Kenosha rabbi comments on Paul Ryan's town hall response

Posted at 10:13 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 12:05:03-04

A Kenosha rabbi entered the national spotlight this week when she asked House Speaker Paul Ryan if he would formally condemn President Donald Trump's remarks on Charlottesville. 

After the white supremacist rally in Virginia, Trump made a statement condemning the violence on many sides, referring to the white supremacists and the protesters who showed up in opposition of the rally.

He later clarified his remarks but Rabbi Dena Feingold of the Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha says she felt his comments were hurtful. 

She says CNN approached her and asked if she would like to participate in a town hall held Monday in Racine. According to Feingold, CNN told her they wanted local religious leaders to participate. 

She had to pre-submit her question and asked Ryan if he would take "concrete steps" to publicly reprimand the president for his remarks in a formal censure. 

He responded by saying he would not.

"I will not support that, I think that would be so counter productive," Ryan answered during the town hall. "If we descend this issue into some partisan hack fest, into some bickering against each other and demean it down to some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?"

Ryan went on to say he feels everyone should do better and open up a dialogue with each other to address some of the issues the country is facing. 

Feingold said she was disappointed in his response. 

"I think it's kind of naive, I'm very involved in intergroup dialogue and I think his words were 'we all have to do better,' I'm working all the time on these kinds of issues," Feingold said. "White supremacists and neo-nazis, they're not going to change their minds in a dialogue group. They have a very clear and very frightening agenda and ideology." 

Feingold says they have hired private security at their synagogue and asked Kenosha Police to keep an eye on their building following an increase in threats to the Jewish community.

The Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee received four threats in two months earlier this year.

"We don't want even one person to feel like they can't come here because they don't feel safe," she said. 

Feingold says following the town hall and Ryan's response, she will continue to put pressure on elected officials. She said she will also continue to defend free speech, even if it's speech she finds hateful, while also fighting against hateful groups. 

"I will not stop speaking out because I see that as wrong and destructive to our nation," she said. 

Feingold is the sister of former Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.