Slamming Muslim ban, Jewish Republicans still split on Trump

Donald Trump addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., Dec. 3, 2015. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Jewish Republicans are criticizing Donald Trump for his renewed call to ban Muslim immigration, although few of his Jewish supporters seem to be reconsidering their endorsement of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

But at least one, celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, rescinded his apparent backing of Trump following the billionaire real estate magnate’s remarks.

One day after a Muslim-American gunman opened fire on an Orlando gay nightclub, killing 49 and wounding 53, Trump gave a speech reiterating his proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigration to the United States.

“I called for a ban after San Bernardino and was met with great scorn and anger, but now many are saying I was right to do so,” Trump said in the New Hampshire speech Monday, referring to the terror attack in Southern California last year carried out by a married Muslim couple who according to law enforcement were “inspired” by foreign terrorist organizations. “I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States.”

The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was born in the United States to immigrants from Afghanistan.

Trump has since repeated the proposal in television appearances. He also accused American Muslims of not reporting terror threats to law enforcement, claiming “they know who the people are, almost in every case, they know who they are, they brag about it, they talk about it.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which congratulated Trump in May for winning the primary but seemed to stop short of endorsing him, released a statement Tuesday admonishing the ban.

“The fear that many feel today cannot be superseded by a rush to demonize and marginalize other Americans of a different faith,” the statement read. “As a Jewish organization we are very sensitive to the rhetoric used against law-abiding Muslims in the United States in the wake of terrorist attacks by Muslim radicals.”

Jewish Republicans who support Trump have since come out against the ban, calling on the candidate to disavow his policy. But some of these same critics are standing by him.

“The Muslim ban has always been something he’s been for and I oppose,” Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush’s press secretary, told JTA. “It’s not in keeping with the American tradition of tolerance.”

But Fleischer, who accused presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of being soft on Islamic terror, said he would still support Trump, in part because he agrees with elements of Trump’s platform aside from the immigration ban.

One Jewish Republican who appeared to rescind his support for Trump is Boteach, the rabbi, author and talk-show host who was a Republican congressional candidate in 2014. In May, Boteach published a column on The Times of Israel website calling Trump “the right candidate for the Presidency over Hillary.”

But on Tuesday, Boteach told JTA that while he opposes Clinton, his vote is now up in the air. He said the column was not an endorsement.

“I disagree with him on the Muslim ban, I’m not in accordance with his values on some other things,” Boteach said. “I will decide who I will vote for as this campaign unfolds.”

Boteach said he appreciates Trump’s stance on Israel. The rabbi disagrees, however, with the candidate’s call to expel illegal immigrants from the United States and his criticism of a federal judge with Mexican ancestry who Trump said was biased against him in a lawsuit concerning the defunct Trump University.

“We have to turn to Donald Trump and appeal to him,” Boteach said. “’Mr. Trump, you have to run a campaign in accordance with our values, with American values. You have to show respect to each and every minority group, repudiate some past statements you have made.’”

Other Jewish Republicans who have opposed Trump from the outset used his recent statements as ammunition for their stance.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, called Trump “clueless” and “delusional.” Dan Senor, another former Bush staffer, said there should be “serious concern” over giving Trump national intelligence briefings, according to CNBC reporter John Harwood.