Jewish Millennials Hear Last-Minute Appeals for Clinton and Trump
Should Jews vote for the presidential candidate who is cheered by neo-Nazis — or for the other, who supported the Iran nuclear deal? At the Manhattan Jewish Experience on West 86th Street, young Jewish professionals heard from the Trump and Clinton campaigns in a two-part series, titled “Election 2016: Guide to Jewish Issues.” It was moderated by Rabbi Mark Wildes and featured Trump adviser David Friedman and Clinton surrogate Stephanie Hausner.
Asked about neo-Nazis’ rabid support for Trump, Friedman said it was disturbing, but added that Trump did not agree with those people. “We cannot eliminate extremists on either side of the equation,” Friedman said. “They show up. It’s very unsettling to see this type of rhetoric.”
Friedman said the systematic danger for Jews and the Jewish state “is on the Left,” citing, for example, anti-Israel components of Black Lives Matter.
“If Israel is your only issue, I think it’s a no-brainer that you should support Trump,” Friedman said. “You may feel differently about the Second Amendment; you may feel differently about abortion; you may feel differently about immigration…”
He added that Trump’s Israel policy would allow the country’s government to make its own decisions, and not push it to accept a bad deal. He also said that Trump would seek to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — something many candidates have promised but not delivered on once in office. Friedman said Trump would be different.
But Haunser said that Clinton has a long record of supporting Israel, adding that her experience as senator and secretary of state makes her an attractive choice. She also warned against Trump’s temperament, judgment and abusive comments, and said that Clinton epitomizes the Jewish values of caring for people of all races and wanting to help the poor and underprivileged. Several Clinton supporters clapped.
Asked about the Iran deal, Hausner said that she herself had not supported it, and that Clinton’s overall experience and public service record make her better equipped to handle foreign policy than Trump.
Things got contentious when someone yelled out that Clinton’s son-in law was Jewish, and another person responded that Trump’s son-in-law was also Jewish. When a woman in attendance read a quote from Clinton’s Hard Choices that seemed to contradict one of Hausner’s points, Hausner told the woman she could keep reading.
Friedman, too, drew some cheers — but also criticism. One man from the audience asked Friedman why he trusted any position Trump held. Friedman responded that he has known Trump for more than a decade.
Wildes told the crowd that his organization does not endorse any candidate, but urged those in the crowd to vote. Later, he said that while some synagogues or Jewish organizations shy away from talking about politics, he doesn’t want to.
“We want to be relevant and these issues are on people’s minds,” Wildes said. “With the debates, you didn’t really get a sense of Israel and Jewish issues, so I think it was really worthwhile to have this.”
Voters will make up their minds today.