The Importance of President's Visiting Synagogues

Dr. Joseph Frager,

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צילום: ערוץ 7
Dr. Joseph Frager
The writer is a leading American pro-Israel activist who sponsors and coordinates many Zionist events. He is clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases) at the Einstein School of Medicine as well as a practicing physician.

President Trump's historic visit to the Western Wall on May 23,2017 gave one pause to ponder the importance of the President of the United States visiting Jewish Holy sites. It also raises the question of why was President Trump indeed the first sitting President ever to visit the Western Wall?  Anyone who studies the Pan Arabism of the State Department knows the answer.

It was a real breath of fresh air to see a President of the United States standing in front of the Jewish People's Holy site. The implications were far reaching and dramatic. After all the Western Wall was left as a testimonial remnant by the brutal Emperor Titus 2000 years ago to show the world the greatness of the Roman Empire and the defeat of the Jews. It was meant to mark our destruction. Titus never expected that a President of the United States would one day visit the site of Titus' treachery and barbarism.

This may well have been one of President Trump's crowning achievements in his first year in office. It declared to the whole world that after 2000 years the Jewish People are back and here to stay. It also raised the possibility that one day in the not too distant future as far fetched as it seems the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash is on the horizon. I have always maintained that with the right President of the United States this could indeed occur. I have always made sure that in talking to all future Presidential candidates that this is part of the discussion. All should remember that this was indeed how the Second Temple got rebuilt.

I understand fully that the Third Temple shall be everlasting and the process might be vastly different. The visit to the Western Wall by President Trump raised the question in my mind of just how many President's have visited Synagogues during their time in office. It obviously carries with it great symbolic significance and meaning. The most memorable visit in my lifetime was by President Ronald Reagan to Ambassador David Friedman's father's Synagogue-Temple Hillel in Woodmere in 1984. The Ambassador's father was a Conservative Rabbi who fully supported Israel's right to build and develop Judea and Samaria.

I remember well the time he was honored by Eugen Gluck at the Bet El Dinner. At Temple Hillel President Reagan made some very important statements. I have quoted only a few here. "You know, when you talk about human life, I think that means seeing that the immeasurable pain of the Holocaust is never dehumanized, seeing that its meaning is never lost on this generation or any future generation, and yes seeing that those who take our place understand: never again." The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, for Anti-Semitism or for bigotry of any kind-none." "And lets not kid ourselves, the so called anti-Zionists that we hear in the United Nations is just another mask in some quarters for vicious Anti-Semitism." Unfortunately, only a handful of President's visited Synagogues during their tenures in office and even fewer attended an actual service. I explained this to Governor Mike Huckabee after he attended a service and then spoke to about 1000 people after the Musaf Prayer at the Beth Jacob Synagogue in Beverly Hills on Sept. 2nd,2017.

President George Washington visited the Touro Synagogue in Newport Rhode Island in 1781 but it was for a town meeting rather than an actual prayer service. President Ulysses S. Grant attended a 3 hour prayer service in 1876 at the Adas Israel Synagogue in Washington,D.C. The "Jewish Messenger" writes, "This is the first instance in the history of American Judaism of the President and Vice President of the United States attending conjointly the consecration of a Synagogue and it is worthy of record on this centennial year of our beloved country." President Grant might have done this as an act of penitence for having issued General Order No.11 during the Civil War which expelled all Jews "as a class" from parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missisippi for allegations of selling cotton across Union lines. President Lincoln immediately rescinded the order.

In 1898 President William Mckinley attended  the laying of a cornerstone at the Washington Hebrew Congregation. In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge spoke during the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Jewish Community Center at 16th an Q Streets in D.C..In 1952 President Truman attended the cornerstone laying ceremony for the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

In 1955 President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke at the dedication of the Washington Hebrew Congregation's new building. In 2005 President George W. Bush visited the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. In 2015 President Barack Obama visited the Adas Israel Synagogue. We hope and pray that President Trump will also visit a synagogue in America as a show of solidarity and support in the not too distant future. It would do us all a world of good.