It is an age-old conundrum for us Jews who have ever worked in an office or for a government agency or a sitting President of the United States. Namely: what do you do when your boss is an anti-Semite and you are Jewish? Sadly, many of us government employees, former and current, have experienced this issue first-hand. Our responses run the gamut of saying nothing while being harassed, demoted, kept in one position and denied due promotions and even fired on false premises or speaking our minds, filing lawsuits and demanding change.
The problem with being in this kind of work environment is that it is a corrosive experience for the employee. It ruins productivity, contaminates the office with age-old biases that have nothing whatsoever to do with a person’s merits or abilities and makes the work product suffer. It reflects poorly on the entire office and guilt by association is rampant in these kinds of situations. Which brings us to Donald Trump and his economic advisor, Gary Cohn.
Long before Charlottesville, I referred to Donald Trump as the “anti-Semite-in-Chief.” I was not joking. Whereas his supporters have denied he suffers from racism, anti-Semitism, sexism or several other “isms” is no longer a debatable issue. It matters not that his daughter converted and married a Jew. Donald Trump’s views toward us is as obvious as it is odious. He did not attend his grandson’s brit milah. Nor did he host a seder at the White House which Barack Obama did for his entire two terms in office. Many people gave Trump the benefit of the doubt when Steve Bannon was in the White House; but he is no longer there and that dog will no longer hunt. And regardless of who his advisors are, he is still the one who decides what he will say at press gatherings, rallies or extemporaneously off the top of his tinted head. His comments have been chilling, to say the least. When the shackles of his advisors’ pre-composed words spew forth from Trump’s lips, they appear tame and inoculous. When he ignores the teleprompter and lets forth his hateful words and half-baked comparions between neo-Nazis and innocent protesters, we see him for the hateful old mumzer that he is. So what should his Jewish advisors and staff do in the face of such behavior?
It is disingenuous to state that you have considerations such as family obligations which require you to remain in such a job. There are other jobs for people who have worked in such an elevated position. Gary Cohn already had a job and a well-paying one at that. It would be equally absurd to stay in a job with an anti-Semitic boss thinking you can change their attitudes by your presence. We are talking about a 71-year-old man, for God’s sake.
The expedient thing would be to stay in the job, live with the insults and try to ameliorate them whenever the opportunity arises. The honorable and courageous thing would be to resign immediately after posting a blistering public attack on your boss, but somehow courage and honor are sorely lacking in the current Administration. They don’t even have an honest press liaison to stand in front of the nation’s press corps and tell them anything honest or prescient or informative. Answering every question with either “I’ll have to get back to you” or “I have not yet discussed this matter with the President” is absurd. It has not dawned on anyone in the White House that they are all paid a salary by us citizens. Similarly, it has not occurred to any of them that their racist attitudes are feeding a false narrative that their boss engenders and supports. People who stay in toxic work environments are enablers. Their acquiescence grants assent. It is time for any and all Jews working in any capacity in this Administration to leave and take their dignity with them intact. The only Jews who should stay are the ones currently assisting Robert Mueller’s investigation. They are the cream of the prosecutorial, financial, analytical and legal worlds. These are Jews we can actually use for our role models.