(RNS) — Let’s say that you were trying to win your party’s nomination for president of the United States — a position you previously held and you are trying to hold again.
Let’s say you wanted to reach out to American Jews — a group that had historically not been overwhelmingly keen on you, your policies and your ever-present presidential ambitions.
Let’s say it’s Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
What kind of message might you issue to the Jews of America?
- You might simply say: Shanah tovah — a good year.
- You might say: I know this past year has been a particularly difficult year for Jews, because of the resurgence of antisemitic incidents in our country. I pray my Jewish friends will enter this new year with a renewed sense of security.
- You might even gather together the Jewish members of your family — your daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren — and send a camera crew over to their home and let them demonstrate some holiday customs.
- Or, you might say that liberal Jews had voted to destroy America: “Just a quick reminder for liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel because you believed false narratives,” and “let’s hope you learned from your mistake, and make better choices going forward!” and that they need “to get their act together” and “appreciate Israel before it’s too late!” (Before it’s too late … for what, exactly?)
That is precisely what Donald Trump did on his social media platform, Truth Social.
Yair Rosenberg, in The Atlantic, quotes the conservative writer Philip Klein in National Review:
Color me skeptical that Trump’s defenders would be so understanding if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were to post a Merry Christmas message … blaming Christian conservatives for destroying America because they didn’t vote for Democrats.
There have been loud and vigorous protests from various corners of the American Jewish community.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement to USA Today:
It is dangerous and wrong to suggest an entire segment of the Jewish population voted to destroy America and Israel … Whether or not it’s intentional, President Trump is playing into conspiracy theories about dual loyalty here. Even worse, this is happening on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah.
Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, noted that the former president marked “the end of Rosh Hashana with an antisemitic post accusing Jews who voted against him of ‘destroy[ing] America & Israel.’”
From the American Jewish Committee: “Claiming that American Jews who did not vote for Mr. Trump voted to destroy America and Israel is deeply offensive and divisive … As we approach one year until the next election, we urge political candidates from the top to the bottom of the ballot to avoid incendiary rhetoric.”
Of course, this is hardly the first time Trump has utilized antisemitic themes — even, and especially, in the presence of Jews. Almost four years ago, in December 2019 in Hollywood, Florida, Trump addressed the Israeli American Council meeting and delivered a Hanukkah basket of vile antisemitic stereotypes.
Many of them laughed, and some of them applauded.
Which makes me wonder about this latest barrage from Trump — this hora through the garbage pits of raw Jew-hatred.
I wonder: Where is the Republican Jewish Coalition? Why can’t they criticize Trump? Why have they remained silent? Are they just being good German Jews? What will it take for them to summon up their courage, and their Jewish self-respect, and speak out?
When will the Republican Jewish Coalition actually do the right Jewish thing (that is part of their name, you have noticed) and speak out against antisemitism?
Or, is it possible the folks at the RJC actually agree with Trump? Do they think liberal Jews are destroying America and Israel (in the latter case, through their increasingly nasty presence at those large rallies that are actually calling for — horrors! — the Jewish state to live up to the ideals of its own Declaration of Independence)?
If that is so, then, please, RJC: Just come out and say it. Let us know that you are all too ready and willing to participate in the slicing and dicing of the American Jewish community — and that you care more about the Republican end of your identity than the Jewish part.
Because the Jew-haters on the extreme right despise liberal Jews. But, I warn you: At a certain point, the adjective “liberal” will disappear, and all that will be left as the subject of the invective will be “Jews.”
Then, please don’t be surprised when they come after you as well.
Because, here is the thing about Jew-haters.
They really don’t give a _______ about your politics, or about whether you are a member of a synagogue, or which synagogue and denomination you are affiliated with.
Why is this important? Because over the past two months, there have been no less than 49 bomb threats made against synagogues in 13 states. On Rosh Hashana, there were numerous bomb threats aimed at synagogues across the United States — none of them credible — which nevertheless disrupted services. In one case, at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey, the congregants simply continued the service out in the parking lot.
So, let us be clear. If you think that there is no connection between Trump’s vulgar, hateful rhetoric and what is happening to Jewish communities all over the country, guess again.
Let me return to that little story about B’nai Jeshurun, which is the largest Reform synagogue in New Jersey.
Let us return to how the clergy, staff and congregants handled that whole thing.
They went into the parking lot, and they continued the service.
They lifted their hands to God and, simultaneously, their middle fingers to the haters.
To Ivanka and Jared Kushner: Shanah tovah u’metukah — a good and sweet year.
But you might want to tell your father/father-in-law that the Jew-hatred is not a good look. Not for him, not for anyone.
Because, my dear Kushners, the Jew-haters really don’t care who your daddy is.