White House High Holy Days Call

Friday, September 27, 2019


Operator:                            Hello and thank you for joining today's High Holy Days call with Jewish faith leaders. Please note that this call is being recorded. At this time all audience members are in listen-only mode to minimize background noise. There will be Q&A at the end of this call, and we will provide instructions at that time. I would now like to formally begin today's call and introduce President of the United States, Donald J Trump.


Pres. Trump:                    It's a great honor to be with you and to host our third annual call with Jewish leaders, rabbis and friends to wish you Shana Tova, a sweet new year. During the High Holy Days, families gather in synagogues across the country and around the world to sound the shofar and pray, reflect and thank God for His many blessings.


As we mark the Jewish New Year, our entire country is reminded of the infinite ways Jewish Americans strengthen our communities, uplift our nation, and deepen our culture. You care for your neighbors, teach your children, cherish our heritage, and you embody the American dream. Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable oppression and persecution, yet they have persevered, endured, thrived, and created a flourishing democracy - the state of Israel.


In the last two and a half years, we have strengthened the everlasting friendship between the United States and Israel. I moved the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. We recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which was something they were trying to have done for 72, or 52 years to be more specific. We're confronting Iran, a regime that chants "Death to Israel."


As I said in my recent address to United Nations, America will never tolerate anti-Semitic hate. In recent months, our entire nation was stricken with shock and grief and righteous anger when two horrific anti-Semitic murderers attacked synagogues in California and Pennsylvania. To every survivor, family member and to the entire Jewish community, all of America embraces you with love. We pledge our undying and total resolve to excise the vile placing of anti-Semitism from our world. Earlier this year, I appointed a new special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Elan Carr, who is with us now and will provide an update shortly. In the wake of such atrocious attacks, millions have been inspired by Jewish-American heroes who responded to the worst evil with remarkable bravery. During my State of the Union Address, we were all moved by the presence of Pittsburgh survivor, Judah Samet, who also survived the Holocaust. In May, on the National Day of Prayer in the Rose Garden, we were joined by members of the congregation from Poway, California, including Rabbi Goldstein. This afternoon we're joined on the call by survivors of the Holocaust. We cannot comprehend the persecution and suffering you have endured, yet you have overcome the darkest chapters of human history with the purity of love and goodness in your hearts. We renew our pledge now and always. Never again.


I understand that during this time of year, you often read Psalm 27. We remember the promise of those words that says, "Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage."

Today, we thank God for His faithfulness and for the countless ways Jewish-Americans bless our nation.


I again want to thank you all for joining this call. Melania and I wish you a very happy, peaceful and prosperous new year. And now I'd like to invite Special Envoy Elan Carr to tell us about his crucial work. Elan.


Special Envoy Carr:         Mr. President, thank you so much and thank you for making the fight against anti-Semitism which always refer to as "the vile poison of anti-Semitism," that's exactly what it is. Thank you for making this fight a national priority.


Friends on this call, this current week alone illustrates the breadth of the work we're doing. Three days ago, Tuesday, I was in Warsaw, where I set forth key strategies to combat anti-Semitism to the 57 different national governments in the OSCE region. Then the next day, on Wednesday, I was in Brussels at the European Parliament where the Israeli government and I together confronted the anti-Semitic BDS movement; and during those very same days I was on inter-agency phone calls with Washington addressing the anti-Semitism on US college campuses. This points to the breadth of our work at the President's direction, we are simultaneously confronting far-right ethnic supremacy, radical-left Israel hatred, and militant Islam. With the Trump's administration continued leadership, I'm hopeful that we can roll back the rise of anti-Semitism both here at home and abroad.


Thank you all so much. Thank you, Mr. President and Shana Tova.


Pres. Trump:                      Well, thank you very much Elan. We really appreciate; you're going to be phenomenal. Do a great job, I have no doubt about it. Your past has been incredible and that's usually a good indication of your future. Thank you very much Elan.


Special Envoy Carr:          Thank you.


Pre. Trump:                      And now, I'd like to call upon a friend of mine, a friend of all of us, Senator Norm Coleman to ask a question.


Senator Coleman:           Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President just on a personal note, as Chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, thank you for all you've done to strengthen the US-Israeli relationship. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.


