“Good afternoon. Mayor Levine, thank you for that support, and for all your good work on so many different issues, including climate change. And for that glowing introduction. And I’m glad that you read it just the way I wrote it.
“Let me also thank Rabbi Berkun, for being so welcoming – it’s great to be here.
“I appreciate all the kind words by my friends Nachum, Abby, and Patricia, and Rabbi Telushkin, and I wanted to thank everybody for coming to Synagogue today.
“Also, we have an overflow room which is embarrassing, we just did not have enough room. Actually, it’s a nice problem to have. And to those of you that are stuck in the overflow room, wherever you are, in which direction I don’t know, I appreciate so much and I’m sorry that we couldn’t accommodate everybody. But we are here.
“I know the Torah portion yesterday started the 10 plagues, and I will try not to subject you to what I call the 11th plague: a really long speech.
“I am so glad to be with all of you today here in Aventura, and not only because it’s winter in New York. But being here reminds me that growing up, I was told there were two Promised Lands: one had milk and honey, the other had Miami Beach and Wolfie’s Deli. Now Wolfie’s may be gone, but the memory of their pickles will live on forever.
“I’m also glad to be speaking before such a diverse and multi-lingual Jewish community. I didn’t know whether to begin by saying Shalom or Saludos – or both.
“But I do know that you are used to seeing New Yorkers here in South Florida. Do we have any New Yorkers here today? We need you back in some of the stores, and we need more taxpayers, and all that sort of thing.
“I just hope all of you voted for the correct mayoral candidate back in 2001, 2005, and 2009. And if you didn’t, you will have a chance to atone in 2020.
“Now, I know I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president. But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in synagogues in my life, but my parents taught me that Judaism is more than just going to shul. It is about living our values – including our obligation to help and to ‘repair the world’ in the tradition of tikkun olam, and it’s about revering the miracle that is the state of Israel, which – for their generation – was a dream fulfilled before their very eyes.
“My mother and father never had the means to visit Israel when I was a child, but I was lucky enough to travel there many times, including on an El Al flight that I took when the FAA banned American carriers from flying to Israel during the Gaza conflict in 2014. And it was in my own little way of showing the world that Jews would never let fear of terrorism keep us out of Israel. Never.
“Later, more than once as an adult, I went with my late mother to see the Magen David Adom blood center that we named after my father, and the Hadassah Hospital wing that we named after my mother.
“So it is with a personal attachment to Israel that I say as president, I will always have Israel’s back.
“I will never impose conditions on our military aid, including missile defense – no matter who is Prime Minister. I will not wait three years to release an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. I will never walk away from our commitment to guarantee Israel’s security.
“That’s a big part of why I was against the original Iranian deal. I spoke out against it because I thought our commitment to Israel’s security must never waver – or sunset – and because the deal should’ve done more to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and financing of terrorism.
“But my commitment to Israel is also the reason I opposed President Trump’s decision to unilaterally walk away from the deal and our partners in Europe, because I thought doing so was tantamount to giving Iran permission to re-launch its nuclear program.
“And after years of compliance, Iran is once again marching towards the development of a nuclear weapon.
“As president, I will work to make sure the strongest deal possible is enacted to constrain the Iranian regime’s aggression and territorial ambition, and put an end to their nuclear program, because the world must never allow Iran to threaten Israel and the whole region with a nuclear attack.
“Now, sadly, the violence that has always threatened Israel is rearing its ugly head here in America with alarming frequency. Over the past few years, we have seen a deeply unsettling rise in anti-Semitic violence. Jews have been targeted for murder in synagogues like this one, and I know how connected all of you are to the Tree of Life community in Pittsburgh since Rabbi Berkun grew up in that synagogue.
“His father is the Rabbi emeritus there, and his father would have been at services that day had he not stayed home because his wife was sick. That’s the only thing that kept him from his usual seat in the pews, directly in the line of fire.
