In around 1927, roughly 90 years ago, my dad faced regular beatings and bullying in Batavia, New York. His affluent parents sent him to the best private school in town, which happened to be Catholic, and he was name-called and kicked and punched nearly every day for being a Jew. This week marks the 15th anniversary of his passing, just a few months after my daughter was born.
My dad served in WW2 and met my mom, a decidedly non-affluent orphan whose own father had been an Orthodox rabbi in a small town in nearby Canada. They married several months later, just as WW2 was thankfully coming to a close.
He never forgot the anti-Semitism he experienced growing up. He was active in our local Jewish and political community. He would have been way ahead of the curve on this Russiagate scandal, as he read the papers voraciously.
The recent flurry of headlines concerning Jared Kushner’s meetings and activities with the Russians are not good for the Jews. There is a chance that what he did, whether on his own, or at the behest of his father-in-law, could be considered espionage and treason.
But what drew my attention this week, as well, was the matter of the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate in the Montana special election for a seat in the US House of Representatives. When a Jewish reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, had the ‘temerity’ to do his job and ask Greg Gianforte about the low CBO score of the GOP Healthcare bill, (that would knock 23 million Americans off their health insurance) Gianforte exploded in rage. He physically attacked Mr. Jacobs, called him names, including one slur that was inaudible. This was all witnessed first-hand by a Fox News crew, though initially Gianforte’s team tried to lie about it, labeling Mr. Jacobs “a liberal journalist,” which was intended as an epithet. Mr. Jacobs had previously reported on Gianforte’s ties to US- sanctioned Russian banks and companies.
Donald Trump has made it commonplace among his supporters to hate what they term ‘the mainstream media.’ In ultra right-wing or alt-right circles, the media (and Hollywood) is deemed to be run by liberal, wealthy Jews.
In fact, reaction from some of Gianforte’s supporters and from right-wing journalists has been glee that the “wuss” took a beating. The erosion of decency in our country has never been more clear. The JTA tracked some of these responses, though they were not certain whether Gianforte knew Ben Jacobs was Jewish. Mr. Jacobs has published articles specifically discussing his practice of Judaism.
The ultra-Orthodox Jews in our country contributed to the electoral success of Donald Trump’s election. The very same demographic that should be most worried about this turn of events. Because the yeshiva boy with payot and glasses, who has no gym class and instead studies Talmud, is a walking target everywhere he roams in this new political climate.
My dad raised me on the mantra to Question Authority. I was likely never destined to last as a Baal Teshuvah to Orthodox Judaism. I consider the lessons my father taught me lifesaving, for both my daughter and myself.
Make no mistake, we Jews are all vulnerable, but the most obvious among us are the easy pickings. It’s common knowledge now that many Trump supporters were duped and ultimately voted against their own interests. This is definitely the case for the Jewish and foolish Trump supporters.
Here’s hoping that liberal Jews like my dad was, and many others, and God, save us. We start by #Resisting and continue by #Impeaching, and bring our country forward into real decency and equality and justice. Happy Memorial Day and Happy Shavuot.