POTUS:                              Well, thank you, Norm.


Senator Coleman:          But my question Mr. President focuses on Iran, and I'm going to thank you again, by the way, for pulling the plug on what you aptly described as the "worst deal ever," the Obama nuclear deal that gave Iran 150 billion dollars to fund their terrorist networks in the amount of guaranteed debt and nuclear weapons. We've also already imposed the toughest sanctions ever hitting Iran's Revolutionary Guard, cut source, and now central bank. But Iran still bombs Saudi oil fields, it's law makers and Supreme Leader chant "Death to America," and it continues to be the greatest existential threat to the Jewish state, Israel.


As we look forward Mr. President, what else can you do to curtail Iran's nefarious actions?


Pres. Trump:                   Well, Iran continues its provocative actions and they threaten our partners and allies, and supporting terrorism, developing ballistic missiles, increasing uranium enrichment. You know all about that Norm; and I don't want military conflict, but we've offered to talk, we've offered to discuss things.


Right now, Iran is doing very badly, they're a nation that's much different than it was when I became president almost three years ago. If you look back, you'll see that Iran was in more than 18 points of confliction. They were misbehaving in a very bad way in 18 different sections of the Middle East. They were very provocative. They were behind it. I've shown great restraint, and hope that Iran likewise chooses peace. I can't tell you exactly what's going to be happening, but we're extraordinarily ready.


A friend of mine asked me a couple of questions the other day and I asked him one, I said, "So which was more important, bringing the Jerusalem into effect by having our embassy go to Jerusalem thereby becoming the capital of Israel, or the Golan Heights?" I said, "Which of those two things in your opinion were more important, Jerusalem or the Golan Heights?" And he said, “Neither. It's what you've done for us with Iran." And I said, "You know I've never thought of it that way, but I probably happen to agree with you."


But we have done, the embassy in Jerusalem which was such a big deal at the time and promised by many, many presidents and they never fulfilled their promise; and I understood why because once I got here, there was tremendous pressure on me not to do that, but I did it; and the other one was Golan Heights. And as I said for 52 years, they've been trying to do something, and I did that also for Israel, and now we're in the process of Iran and it will work out. I can't tell you exactly how or why, but it'll work out because it always does. I have a tendency to make things work out one way or the other. Sometimes, it's not pretty but it happens. So, you can just rest assured. But Iran is a very bad actor, it's been a bad actor for a long period of time and we're going to end that.


So, thank you very much for that question and Helen Erskine, please if you're there, the Women Zionist Organization. Highly respected person by the way, Helen. So, do you have a question?


Ms. Hershkin:                 Thank you. Of course, I do. Mr. President, thank you for taking the time to speak with all of us on this call. As you know, I'm speaking today as the National President of Hadassah, the Women Zionist Organization of America, and I'm also the daughter of a World War Two veteran who liberated the mass held in the Nazi concentration camp.


As you mentioned, we remember the horrific attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway, and our concerns about violence amid rising anti-Semitism and extremism remain front and center. To reduce this slip before it's too late, we believe that the solution may be Holocaust education. Many students are not being taught about the Holocaust in schools including the dangers of bigotry and hatred.


Mr. President, do you believe students in America should learn the lessons of the Holocaust, and how can we work together on this?


Pres. Trump:                    Well, thank you for a very good question, Helen. I think that American students should learn the important lessons of the Holocaust. I have two great special envoys who look at this issue right here and around the world, and one who you just heard from who is a tremendous special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Again, Elan, thank you very much. Cherrie Daniels also works in my administration as a talented special envoy for Holocaust issues. We have many great programs throughout the United States, as you know, to teach this in both the Department of Education and the Department of State are engaged in active work on Holocaust education here and abroad.


This is important as we should promote awareness of these lessons, and just remember that I've grown up always hearing "Never forget, never forget, never forget.” And that's been a very very important part of, I think, what you're talking about Helen, and we will never forget. Education is very important, and we will keep it very much in the forefront.


Ms. Hershkin:                   Thank you, Mr. President.


Pres. Trump:                      Well, thank you and thank everybody. It really has been an honor to be with you and we'll have many many great years together. Thank you all.


Operator:                          Thank you to all of our speakers and thank you all in the audience for joining us today.