US ultra-Orthodox rabbis lavish Trump with praise 10 days before election

With the US seeing record levels of COVID-19 cases, the grand rabbis of Satmar, Viznitz and Bobov, and leading non-hassidic rabbis praise Trump for calling for houses of worship to remain open.

The Jerusalem Post/October 25, 2020

By Jeremy Sharon

A letter of effusive praise for US President Donald Trump has been signed and published by some of the most senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the world 10 days before the presidential election.

In their letter published in Mishpacha magazine on Sunday, the rabbis lavished Trump with tributes for having said that houses of worship should remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed some 225,000 lives in the US, including many senior haredi rabbis.

Among the rabbis who signed the letter were the Satmar Rebbe in Kiryas Joel, New York, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum; the Satmar Rebbe in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum; the Vizhnitz Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Hager; the Bobov Rebbe, Rabbi Benzion Halberstam; and Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, a senior member of Agudath Yisrael of America’s Council of Torah Sages.

It was also signed by the Pupa Rebbe, the Munkacs Rebbe, the New Square Rebbe, the Rachmistrivka Rebbe and several ultra-Orthodox leaders.

In their letter of praise for Trump, the rabbis wrote that they wished “to express our deepest gratitude to you, Mr. President, especially in light of your recent declaration that houses of worship should be considered ‘essential.’”

In May, Trump said houses of worship should be considered places that provide “essential services.” An initiative to publish a letter of thanks by senior haredi rabbis was initiated then, but it was not published until now.

“You have given a powerful voice to what all good people know beyond any doubt: that now, more than ever, we must turn to Almighty G-d, fortifying our faith and staying true to our values in the face of these current tribulations,” the letter said.
“You understand, Mr. President, that it is our faith in G-d that will keep us strong and lift us out of this calamity,” the rabbis wrote.

“As you have strengthened America to proudly hold aloft the banner of G-d and religious belief, so too, may G-d Almighty bless you to proudly lead us to victory in our current war with COVID-19,” the letter continued, quoting from the Book of Psalms to say, “May you go ‘from strength to strength’ leading us forward towards ever greater good.”

The rabbis ended their missive with a special prayer for Trump, asking God to “bless and keep, preserve and rescue, exalt and magnify, and lift up higher and higher the President of these United States of America.”

Despite the adulatory nature of the letter and its timing less than two weeks before the election, it was not meant as a political letter of endorsement by the rabbis for Trump, Mishpacha magazine said.

Mass gatherings, including in houses of worship, have been blamed for severe outbreaks of COVID-19, with the International Journal of Infectious Diseases noting that a religious meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the end of February was responsible for 48% of that country’s coronavirus cases by the end of May.

Numerous senior haredi rabbis have died from the disease, including the Kozlover Rebbe; the Amshinov Rebbe in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood; the Stanislaver Rebbe; the Novominsker Rebbe and the Pittsburgher Rebbe.

Rabbi Meir Zelig Rispler, president of the Satmar Kiryas Yoel Kehillah in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, died from COVID-19 on October 16.

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