Congregation that shares Tree of Life Synagogue opts out of Rosh Hashana phone call with Trump |

Congregation that shares Tree of Life Synagogue opts out of Rosh Hashana phone call with Trump

Jacob Tierney
Oct. 28, 2018: The day after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, which killed 11 members from the three congregations that worshipped there: Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life - Or, L’Simcha

One of Pittsburgh’s Jewish congregations opted out of a conference phone call with President Donald Trump on Friday, urging the president to condemn white supremacy and change his stance on immigration and gun control.

Congregation Dor Hadash is one of three congregations that share the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, the site of the Oct. 27 massacre that killed 11 worshipers.

All three congregations were invited to participate in the phone call, according to Congregation Dor Hadash’s statement, along with about 1,000 other American Jewish leaders.

The call with the president is an annual tradition, marking the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

“We thank the president for offering his good wishes for the new year,” Dor Hadash said in a statement. “During this time of self-examination, atonement, and commitment to personal change, we invite him to join us by calling out white supremacy, putting an end to virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric, and placing limits on the sale of military-style weapons.”

Representatives from the other two Pittsburgh congregations — Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha and New Light — could not be reached for comment Friday night.

The news service Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Trump discussed a variety of topics during Friday’s 13-minute phone call. He said members of the Jewish community “embody the American dream,” described the administration’s efforts to battle anti-Semitism, and discussed his desire to avoid military conflict with Iran.

The White House could not immediately be reached for comment Friday night.

The traditional phone call between the president and American Jewish leaders dates back to the Eisenhower administration, but has been marked by controversy since Trump took office in 2017, according to the Jewish news site Forward.

The two largest American Jewish denominations — the Reform and Conservative movements — and the smaller Reconstructionist movement, to which Dor Hadash belongs, opted out of 2017’s call with the president, citing concerns over Trump’s comments about “very fine people” participating in the August 2017 white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va.

The Reform and Conservative movements typically organized the call. The White House, itself, took on that duty in their absence, inviting Orthodox Jews and members of other denominations.

In 2018, the White House did not invite leaders of the Reform, Conservative or Reconstructionist movements to participate in the call, according to the Forward article.

This year Reform and Conservative leaders were invited, and participated in the call, though the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association was not invited, Forward reported.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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