December 5, 2016 Letter to Malcolm Hoenlein

liberty menorahDecember 5, 2016

Malcolm Hoenlein
Executive Vice Chairman
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations633 Third Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017-6706

Dear Malcolm,

On Friday, the Workmen’s Circle received an invitation from the Conference of Presidents (COP) of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to a “Hanukkah party celebrating religious freedom and diversity” on December 14th at the Lincoln Library of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

As a Jewish organization, we cannot and will not condone ― by agreement or silence ― the Conference’s appalling choices in its partner and the location, both of which contradict the stated themes of religious freedom and diversity.

The Republic of Azerbaijan is led by a government that sanctions the violent suppression of any opposition. As human rights organizations and Western governments have consistently charged, it has authorized arrests and intimidation of political activists, a restrictive media environment, and violations of freedoms of assembly and association.  Your decision to hold a “party” with the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan implicitly legitimizes a corrupt country where freedoms have been suppressed. 

Your choice of a venue is similarly problematic.  President Elect Trump has consistently presented positions of intolerance of dissent, of civil liberties, and of religious freedom. His presidential campaign platform included a Muslim Registry and a ban of Muslims and others from immigrating to the United States.   His rallies have included Nazi salutes, and amid this climate our country is now witnessing a significant increase of anti-Semitic acts.  All of this is happening without any attempt by Trump to stop the hate speech his campaign actively propagated.  It is unthinkable that a Jewish organization would host a party celebrating tolerance and religious freedom by partnering with an oppressive regime that actively violates those same principles and book the event in a building owned by and named for Donald Trump.

In the years to come, Jews in America are going to be regularly tested to make the right choices, and this clearly is not one of them.  Everything about this event is the wrong choice. We urge that you immediately disavow your partnership with the Republic of Azerbaijan, and select another venue.


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Peter Pepper                  Ann Toback
President                        Executive Director