I just got off a family ZOOM chat. Like most conversations these days, we veered into politics. My relatives don’t see eye to eye. Some are ardent Trumpists; others identify as Yidden for Biden.
We don’t have to share political preferences. What is more troubling is that my American relatives on both sides of the political divide see the US as home.
In the context of our long diaspora, the US has been one of the better stops. No other country has allowed the same degree of religious and economic freedom. Perhaps because of this, some American Jews have forgotten who they are and what America is really about.
America seems like home.
Just look at this election—a man with a Jewish son-in-law pitted against a man with Jewish daughters-in-law whose running mate is a mixed-race woman married to a Jewish man.
It sounds too good to be true? It ain’t.
With its spacious skies and amber waves of grain, America is beautiful, but it’s not home. Home is where you belong, even when you’re down and out. Home is t where you can be yourself, not a pseudo self with a changed name and nose.
Though America has never been actively hostile—thank G-d there were never any pogroms or gas chambers on US soil, the US government hasn’t always been friendly.
Remember the Second World War? US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the hands-down winner of the Jewish vote, knew what was going on in Europe. As commander in chief, he could have bombed the train tracks leading to the concentration camps. He could have loosened immigration restrictions allowing Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe to take refuge in the US.
Even after the war, the US didn’t make room for the few Jews still alive. For years the survivors languished in horrific Displaced Persons’ camps, waiting for permission to immigrate to the US.
When they arrived, many were scuttled off to remote locations because the US was still so anti-Semitic that even the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society feared a backlash if the newcomers would be too visible.
Does this sound like a friendly welcome? It doesn’t say that way to me.
It’s not all bleak. The US-led by an antisemitic President played a vital role in establishing the Jewish State. Since the State was born, the US government has supplied us generously with arms and financial aid. We are grateful, but the US has been a fickle friend preferring us small and weak rather than large and powerful.
During the 1957 Sinai campaign, President Eisenhower’s US government pressured Israel to withdraw from Sinai, strengthening the antisemitic Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser who later waged war with Israel. That isn’t all.
When he got word of the Israeli nuclear installation at Dimona, President Kennedy famously freaked out. The staunchly pro-Israel Regan administration chided Israel for the bombing of the Iraqui atomic reactor at Osirak.
All US administrations except the current one have vigorously opposed the settlement enterprise even though Israel won the West Bank and Gaza strip in a defensive war.
All US administrations, including the current one, have pushed lopsided peace initiatives forcing Israel to cede its land in exchange for promises. Even the current administration, arguably the most pro-Israel ever, has taken this road with its “Deal of the Century,” which proposed establishing a Palestinian state that would likely turn into a terror base.
Sure, there have been bright spots. Richard Nixon saved us with his Yom Kippur War airlift. In the waning days of his presidency, George W. Bush allowed Israel to freely prosecute the Second Gaza War.
Despite its many flaws, the Trump administration has provided generous aid, moved the US embassy, tolerated the settlement enterprise, and brought us peace with the Gulf States.
My dear American relatives, please don’t forget this. When you cast your vote, please remember that you are Jews first and Americans second.