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November 7, 2018 9:40 am

Maintaining Jewish Unity in the Age of Trump

avatar by David Suissa / JNS.org

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A man prays at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 31, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Cathal McNaughton.

JNS.org – Are Jews who like President Donald Trump’s policies on Israel making a deal with the devil?

Last Friday on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” New York Times op-ed editor and writer Bari Weiss made this comment in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh tragedy:

I hope this week that American Jews have woken up to the price of that bargain. They have traded policies that they like for the values that have sustained the Jewish people — and frankly, this country — forever: Welcoming the stranger; dignity for all human beings; equality under the law; respect for dissent; love of truth. These are the things we are losing under this president — and no policy is worth that price.

In other words, American Jews are paying too high a price for President Trump’s unbridled support of Israel, which includes moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, scuttling the Iran deal, defending Israel at the United Nations, and enforcing consequences for Palestinian support of terror.

So, for Jews who are appalled by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric but still appreciate his policies on Israel, what should they do? Tell the president not to bother trying to “woo” us with Israel? That he so violates Jewish values that his favorable actions on Israel just aren’t worth it? That after Pittsburgh, we’re no longer willing to pay the price of that bargain?

And how would that work exactly? Weiss didn’t specify, but Franklin Foer, writing in The Atlantic, did have a suggestion to enhance Jewish security after Pittsburgh:

Any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.

Never mind that after Pittsburgh, the president said: “Anti-Semitism represents one of the ugliest and darkest features of human history. Anti-Semitism must be condemned anywhere and everywhere. There must be no tolerance for it.”

According to Foer, however, any Jew who still supports the president must be ostracized and shunned.

I wonder if Foer would be willing to stand outside a synagogue on Saturday morning with a sign repeating his message: “If you support Trump, your presence is not welcome. You have placed your community in danger.”

I don’t mean to be snarky or cynical, but I’m just chastened by this Jewish instinct to blame other Jews under any circumstances, even when a neo-Nazi comes to murder us.

Weiss could have said: “We can appreciate the president’s support for Israel and also speak out against his incendiary and divisive rhetoric. One doesn’t preclude the other.”

Foer could have said: “If you have friends or community members who support Trump, make your case vigorously, but there’s no need to go as far as cutting them out.”

Both of those options would have been consistent with the values that have sustained the Jewish people.

David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and Jewish Journal. He can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com. 

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