Rabbi Hier Goes to Washington
Rabbi Arye D. Gordon
On Motzei Shabbos, January 28, 2017, the Religious Zionists of Los Angeles hosted a melaveh malkah at the home of Mr. Jack and Mrs. Gita Nagel. The special guest was Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Wiesenthal Center, who was invited to speak about his recent experience at the inauguration of the President Donald J. Trump.
Prior to the melaveh malkah, the RZLA hosted a shabbaton weekend, with various guest speakers at shuls in the Pico/Robertson community. The weekend topic was “Trump’s America and its Israel Relations.” The guest presenters for the shabbaton included Rabbi Shaul Robinson of the Lincoln Square Synagogue of New York and Rabbi Gideon Shloush, Executive VP RZA-Mizrachi and Rabbi Cong. Aderet El in New York. Introductory remarks at the melaveh malkah were given by Rabbi Dr. Ernie Agatstein, a member of the newly created presidium of the Religious Zionists of America.
Rabbi Hier spoke of the great honor to recite the invocation at the inauguration. He was the first Orthodox rabbi so honored at an American president’s inauguration. The last time a rabbi of any denomination was asked to recite the invocation was at President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985. “It was quite an event to see so many presidents of the United States – political opponents – sitting on the dais. That’s the greatness of America on Inauguration Day.”
Rabbi Hier described how he picked the particular quotes from tehillim and other Jewish sources for the invocation. Many found the sight of a Jew wearing a yarmulke – with millions throughout the world listening – stand and declare, “Bless all of our allies around the world who share our beliefs, ‘By the rivers of Babylon, we wept as we remember Zion… If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.’” (Tehillim 137) to be an awesome experience.
While Rabbi Hier was castigated in social media by Jews and non-Jews alike for appearing at President Trump’s inauguration, he stood firm in his acceptance of this invitation and staunchly stated, “Jews have flourished, thanks to the system of government we have here. To refuse the request of a President-elect of the United States to offer a prayer – he didn’t invite me to give a political discourse – would be an insult to the country where Jews are flourishing. And I wouldn’t consider insulting the United States of America.”