“Tree of Life was also the Synagogue that my sister Marjorie attended when she lived in Pittsburgh many years ago. She has many fond memories of her time there, so it was deeply personal for her and for our whole family, as well.
“Of course, while the Pittsburgh attack affected all of us, it was far from an isolated incident. This time is a time of great anxiety in the Jewish community, both around the world and here at home, as ancient hatreds are given fresh currency with new technologies.
“We are confronted by sights that we thought we would never see outside of old black and white newsreels: synagogues attacked, Jews murdered, Nazis marching brazenly and openly by torchlight. Not in some other country, but in the United States, in our Golden Medina.
“Since the Tree of Life attack, Jews have been targeted for murder in more than a dozen synagogues across America, including not far from here at Young Israel of Greater Miami.
“In the New York area, bullets ripped through a kosher store in Jersey City where my mother grew up. The windows of a Brooklyn synagogue were smashed during Rosh Hashanah. The Jews have been beaten and harassed in the streets.
“The fact is, attacks on Jews – especially the Orthodox – have been taking place with horrifying regularity. And as these attacks occur, our children look to us with faces turned upward for answers, for reassurance, for safety.
“One solution is to secure our synagogues, to make our doors bulletproof, to install bollards and install more cameras. And sadly, I suppose we must do these things. But while we harden our buildings, we must never harden our hearts.
“For 12 years, I was the mayor of the largest and most diverse city in the nation. Those three terms taught me that diversity is our strength. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, it ties us together into a single garment of destiny.
“And so I was never prouder than when I stood in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and I argued that Muslim New Yorkers had every right to build a mosque anywhere in our city, including near the World Trade Center.
“The opposition to a mosque in New York City was not an isolated incident. And when you look around America, it’s clear we are facing not only another epidemic of anti-Semitism, but a rising tide of hatred writ large.
“Because the fact is, there’s been an increase in attacks on all groups that have a long history of being scapegoated and repressed for being other, different, lesser, and less than fully American. I’m talking not only about Jews, but also about immigrants, Muslims, Black Americans, women, and the LGBTQ community.
“So we must ask ourselves, why have these attacks increased? What has changed?
“There is no single answer, and no single person is entirely to blame. Anti-Semitism is hardly the exclusive domain of one political party. It can be found on both the right and the left – on town squares and on campus quads.
“But there is one fact that we can’t ignore: presidential leadership matters.
“When the President calls his supporters real Americans – an echo of the language that nativists, anti-Semites, and the KKK used for many decades – he undermines our fundamental national values.
“When he is silent – and even supportive through his words and tweets – as racist groups spread hate, he puts the public safety of our communities at risk.
“And when he promotes conspiracy theories that are built on lies and prejudice, we must remember: anti-Semitism is the original conspiracy theory. And a world in which a president traffics in conspiracy theories is a world in which Jews are not safe.
“There is just no escaping the direct line between his conduct in office and the rise of violent attacks targeted at minority groups across the country.
“Now, in addition to undermining American values and endangering American citizens, the toxic culture the President has created is harming our relationship with Israel. And here’s why: since the very beginning, America’s support for Israel has been strong and broadly bipartisan. But in the past few years, we have begun to see troubling cracks in that bipartisanship.
“And yet, instead of repairing the cracks, the President has pulled them apart by trying to use Israel as a wedge issue for his own electoral purpose. To me, that is a disgrace. We must never let Israel be a football that American politicians kick around in an effort to score points.
“The relationship between our two countries has been so strong because it transcends partisan politics here and in Israel, and it is built on our shared values: freedom and democracy, law and justice, integrity and compassion.
“Those are just hollow words to our president. But to me, they are everything.
“Now, there are those who will cite moving the embassy to Jerusalem as a reason to support the President. And to that I say very clearly: if I am elected, you will never have to choose between supporting Israel and supporting our values here at home. I will defend both, because unlike this President, you and I know that they are inextricably linked.
