In the current American political circus, a number of players are seeking endorsements and approvals from religious leaders and in particular from evangelical Christians.
American Jews are conflicted on two candidates from both parties.
Bernie Sanders is a Senator from the New England state of Vermont which is on the Canadian border. Sanders is a Jew married to a non-Jew and has non-Jewish children and grandchildren.
Donald Trump is a billionaire business success. He is a Presbyterian Christian whose daughter converted to Orthodox Judaism, married an Orthodox Jew, keeps a kosher Jewish home and he has two Jewish grandchildren.
Putting political affiliations aside, many American Jews have expressed feelings concerning the two candidates’ religiosity.
Should they punish the Jewish Sanders because his entire family are non-Jews or should they support the Christian Trump because part of his immediate family are Orthodox Jews?
Does religion play a factor in the 2016 elections?
Trump insists that he is Israel’s best friend among all other candidates of both parties. Yet he prefers to remain neutral in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Can he be trusted to support Israel in time of need?
Sanders, as a young man, had spent some time working on an Israeli kibbutz, the ideal of his socialism. He speaks some Hebrew but is often critical of Israeli politics, opposed to the settlements, and insists on bilateral negotiations leading to an effective Palestinian state.
Can he be trusted to support Israel in time of a crisis?
Should Jews in America vote for a political party to which they have some allegiance or should they vote for a candidate, irrespective of the political party, who will be good for Israel?
Numbers indicate that younger voters have less interest in Israel than older voters. Perhaps older voters recall the Holocaust years, the birth and struggles of our young State, and who remain devoted to us and to our survival as a Jewish and democratic nation in the midst of constant warfare and turmoil.
Some Christians, among them the evangelicans, are sympathetic to the “underdog” Palestinians and they accuse Israel of “stealing land” which belongs to the Palestinian people. Others, and among them devoted evangelicans, are steadfast in their support of the Jews’ right to the land of Israel.
Chief among them is a former governor of the state of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, who withdrew his candidacy for nomination to the presidency of the United States. He has made many personal visits to Israel and has led dozens of tours with his Christian followers to show them the glorious achievements of the Jewish State. Had he been elected, he would have been Israel’s greatest friend ever to occupy the White House.
With nine more months to go, it remains to be seen if and how much religion plays a part in the American elections.