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The rabbi who offered prayer at President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January told Business Insider on Tuesday that the president could take a lesson from Monday’s solar eclipse when considering his response to white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said the eclipse, which was the first coast-to-coast total eclipse of the sun by the moon in roughly 100 years, provides the perfect metaphor for the white nationalists and neo-Nazis that have rallied recently in cities such as Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, yet the moon had the capacity to do a complete eclipse on the sun,” he said. “Now that should teach us about bigots and haters who started out as small groups.”
Something “small by comparison can blot out and blacken the sun … it can be completely darkened by the moon,” he continued. “That’s what these fanatics can do to the planet Earth if we don’t wake up.”
Hier noted that the US “caught on late” to the Nazi movement in Europe in the 1930s.
“Let’s not catch on late now,” he said. “These are people who want to destroy everything that America is about.”
Following the Charlottesville rallies, which were put on to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and led to a white supremacist ramming a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one person and injuring about 20 more, Trump provided a series of controversial responses.
Trump initially blamed “many sides” for the violence before last Monday condemning the racist movements that gathered. But during a press conference at Trump Tower last Tuesday that was supposed to focus on infrastructure, Trump reverted to his earlier position, claiming that the “alt-left” was at least partially responsible for the violence as well and wondering whether the counterprotesters have any “semblance of guilt.”
On Saturday, Trump responded to a rally in Boston where counterprotesters far outnumbered white nationalists and other similar groups. At first, he said it looked like there were “many anti-police agitators in Boston.” But he later said, “Sometimes you need protest in order to heal.”
“I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate,” he said. “Our country will soon come together as one!”
While Hier told Business Insider he has not spoken with the president since his Charlottesville comments, he advised him to “unequivocally condemn, by name, the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, and the [Ku Klux] Klan” at his campaign rally Tuesday in Phoenix, Trump’s first freewheeling event since last Tuesday’s press conference.
“And say as follows: Their code words are an America without Jews, an America without African Americans, and an America without Latinos,” Hier said. “That is not the America that is the United States of America.”