“The United States – like Israel – is an expression of our deepest values. And throughout our history, we have seen that the best guarantee of safety in this country is the rule of law, not proximity to the throne of the powerful.
“The bible – and our history – teaches that there will always be a pharaoh who knows not Joseph. And in those times – in all times – we must depend on the rule of law and the guarantee that all of us are equal before it.
“When Moses descended from Mount Sinai, he smashed the golden calf and raised high a tablet of laws, of rules, and of norms instead. And when they fail, tragedy occurs. We know that – because we’ve seen it far too many times.
“Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. I remember visiting Auschwitz a couple years ago, walking the same paths our ancestors trudged down to the gas chambers and ovens.
“And as we prepare to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day tomorrow, we are reminded of what Rabbi Sacks of Great Britain teaches, ‘The hate that starts with the Jews never ends there.’ And we also know – don’t we? – that what starts with others can end with us.
“So when children are ripped from mothers at the border because their skin is darker, or when immigrants are denied entrance based on their religion or nationality, we hear history’s dark echoes – while others hear a dog whistle and become emboldened and empowered.
“Leadership sets a tone. It is either inclusive or exclusive, divisive or uniting, incendiary or calming. It either appeals to ‘very fine people on both sides’ of bigotry – or it unequivocally rejects it.
“Well, to me, there is no such thing as a ‘very fine’ white supremacist. I choose inclusion. I choose tolerance. I choose America.
“As president, I will not fan the flames of hatred – just the opposite. I will label hate crimes as domestic terrorism – and charge perpetrators accordingly. I will launch a national, coordinated effort, led by the FBI and Department of Justice, to crack down on violent extremists.
“I will expand the Department of Education’s Stop Bullying Campaign, so that we can put an end to harassment in schools – including on college campuses.
“And I will never stand by idly in the face of hatred – against anyone.
“That’s a lesson my parents taught me. When I was a boy, I saw my father write a check to the NAACP for 25 or 50 bucks – which was a lot of money for us. He never made more than $6,000 in his best year. But I remember asking him: ‘Dad, why are you writing this check?’ And I’ll never forget his answer. ‘I’m writing this check,’ he told me, ‘because discrimination against anyone is a threat to all of us.’
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but that lesson was straight out of Vayikra: Lo ta’amod – ‘Do not stand by idly while your neighbor’s blood is shed.’ And I believe we must take that teaching to heart today. We must not stand by idly. There is too much at stake.
“Now, since we’re in synagogue, I should mention that all of this relates to this week’s Torah portion – which we retell in the Passover Seder. And we know that every generation is enjoined to tell the Passover story, and in telling it to relive it every year, as if it happened to us, personally. Because what we inherit, we must share. We are not spectators to the story. We are its participants.
“Democracy is like that as well. It is our charge to renew and make stronger this great democratic experiment – in every generation. Sometimes democracy is a birthright. Sometimes it is a gift. And sometimes it is a fight.
“Today, it’s a fight – and I’m asking you to stand and fight with me. As proud Americans – and as proud Jews.
“Stand with me and fight for the America of our parents and our grandparents had – who struggled to get here and make it when they arrived, and for our children and our grandchildren, and for all of us.
“I hope you will agree that the 2020 election is no ordinary election. Some elections are about the difference between marginal tax rates, or the national debt, or school uniforms.
“This election is about so much more. This election is a referendum on the meaning of America. It is about what we will tell our children and our grandchildren we did in this moment, at this time.
“This election is about whether we recognize that all groups who have been marginalized, excluded, repressed, scapegoated, vilified, or far worse rise and fall together. And that our best hope – and our only hope – is in standing together, rejecting demagogues who try to seduce us by dividing us, and uniting behind the only shield that can protect us: our common values as American citizens and our common humanity as God’s children.
“That is what this election is about. And that is why I am running – to bring America back together, to repair the damage, and to move our nation forward.
“Together, we will get it done. Thank you.”