Secular and religious Jewish leaders in the UK gave a mixed reaction to the visit of Donald Trump this week, as organisers of a ‘Jewish bloc’ protest in the capital on Tuesday said British Jewish would help show he was not welcome.
Jews made their voices heard during Trump’s first state visit to the UK, shortly after he was election, and organisers of the Jewish march this week said they would meet any willing participant in the south-west corner of Trafalgar Square at 11am on Tuesday.
As plans to protest gathered pace, Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said he tried to “distinguish between the President of the United States and its current occupant”.
He said: “The President of the United States is the democratically elected leader of one of Britain’s most important allies and those who hold public office have certain responsibilities.
“Donald Trump, however, is a boor, an egoist, and has made inappropriate comments about events in British life. He seems unable to engage in civilised debate which is itself a danger to a healthy democracy.”
In the strictly Orthodox world of Stamford Hill, however, Jewish Community Council of North London (JCC) director Levi Shapiro said Trump was “an outstanding friend for the Jewish people who should be applauded for it”.
He added: “We welcome the president to London. This is an important state visit for many reasons and we should look for the positive outcomes. America has always welcomed the British and surely we should do the same.”
Amos Schonfield, an organiser of the Jewish protest march and Yachad representative at the Board of Deputies, said Jewish demonstrators would include members of youth movements, university students and those who took a day off work to protest Trump’s welcome.
“One of the points I’ve been making to more conservative members of our community in the past few days is that the past year has been one of the deadliest ever for American Jews, with shootings at two synagogues,” said Schonfield.
“Trump’s policies, whether anti-LGBT or separating refugee families at the border, are an absolute affront to Jewish values and a community whose experience is one of seeking refuge. That’s why any Jewish presence at the protest tomorrow is welcome, and why Trump isn’t.”
Online, actor and writer David Schneider tweeted: “There have been some low points in the last few years but few can be worse than seeing our country fawn before a lying, corrupt fascist”.
As Air Force One approached Stansted on Monday morning, Trump engaged in a Twitter spat with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had earlier told Trump his values were “the complete opposite of London’s values and the values of this country”.
Khan recalled that Trump had “praised the ‘very fine people on both sides’ when torch-wielding white supremacists and antisemites marched through the streets clashing with anti-racist campaigners”.
Trump responded by calling the mayor “a loser” and suggested that British representatives were best-advised to be nice to him ahead of a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal.