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Letter 73 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 73

Esther J. Hamori

Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible
Union Theological Seminary

April 2, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

Jewish tradition has always valued wisdom, which is not quite the same thing as intelligence or knowledge. Wisdom is a matter of being able to discern how best to live in the world—how to treat others, how to listen and learn, how to think before speaking, how to seek advice—and then doing so.

One ancient Jewish poet wrote: “Happy is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the path of the guilty, or sit in the seat of the scornful…He will be like a tree planted beside streams of water, that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; in all that he does he prospers” (Psalm 1:1, 3).

The first word of this psalm (ashre) is sometimes translated as “blessed,” but it means “happy” or “fortunate.” One need not be Jewish, nor religious at all, to learn from ancient wisdom about how to be happy and fortunate. The poem says:

  • Do not look to reprehensible people for advice.
  • Do not align yourself with blameworthy people.
  • Do not treat others with scorn.

President Trump, to whom do you look for advice? For your Chief Strategist and closest advisor, you selected the anti-Semitic white nationalist ally Steve Bannon. With whom do you align yourself? For U.S. Attorney General, the person to lead our nation’s Justice Department, you chose Jeff Sessions, a man culpable for civil rights and voting rights injustices. How do you treat others? In your words and actions, you have scorned innumerable people, including Muslims whom you have maligned and targeted, immigrants you have demeaned and persecuted, and women whose pussies you have boasted about grabbing.

As a woman, a Jew, a scholar, a person with some hope for humanity—and as a patriot who values liberty and justice for all and wants the best for America—I hope you will seek out advisors with integrity, stand with honest leaders, and treat the citizens of our country and others with dignity and respect.

Sincerely,

Esther J. Hamori

Esther J. Hamori
Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible
Union Theological Seminary

 

About the author

Esther J. Hamori, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Union Theological Seminary, received her Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East from New York University in 2004. Her research is focused on various aspects of divine-human contact and communication in ancient Israelite and other Near Eastern religious literature. She is the author of Women’s Divination in Biblical Literature: Prophecy, Necromancy, and Other Arts of Knowledge (2015) and ‘When Gods Were Men’: The Embodied God in Biblical and Near Eastern Literature (2008).