Today I read an article in the Washington Post that broke my heart just a little bit more. We know that President-elect Donald Trump has uncontrollable Twitter wrath. There are many things we Jews disagree on. But surely this issue I’m about to discuss, is something we can work together on.
I know there are good people who voted for Trump. And for that reason, many of you also don’t approve of everything he says and does. Have you written to him to let him know this is not okay? Have you taken a moment to voice your concerns to him via social media?
There is a growing anxiety that Trump is going to get someone killed merely for questioning him. When Trump tweets outrage against private citizens who question or criticize him, he is using his power, inadvertently or not, to bully. He is setting up David and Goliath scenarios. We are Jews. We root for David.
A young girl posed a question to him about women’s issues in a polite and respectful manner last year, at a town hall forum. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. Everyday people ask questions about issues they care about — and the candidate answers. Yet Trump attacked this innocent young woman in a Twitter rant the next day.
In what manner was this girl arrogant? She was 18. She asked him appropriate questions. Rape and death threats ensued for over a year after he tweeted and after his Director of Social Media revealed her addresses — with his approval. He has the Secret Service to protect him. Yet he gleefully unleashes horror on private citizens.
How do we stop this? Too often we feel powerless, or worse, apathetic. But this is something all decent people can agree on – and have a moral obligation to take action on. We are Jews. We ask questions. This is a fundamental part of our heritage. If you’re unsure about this statement, take a cursory glance at the the Talmud.
I’m calling on the Jewish people to start with this campaign for kindness. If you’re not Jewish, your participation is welcome. We know soon to be Melania Trump is on board. This is not an issue we have to wait and see about. The election is over. And yet Trump is still tweeting about private citizens, putting them in harm’s way.
Put aside your politics, your slice of the policy pie, your agenda. To save a life is the foremost precept in Judaism, one that supersedes everything else that is sacred.
The President’s role is to accept the fact that everyday Americans and citizens around the world will question and criticize him. This is part of the job. Certainly, our American Jewish community never shied away from questioning any President previously.
This is who we are. We question. We criticize. We argue. (Again, read the Talmud, or any Jewish newspaper. Go to a family dinner or Seder.) But do any of you believe anyone deserves the onslaught of death and rape threats or when a Jew is the target, graphic Holocaust imagery sent to the individual and their children?
Should we all return to a shtetl mentality where we are terrified to speak out, to question authority? Is this what we want for America?
I am urging everyone to find a moment to communicate with Trump’s team about this issue. Ask him to stop attacking private citizens on Twitter or in the media. He’s playing a dangerous game…one that he moves on from in an instant, yet leaves a wake of destruction in his path.
To those who have a more public forum, or even personal contact with his inner circle, let this be an issue you speak out on. I’m calling on Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, self identified as America’s Rabbi, who visited with Trump’s Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon this week. I’m calling on Naomi Ragen, who has tackled abuse of authority in her many novels and in her political essays. I’m calling on Matthew Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, to enhance Trump’s relationships with American Jews and the American public, and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, to reiterate what children in their eponymous school are taught.
Because we Jews know that the practice of Judaism is in our actions. So, to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, as you offered just one month ago, this is a project you can advance. Jewish Women International, you know that cyber bullying effects women nearly ten times more than men. Jewish leadership and press — everyday people — please call on President-elect Trump and his surrogates to stop his cyber bullying. I have no doubt that the Union of Reform Judaism will gladly lend its services in helping Mr. Trump craft a message that will “move us toward a brighter future.”
I’m asking Twitter Executive Chairman, Omid Kordistani and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as Board Member and UK digital advocate Martha Lane Fox to exercise their influence and guidance. Ari Fleischer, political communications expert recently compared Donald Trump’s tweeting to FDR’S Fireside Chat radio programs. Now persuade Mr. Trump to emulate FDR’S legacy and tone. President Roosevelt used this more intimate setting to uplift and reassure the American public. I’m hopeful that David Frum, Senior Editor at The Atlantic will relentlessly continue his brilliant advice to Republicans. Maybe my old Hebrew school pal Gary Ginsberg, Time Warner exec, volunteer speechwriter for Prime Minister Netanyahu and creator of Newsweek’s Most Influential Rabbis list could join Rabbi David Wolpe (once #1 on that list) in reminding Mr. Trump, “In our nation and abroad there is a great deal riding on your speaking from the better angels of your nature.”
It stands to reason that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (who advocates for gender pay equality, incidentally) and Rabbi Haskel Lookstein would be willing to have a conversation with President-elect Trump about pivoting and using his Twitter power to promote wife Melania’s agenda. Rabbi Lookstein is renown for presenting the Talmud as a primer for civil rights and religious civics activism.
This one change can only have one possible outcome – a positive, winning strategy. This gives Trump an opportunity to exercise leadership and greater unite Americans. There is no better time than now to implement this campaign for kindness than during the holiday season of good will. It will be a welcome gift. So much so that I’m willing to bet his approval ratings will go up.
The founders of Twitter chose their name ten years ago because it meant ‘a short burst of inconsequential information.’ We Jews know that everything we say and do has consequences. We know that nothing the leader of the free world does or says is without consequences.
It starts with him. You cannot teach what you don’t model. Ask him to refrain from tweeting attacks on private citizens. Even if they criticize or challenge him.
Do this simply because his momentary impulse could have deadly repercussions. Do this just because we have an obligation to introduce more kindness in the world. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it will have a ripple effect.
This does not put Israel in any jeopardy. He and we, the American people, can easily afford this. It won’t require any funding or cause any budgetary impact. It won’t be a security threat for our homeland. In fact, if anything, it will bolster our safety.
This young woman was 18. What teenager doesn’t question authority? It’s their job and every parent out there knows this from experience. He has 5 kids. Mr. Trump knows this, too.
It is never too late to change. As Jews, we believe in taking stock of ourselves and effecting teshuvah and tikkun. America voted for change. Change starts within ourselves. This is the message we can carry to Mr. Trump.
In the Book of Job, it’s recounted that Job suffered numerous severe trials. And for his forbearance and loyalty to God, he was rewarded with 140 additional years of life. There is actually a biblical connection between the concept of restraint and the number 140. Call it a variation on gematria for the modern age.
Let’s be the light in the world. Ask President-elect Donald Trump for more kindness and graciousness. We have to try. #kindagain140