Rabbi berates D.C. Council for not censuring members

A city council meeting in Washington was disrupted on Tuesday morning when a local rabbi began berating those in attendance for not censuring two city officials over their antisemitic behavior.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, spiritual leader of the Orthodox Ohev Sholom synagogue in Washington, entered the meeting wearing a tallit on his shoulders, and castigated the officials for not taking action.

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“Shame on this council for not being willing to censure Trayon [White],” the rabbi said, “and shame on all of the council for not standing up, and saying that Mr. [Joshua] Lopez needs to resign. This is unacceptable – you know better!”

Herzfeld was referring to several recent incidents concerning White, a DC councilman, and Lopez, a political appointee.

In March, White posted and then deleted a video on Facebook alleging that the snowfall in the city was because of the Rothschilds’ “climate manipulation.” White was widely criticized and issued an apology and pledged to work with the Jewish community. But when it was reported last week that White had donated money – meant for constituents – to a recent Nation of Islam event helmed by notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan, the councilman said he was done apologizing.

Lopez, a commissioner of the DC Housing Authority, held a rally in support of White last week. At that rally, a Farrakhan supporter, Abdul Khadir Muhammad, called DC councilwoman Elissa Silverman a “fake Jew” and later shouted “termites” when someone else was speaking about Jews.

“When you spoke like that, when there was that rally, I cried in pain, because you endangered my children,” Herzfeld told the council on Tuesday morning, as White calmly ate and ignored the rabbi. “This is not a time to be quiet, our city is better than this.”
Later on Tuesday, Lopez confirmed he would resign due to the controversy.

Herzfeld, who has been the rabbi of Ohev Shalom since 2004, has been politically outspoken in the past. In March 2016 he protested against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington.

Several hours after Tuesday’s council meeting, Herzfeld expressed satisfaction with Lopez’s resignation.

“I think it was the right thing to do, he needed to resign,” Herzfeld said in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post. “He shouldn’t be representing our city, he shouldn’t be representing our mayor.”

Herzfeld said he has tried to reach out to White, but has not been successful.

“What concerns me the most is not Trayon, what concerns me the most is how are these ideas getting into our city?” Herzfeld said. “I’d like to see outreach across all eight wards of our city, coming together and educating each other about prejudices and stereotypes – so that the type of incredibly hurtful and painful language that Trayon used does not spread beyond Trayon.”