Protesters at the Los Angeles Airport on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2017. Photo by Renee Gross     

Protesters at the Los Angeles Airport on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2017. Photo by Renee Gross

 

Trump travel ban dividing L.A. Jewish community

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Rabbi Adam Kligfeld was anxious as he wrote his weekly sermon. It was the week after President Donald Trump signed a ban on travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries, and the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles was about to take a big risk.

In his eight years at the synagogue, Kligfeld never directly addressed politics and rarely hinted at it in sermons. But he recently wrote an email to congregants describing how they could support refugees and it landed him in the middle of a crossfire.

“Some of you are begging me to unify the congregation and ensure it is a safe space for all,” he later said in his sermon. “And some of you are demanding of me to take strong stands, even if it divides the congregation, because that and only that is moral leadership.”

The president's travel ban opened a deep rift in the Jewish community over whether to allow Muslims into the U.S. The Trump administration is expected to revise the ban, but the cohesion in the Jewish community has already frayed.

The division is about more than politics. Rather, it goes to the heart of Jewish identity. Many Jews who oppose the ban feel it echoes their own past persecution. Those who support the ban believe that Islam is inherently violent — feelings stroked by Israel's decades-long experience with terrorism. 

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