Donald Trump’s rhetoric was targeted in three Bay Area “Vigil Against Violence” events, with one speaker comparing the presumptive Republican presidential candidate to Haman.
More than 65 people gathered June 21 in San Francisco as part of a national day of action organized by Bend the Arc Jewish Action. Similar rallies were held in Palo Alto and San Leandro, as well as in Chicago, Raleigh, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York.
Those in attendance at the San Francisco event held signs that read “Jews reject Trump.” Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco pointed to a young girl in the crowd who created her own sign that read “Making America Hate Again,” a play on Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again.”
Mintz led the crowd in songs and the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer. Attendees ranged from young children to older adults, singing songs such as “Imagine” by John Lennon and the civil-rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Mintz said that praying, especially after a tragedy such as the June 12 shootings in Orlando, is not enough to fix the problems America is facing, and that the only way to bring about change is to act.
The rabbi, a national Bend the Arc board member, compared Trump to Haman, the evil figure of the Purim story.
“A movement is not a movement to oppose someone who is a Haman, a movement is a powerful way to express our Jewish values, the things we hold close to our heart,” she said. “We do it because of the pain that exists in this country and has existed for so long, the pain of racism and homophobia, the pain of sexism and now of Islamophobia, so we continue to come together and to be proud of what it means to be an American for the future.”
In addition to signs, many at the event held yahrzeit candles in memory of three civil rights activists — Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney — who were killed 52 years ago in Mississippi by the Ku Klux Klan as they worked to advance voting rights. Goodman and Schwerner were white Jews and Chaney was a black Christian activist; June 21 marked the anniversary of their deaths in 1964.
Mississippi’s attorney general announced this week that he had closed the case into the killings because there was no likelihood of additional convictions.
“The great irony is that today is the day that they closed the case in Mississippi,” Mintz said. “The irony for me as a rabbi is that it’s not over, it feels like it’s happening over and over and over again.”
The nationwide vigils came nine days after a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people and injured dozens more in an Orlando gay nightclub. After the attack, Trump repeated his call for banning Muslims from entering the U.S., saying they pose a threat to the safety of Americans.
Mintz said Jews have to stand up for Muslims, since 70 years ago it was Jewish immigrants who were “coming off of the boats” and were unwelcome to many Americans. This parallel is echoed by #weveseenthisbefore, a nationwide campaign promoted by Bend the Arc.
On June 6, Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler announced plans for the vigils at the organization’s first national conference in Washington D.C., saying the group’s goal is to oppose Trump’s presidential campaign and what the group calls his “anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and violent agenda.”