its representatives. It is not the Montana way to personally attack others for their political viewpoints or positions. It is not the Montana way to promote bigotry or hatred, as the senator himself stated with his fellow representatives on Dec. 27, 2016: "We stand firmly together to send a clear message that ignorance, hatred and threats of violence are unacceptable and have no place... in Montana or across this nation."

Collectively, as Montana's rabbis, we are the experts on antisemitism in Montana; we have studied it, lived it and know it when we see it. We refuse to allow the real threat of antisemitism to be weaponized and exploited by those who themselves share a large part of the responsibility for the rise of white nationalist and antisemitic violence in this country. Accusing these representatives of antisemitism is no justification for telling them "to go back to where they came from" or inciting violence against them.

In a direct affront to Montana's Jewish communities and Jewish leaders, Senator Daines has decided to join in the president's rhetoric of hate, a rhetoric which presents a serious threat to Jewish communities. We do not feel safer or supported by Senator Daines' comments, rather we fear the legitimization the president and the senator are giving to racism, xenophobia, misogyny and hatred.

At a time when many of the core values and norms of American democracy are under threat, we cannot equivocate or hesitate to challenge the forces of hate, even — and especially — when these forces cloak themselves in the authority of the Senate or the White House.

We invite Senator Daines to meet with MAOR's rabbis so that he can learn more about the dangers of antisemitism and how his words do not combat antisemitism as much as they promote white supremacy and hatred.

This opinion is signed by Rabbi Laurie Franklin, Missoula; Rabbi Mark Kula, Bozeman; Rabbi Francine Roston, Whitefish; Rabbi Ed Stafman, Bozeman; and student Rabbi Erik Uriarte, Billings. 

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