Many times over the past four years, I have expressed my thoughts on statements by then candidate, now President Trump. So many of these statements have left me greatly concerned as an American and as a Jew.
But, yesterday’s statement brought this entire discussion to a new place and it is a terrifying place.
Yesterday, the President said: “”I think Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,”
As I wrote on Facebook and as so many have expressed, the word “loyalty” carries with it tremendous implications and historical gravity for Jews. For centuries, Jews have been accused of a lack of loyalty to the nation in which we live, holding greater loyalty to our people and, since 1948, to the state of Israel. This claim of disloyalty or secondary loyalty has led to persecution against Jews for centuries.
So, when President Trump used these words yesterday, he was using language which resonates deeply within our hearts and minds as Jews.
It is not immediately clear what disloyalty the President was alluding to but I assume that he was saying that Jews who vote for Democratic candidates are being disloyal to the Jewish people and to Israel.
There is so much that needs to be said.
First, it goes without saying that President Trump has no right to lecture me or any Jew about how to express our Jewishness. This patronizing, demeaning attitude is shameful.
But, more importantly, from my perspective, his assumption about what makes a “loyal Jew” is simply wrong.
I do not deny that there are some within the Democratic party who have made anti-Semitic statements and this concerns me deeply. But, the assumption that the fact that more Republicans are vocal in their support for the current government of Israel translates into an administration that is “better for Jews” is misleading to say the least.
I care deeply about Israel but President Trump has repeatedly made support for Israel a “partisan issue”. This preceded his administration when republican leaders invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak before Congress to argue against President Obama’s support of the Iran Nuclear deal. The scene of so many in Congress cheering Netanyahu so ecstatically while disrespecting the leader of our nation was unsettling to say the least. While I am glad to see Israel have the support in Congress, that scene set the tone for the relationship that has been built up between Trump and Netanyahu which culminated a week ago in the Prime Minister, apparently, agreeing to the President’s suggestion that two Democratic members of congress who have been blatantly critical of Israel not be permitted to enter the country.
This decision was soundly criticized by most American Jewish organizations and rightly so.
Mr. President, there are many people who care about Israel who do not agree with the positions of the Netanyahu government. We will not be swayed by your claim that loyalty to a state means agreement with current policy.
But, there is a more important point to be made.
I am a loyal American. I am deeply concerned about the direction this country is taking and I believe that the values that Judaism espouses are being trampled on by this administration.
As Jews, we are called on to be compassionate, to recognize the image of God in all people, to be concerned for the earth which we live on, to protect our children from violence, to welcome the stranger and care for those in need.
These are not uniquely Jewish values as they are shared by so many in our nation and these values guide my vote on election day.
I intend to vote for a Democrat in 2020 because this administration has stood against recognizing climate change, dismissed the value of science, refused to enact laws protecting our children from gun violence, sought to take away from women the right to make decisions about their own bodies, referred to those seeking asylum and a better life as “invaders” and bringing “infestation”, turned a blind eye to, if not actively encouraged, white supremacists and overlooked the actions of brutal dictators throughout the world. These are unacceptable to me as an American.
I intend to vote for a Democrat in 2020 because I could not vote for a man whose rhetoric and actions do not reflect what this nation should be about.
Mr. President, to support your administration would be to be disloyal, both to the country I love and to the faith I hold.