Left, right and sideways, Jews in America are facing a major dilemma: Whose side should we take?
Do we take the conservative point of view and accept our duly elected Republican president as the Jews’ knight in shining armor? After all, President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognized the Golan Heights, pulled out of the Iran deal, pulled out of UNRWA, signed the Taylor Force Act, signed the executive order on anti-Semitism, and even has a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren!
During his State of the Union speech, Trump very movingly said, “We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed. With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”
Given all that, why wouldn’t every Jew want to vote Republican in 2020?
But hold on—every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Since the days of FDR, Jews have overwhelmingly voted Democrat. In fact, most of today’s Jews can recall how their parents and grandparents voted with pride as Democrats, and now many are following in their ancestors’ footsteps. Most Jews who arrived in America after World War II were poor immigrants, with no job training, education or place to live. They could not speak English and carried their own traditions and culture with them.
FDR’s New Deal helped to put them back on their feet again, allowing them to become U.S. citizens, become educated, find a job and earn money, and grow their families while enjoying the freedom of religion they were so defiantly denied in their countries of birth.
Despite the fact that FDR was a true anti-Semite who ignored pleas to bomb the train tracks to Auschwitz and turned away 937 Jewish refugees on a boat named the St. Louis in 1939, the post-war Jews felt indebted to the New Deal and the boost it gave to their future as naturalized Americans. Today, a vocal part of American society may be making a hard leftward turn, leaving many Democrats in a bind. How could dedicated Democrat Jews abandon their parents’ and grandparents’ party?
As progressives, today’s Jewish Democrats are asking history to repeat itself: They want to ensure that today’s immigrants—whether legal or illegal—will enjoy all of the advantages and breaks their grandparents had when they came into this country. Is that so bad?
In any long-term relationship, two people with every reason to love and respect one another can still have major differences of opinion about issues that are important to them. In many cases, speaking candidly about why something is important is the first step in helping the other side to look for common ground.
And Jews have plenty of common ground. We all pray to one God, and all of us share a history of over 3,000 years of persecution just for being Jewish. We all love our families, and our culture and traditions. We all want security, and the freedom to worship our God without having to worry that someone might kill us for doing so.
And as Jews, we also know that when a Jew-hating dictator, or a random, radical anti-Semite in our midst, wants to kill Jews, he or she does not stop to ask whether they voted for Trump or Hillary Clinton, whether they’re conservatives or liberals, or whether or not they support the two-state solution.
The anti-Semite who killed 11 innocent Jews and wounded six in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 did not stop to ask what side of the political spectrum they were on. He just wanted to kill Jews. Period.
When the Nazis escorted their Jewish prisoners into the gas chambers of Europe, they, too, did not ask if they were supportive of the Third Reich. If they were Jewish, they were sent to die.
Hate is hate. In the extreme it does not admit of degrees, or care about ideology. By definition, hate is irrational, focused, and often arises out of cultural stereotypes, jealousy and ignorance. It does not care about immigration, reproductive rights, the economy, or foreign policy. It just cares about the label it arbitrarily assigns to the victim, regardless of any other factors.
Let’s kiss and make up. Let’s unite and fight together as Jews and stop the rise in anti-Semitism. Let’s look past our differences and accomplish this by living proud as free, American Jews who are willing to “fight the fight” and stand united against anyone or anything that leads to Jew hatred or worse—to the horrible, wrongful, shameful, deceitful and eternally tragic murder of innocent Jews. Let’s honor their collective memory, come together and make sure it never happens again.