A Sydney rabbi open letter to a New Yorker Rabbi Lookstein

July 19, 2016 by Rabbi Chaim Ingram
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Rabbi Haskel Lookstein is rabbi emeritus of the Kehilat Yeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and former principal of the Ramaz School who was to have delivered the Invocation at the National Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

He is well-known for having been the rabbi supervising the Orthodox conversion of Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka.  At the eleventh hour he bowed out due to heavy pressure from former alumni of the school he had headed who maintained that this would amount to a “legitimization” of Donald Trump.
Rabbi Chaim Ingram, as well as writing personally to Rabbi Lookstein, has penned an open letter urging Rabbi Lookstein to make a twelfth-hour re-reappraisal
 
Dear Rabbi Lookstein לאי”ט,
 
Rabbi Haskel Luckstein

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein

You do not know me.  I am an obscure, semi-retired rabbi tucked away in Sydney, Australia.  But in this global village of ours, I connect with the Internet, sadly a necessity for today’s rabbis, and was distressed to see that, under pressure from people who presume to call themselves your alumni but actually seek to be your teachers (shades of yesterday’s Parasha!),  you backed out of delivering the Invocation for the forthcoming Republican Convention.

 
I am not a student of American politics.  But from what I read, you were to deliver a prayer to the assembled gathering which speaks of “equality for all regardless of race, religion and national origin”, condemns “bigotry, hatred and violence” and invokes G-D’s assistance to “help us to form a government which will …unite us with words of wisdom and with compassion”.
 
Noble words, all.  Words that Donald Trump may or may not endorse.  But words to which he will be forced to listen!
 
And here is the point.  Surely the Republican Party is much,much bigger than its presumptive nominee, Donald Trump!
 
I too am appalled at many of Trump’s utterances.  And, if what I read is correct, so are many leading Republicans!
 
So who will bring whom into line?  I do not believe one has to know a lot about politics to predict that Trump, if he is to indeed be the party’s nominee and if the Republican party is to avoid rupture, will be brought into line and will mellow his utterances in the weeks and months to come before the Election,
 
Rabbi Chaim Ingram

Rabbi Chaim Ingram

And who, above all, is in a position to influence this man for the good if not the rabbi who supervised the conversion to Judaism of his daughter? The rabbi to whom his daughter looks up more than to any other?  

 
I do not believe, nor do I think your alumni believe, that Donald Trump is a perverse man. He is a man with some perverse ideas.  These ideas can be neutralised. Who is in a better position to do so than his beloved daughter’s beloved rabbi? 
 
By withdrawing so publicly, have you not risked weakening or even losing this influence irrevocably?
 
As I say, I am an obscure rabbi from the other side of the world to you.  But my message is more important than who I am.  I urge you with my whole heart to reconsider once again.
 
You will not forfeit the respect of your alumni in the long run.  You will explain to them that the function of a good rabbi, above all, is not to reach out to those with whom you agree. It is to try to have a profound influence on those with whom you may profoundly disagree.
 
Were I in your position I would be desperate to deliver that invocation at the GOP Convention.   I would look Donald Trump fairly and squarely in the eye as I was delivering it.   Especially when I got to the parts about equality, bigotry, wisdom and compassion.  .And I would know for sure that he would be taking home some sort of message!  Which, given the nature of the relationship with his daughter, of course could be only the beginning.
 
Why on earth risk all this influence, all this positive energy, because of a few hundred students who want to teach their teacher?  Whose message to you is “you’re my rabbi – as long as you do what I tell you!”
 
Yours earnestly,
 
Chaim Ingram 
 
Rabbi Chaim Ingram

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