President-elect Trump shakes hands with World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder after meeting at Mar-a-Lago on Dec. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Jewish Trump supporters resist calls from other Jews to renounce the president


(RNS) — J.J. Gross doesn’t talk about President Trump with his daughter Nora, who unfriended her dad on Facebook before the presidential election.

“At first I just unfollowed him, so that I didn’t need to be exposed to the awful hate speech he posted on his page,” said the New York massage therapist.

Her father, a semiretired creative director who lives in Jerusalem, takes a different view of family Facebook dynamics: “She cut me off from her Facebook, lest I post an opinion of which the PC Gestapo would disapprove,” he said, adding that he and his daughter are still "very close, always in contact, and love one another deeply."

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The father-daughter clash mirrors those within many other Jewish families over Trump, whose presidency is also testing many a Jewish friendship. And in the nation at large, where opponents of Trump significantly outnumber his supporters, calls from Jews to other Jews to renounce the president have heightened tensions in synagogues, in the Jewish press and the wider Jewish world.

In past weeks — in the wake of Trump comments about white supremacy widely condemned as too late and too soft — disagreements among Jews about the president played out on a very public stage.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who is Jewish, struggled with his allegiance to the Trump administration as his wife asked him to break with it. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is also Jewish, defended Trump and wrote that it would be wrong to heed calls for him to abandon the president.

To many American Jews — who as a group lean heavily Democratic — the president's comments and policies have betrayed his own personal bigotries. They were looking for him to express outrage after a woman protesting racism and anti-Semitism died in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 — but instead saw him draw what appeared to be a moral equivalence between white supremacists and those who marched against them.

Like his non-Jewish supporters, Jews who support Trump consider him an antidote to the regulation and bureaucracy they see throttling the economy. These American Jews, who tend to be more strict in their religious practice, also appreciate Trump's oft-repeated declarations of love for Israel.

Shira, a Jewish woman from Washington, D.C., says, "I feel the religious conversation has been dominated by the right wing for too long." RNS photo by Mary Gladstone


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

This lopsided division between more liberal and more conservative Jews, who together make up about 4 percent of the electorate, is no new thing. Hillary Clinton secured 71 percent of the Jewish vote — the highest proportion of any faith group — and Trump won 24 percent, the lowest.

But with Trump in the Oval Office, the tone of the political discussion today seems particularly intense within the Jewish community.

In a recent open letter, the prominent literary couple Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman wrote, “Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism.”

And headlines in the Forward, one of the nation's most prominent Jewish news outlets, since the election have included “Is Trump An Anti-Semite? Ask David Duke, He Should Know” and “My Fellow Orthodox Jews: Admit You Were Wrong About Trump.”

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Jane Eisner, the Forward's editor, isn’t sure if these stories have changed any Jewish Trump supporters’ opinions of him, and she added that the paper does not engage in advocacy.

Jane Eisner. Photo from Twitter

Unlike Chabon and Waldman, Eisner hasn’t called the president an anti-Semite. “I don’t know what is in his heart,” she said. “I’m sure he loves his Jewish grandchildren as much as he loves his non-Jewish grandchildren.”

But he has surrounded himself with those who are “blind to the way they have used anti-Semitic images and tropes to rally a segment of their base,” she added.

The violence in Charlottesville, which left one person dead and 19 injured, and the president’s response to it should be a “grave warning” to Jews and those who believe in a tolerant America, according to Eisner.

“It was a frightening display, but it didn’t occur in a vacuum,” she said. “We have seen through the course of the Trump campaign and into his administration a heightened harassment of Jewish journalists and a willingness to traffic with some very nasty people.”

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In decades in journalism, Eisner hadn’t received the sort of anti-Semitic and Holocaust-related email and social media abuse that she has from Trump supporters in the past year, she said.

But J.J. Gross is among the many Jewish Trump supporters who isn’t likely to change his mind by the stories in the Forward, which he calls “anti-freedom of speech” and “little more than the organ grinder for the extreme Jewish left.” He also has zero doubt that Trump has no Jewish problem.

“Not only is Trump not an anti-Semite, but he is very much a philo-Semite,” Gross says.

“To accuse him of Jew hatred is as absurd as accusing him of collusion with Moscow to rig the elections.” Repeating a lie over and over again doesn’t make it true, he said.

Comments

  1. Trump is a clumsy, self-agrandizing guy BUT the notion of him being an anti-semite is idiotic and offensive. And, Jews should be aware that the political Left…which includes enormous segments of the “Jewish Community”…are willing and ready to use ANY tool, even falsely accusing him of being an anti-semite in order to convince Jews that if they do support the President, they shouldn’t. “Progressive” Jews turn a very blind eye toward the anti-semites that have now for all intents and purposed taken over the American universities. They’ve turned a blind eye toward the Democratic Party’s literal embrace of anti-semites within their ranks. They’ve turned a blind eye toward the dangers from Iran and its allies. Jews should be thankful every day that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton who…with certainty…would have brought this country to an irreversible condition that Obama started that would have been to the Jew’s peril across the globe.

  2. The notion is that he gives legitimacy to anti-Semites in his political base.

  3. Fact: Most American Jews are Democrats. And they vote as such for good reasons.

  4. That’s the “fake news” that so aggressive. Trump gives no legitimacy to anti-semites at all. If they try to take legitimacy from him, that is what they’re going to do and in the end it will be unsuccessful What Trump is attempting to do is to express a recognition that the Left, in its “Antifa” and its “Black Lives Matter” and its Ellison manifestations is genuinely anti-semitic and that Jews and all good-thinking people should recognize them as just that. Those manifestations are embraced, tolerated or ignored by the Jews that are so keen on having all Jews reject Trump. Trump is neither anti-semitic nor anti-Israel and that’s what should be relevant to Jews.

  5. Since Trump is no Hitler and the Republicans aren’t Nazis, that comparison is disgusting, bigoted garbage. Your insult to the Jews that cooperate with them is as bad if not worse.

  6. The alt-right is anti-Semitic and has harassed Jewish critics of Trump using vile anti-Semitic memes, especially Holocaust related ones. Trump might not be anti-Semitic himself but he is normalizing and supporting people who are for his own selfish reason. His Jewish daughter and son-in-law are turning a blind eye to Daddy’s supporters and actions because they are selfish spoiled trust fund brats and political power and money are the only things important to them.

  7. Trump made it clear his sympathies lie with neo-nazis. “Very Fine People” were his words to describe them.

    To their credit most of the GOP and virtually all of his corporate supporters piloried him for doing so.

    Trump has repeatedly been silent or worse supportive of people who attack Jews and other minorities. My comparison is harsh, but apt.

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