President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, on Friday marked the upcoming High Holy Days during a call with rabbis and other Jewish leaders, hailing the administration’s strong support for Israel.
During the call the president expressed “deep admiration for the Jewish people” for enduring “unthinkable persecution” over the centuries, and praised the Jewish new year, which begins Wednesday, for its tradition of helping individuals to “rededicate your lives to the sacred values you hold dear.” The holiday, Rosh Hashana, begins 10 days of repentance ending with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Trump, who has frequently vowed to remain a staunch ally of Israel, also reiterated his commitment to maintaining strong U.S. ties to the country going forward.
“I am proud to stand with the Jewish people and with our cherished friend and ally, the State of Israel,” he said, according to a White House readout of the call.
Trump also expressed a desire to achieve “significant progress” in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians before the close of the year.
The call proceeded as scheduled despite hundreds of rabbis from the three main branches of Judaism boycotting the call following the president’s defense of his response to a violent rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Virginia last month.
Trump on Thursday signed a joint congressional resolution condemning the violence and “hatred, bigotry, and racism” displayed in Charlottesville.
The Trump administration has at times struggled with its messaging on issues related to the Jewish people.
In February, faith leaders rebuked the White House after the revelation that it had removed a mention of Jewish leaders from a draft statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, with one prominent group calling on the administration to “immediately rectify this painful omission.”
In April, in an attempt to castigate President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, White House press secretary Sean Spicer downplayed atrocities in Nazi Germany that included the mass gassing of Jews, saying that even Hitler “didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.”
In his Friday conference call, Trump explicitly denounced the Holocaust as “evil beyond human comprehension.”
Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, is married to the president’s daughter Ivanka, who converted. He praised Trump’s support for the faith Friday.
“His love and respect for the Jewish people extends way beyond his family, and into the heart of Jewish American communities,” Kushner said during the teleconference call.