January 13, 2021
In response to the House of Representatives’ bipartisan vote to impeach President Trump, leaders of the following Reform Movement organizations issued this statement:
We applaud the House of Representatives’ bipartisan vote to hold President Trump accountable for his incitement of violence against the United States government and we urge the Senate to act on this Article of Impeachment. The January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol was inspired by years of President Trump’s messages of hatred and resentment and by his persistent and virulent undermining of public faith in the American democratic process, in the constitutional promise of fair and free elections, and in Congress’s constitutional responsibility to affirm the accuracy of the electoral college count – all for his own political gain. President Trump’s behavior has shaken our democracy to its core.
The President’s language and his actions preceding the riot and in the days since are an abdication of moral leadership. In Jewish tradition, when a wrong has been committed, the expression of remorse is central to the act of teshuva, repentance. Yet rather than accept responsibility or express contrition for the role that his words played in the desecration of the Capitol and the deaths of at least six individuals, including two Capitol Police officers, President Trump has stood by his disproven lies and provocative rhetoric. Instead of remonstration, he shared words of love for those involved in the attack, among them white supremacists who rampaged through the House and Senate, some armed, some dressed in clothes bearing racist and antisemitic words and symbols.
Leviticus 19:17 calls on all people of conscience to rebuke the evildoer, lest we incur guilt on account of the evildoer’s actions, but to do so without hate in our heart. Throughout the Bible, the voice of moral conscience embodied in the words of the Prophets teaches by example that even those of power and influence, indeed, even the King, would be held accountable for their wrongdoings and their violation of God’s laws. Ahab is confronted by Elijah (1 Kings 21); Rehoboam by Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:24); the “man of God” in challenging Jeroboam, refuses the King’s offer of financial rewards to come and join him (1 Kings 13); and Nathan’s words of rebuke of King David’s guilt and accountability, “Thou art the one,” have resonated through the millennia to stand for the proposition that not even the most powerful ruler can violate the law without being called to account.
We have heard the calls for unity in this moment. In Genesis Rabbah (54:3), we read: “Reproof leads to peace; a peace where there has been no reproof is no peace.” These words remind us that unity must be built on pillars of truth. The House’s bipartisan action rebuking the President is a clear statement that healing cannot come without clarity around responsibility. The President of the United States, charged with keeping the nation safe from enemies, abetted an attack on members of Congress because of political differences. Today’s House vote makes clear that such actions have no place in a free nation.
Prior to election day, our movement launched “Kol Kolot: Every Voice, Every Vote,” our 2020 nonpartisan civic engagement campaign. The campaign was premised on the idea that our democracy is strongest when everyone participates. We are proud that we engaged more than half a million Americans in what was ultimately the greatest voter turnout in more than a century. And it is shameful that despite universal affirmations by every state of a free and fair election, as well as scores of judicial decisions rejecting challenges to the election results, including from the Supreme Court, President Trump has sought to invalidate and discredit the voices of voters who did not cast their ballots for him. Last week’s events showed the very real tragedy that can result from the persistent repetition of scurrilous lies.
Our nation’s future well-being depends on a restored sense of national cohesiveness and trust in our governmental institutions. This work will not be easy or fast. But the House’s vote establishes a foundation of accountability on which we must build. Those elected to serve the nation must appeal to its highest aspirations, rather than stoke its basest instincts. We pray that the days ahead will renew Americans’ faith in one another and in our democracy. And we pray that God blesses our nation and its people.
Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President
Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, Chair
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Hara Person, Chief Executive
Rabbi Ronald Segal, President
American Conference of Cantors
Cantor Claire Franco, President
Rachel Roth, Chief Operating Officer
Association of Reform Jewish Educators
Dr. Katherine Schwartz, President
Rabbi Stan Schickler, Executive Director
Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism
Fran Katz, President
Tricia Ginis, Executive Director
Men of Reform Judaism
Steven M. Portnoy, President
National Association for Temple Administration
Jack Feldman, FTA, President
Michael Liepman, Executive Director
NFTY, The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Fletcher Block, President
The 5780-5781 NFTY North American Board
Program and Engagement Professionals of Reform Judaism
Bryan Bierman, President
Reform Pension Board
G. Leonard Teitelbaum, Chair
Michael Kimmel, Chief Executive Officer
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director
Barbara Weinstein, Director, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Susan Friedberg Kalson, Chair, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director
Susan C. Bass, President
Women’s Rabbinic Network
Rabbi Mary L. Zamore, Executive Director
Rabbi Leah Berkowitz, Co-President
Rabbi Emily Segal, Co-President