CLEVELAND, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who leads the Hebrew congregation Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner attend, backed out of a speaking role at the Republican National Convention after a petition protesting the decision was submitted by present and former students of his yeshiva day school.
Some 650 students and alums of Ramaz, Lookstein’s Modern Orthodox yeshiva, signed a petition asking the rabbi to reconsider speaking at a political convention where Donald Trump, Ivanka’s father, is expected to accept the Republican presidential nomination.
Lookstein said he would back out despite the fact he was not scheduled to deliver a political speech, only the opening invocation, after Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Kushner, asked him to do so.
“Unfortunately, when my name appeared on a list of speakers at the convention, without the context of the invocation I had been invited to present, the whole matter turned from rabbinic to political, something which was never intended.” the rabbi said.
He said he backed out of the convention role “in the interest of bringing our community together.”
Congregants and former students signed a petition highly critical of Trump, saying he “openly spouts racist, misogynistic rhetoric; he advocates torture, the expulsion of millions of families, some long settled in America, and insinuates that some citizens of this great country are somehow less than others.”
Lookstein is not the first person to back away from a speaking role at the convention after organizers of the affair, which begins Monday, released a partial list of those scheduled to appear.
Former college football star Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback well known for his devout Christian faith, was also said to have accepted a speaking role at the convention.
Tebow released a video on Instagram a day later, calling his speech a “rumor,” though he did not say outright he would not speak at the convention.
It’s amazing how fast rumors fly,” Tebow said.