We Jews are an intense and nervous people. We feel our politics deeply, this year being no exception.
It’s safe to say, I think, that the vast majority of the American Jewish community has been rattled by the thought of Trump reaching the White House.
I’ve been asking myself for some time (I’ve posted two blogs on this theme in the last week alone, indicative of my anxiety), what does the Trump candidacy mean for us Jews?
First, the positive – yes, there’s a positive.
Not in some time have I sensed Jewish communal solidarity against Trump. From a Jewish values perspective, Trump represents the worst of our people’s values concerning justice, compassion, welcoming the stranger, and concern for the most vulnerable in our community. His is a dog eat dog world of ego and power, of immodesty and braggadocio. Yet, having said all this, it’s possible to feel a measure of gratitude to The Donald for his bringing most of us Republican and Democratic Jews together. And so, as Shabbat falls shortly, let us sing – Hineh mah tov u-ma nayim shevet achim gam yachad!
Now the bad news – In a recent Huffington Post article, it was revealed that American Nazis and the KKK regard Trump as their standard bearer, just as do some right wing Jews and many members of the ultra-Orthodox community.
I don’t know whether Trump is an anti-Semite. One might think that given his roots in New York, his years in real estate, his second home in Palm Beach, a converted daughter and a Jewish son-in-law, that we have nothing to worry about, that he loves the Jews. He said so! Yet, Trump brings up old anti-Semitic canards left and right, such as saying a few months ago to a room full of wealthy Republican Jews that they probably won’t like him because they’re used to buying candidates and he doesn’t need their money.
Then there’s Sheldon Adelson who plopped down $100 million for Trump’s campaign (I guess he needs the money now!) after deciding that Trump will be a right-wing advocate for Israel like himself, and there are also many members of the Republican Jewish Coalition who prefer Trump over Hillary.
I don’t believe that history necessarily repeats itself so much as themes reverberate that are disturbing to the Jewish memory of the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. Times are different. We have a state of Israel today and we aren’t victims nor vulnerable as we were in Germany eighty years ago.
Yet, Trump’s call to indiscriminately bar all Muslims from our country, calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, sending 11 million non-documented Hispanic immigrants out of the country, his uber-testosterone-locker-room misogyny and sexism, his condescension to the disabled, to prisoners of war, and his cavalier and dismissive reductionist assaults on the accomplishments and lives of his opponents calling them Pocahontas, Lyin’ Ted, passive Zeb, little Mario, crazy Bernie, and crooked Hillary, would be ridiculous if it weren’t so insulting and disturbing.
What does Trump’s candidacy mean relative to the state of Israel? He said that he will be a neutral deal maker between Israel and the Palestinians because, after all, he’s a businessman and makes the best deals. Of course, he doesn’t understand the complexities of the Middle East, its history and challenges, being the Grand Marshal of New York’s Israel Day parade notwithstanding.
The Clintons, on the other hand, have proven themselves to be great friends of the people and state of Israel. In critical biographies of Hillary and in her most recent memoir “Hard Choices,” it’s clear that she knows Israel’s leaders well, considers them friends, respects, understands and supports the state of Israel as few American leaders can claim to do.
A nechemta (a word of comfort) – If history is a guide, Hillary will earn upwards of 80 per cent of the Jewish vote in November, and in that sense the election will be good for American Jews, assuming she wins, which I expect. Additionally, our overwhelming support for Hillary Clinton could isolate Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition who have revealed themselves to be out of step with the dominant Jewish values held by American Jews and with the vast majority of the American Jewish community.
* The Jewish vote has gone with the Democratic party in all presidential elections in the past 92 years by significant majorities: 1924 (51/29), 1928 (72/28), 1932 (82/18), 1936 (85/13), 1940 (90/10), 1944(90/10), 1948 (75/10), 1952 (64/36), 1956 (60/40), 1960 (82/18), 1964 (90/10), 1968 (81/17), 1972 (65/35), 1976 (71/27), 1980 (45/39), 1984 (67/31), 1988 (64/35), 1992 (80/11), 1996 (78/16), 2000 (79/19), 2004 (76/24), 2008 (78/22), 2012 (69/30)
Note: The views I have expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of my synagogue or any other organization.