There is so much these days to be distraught over as an American, as a Jew, or just as a human being. The list could stretch from here to the far reaches of the universe. But since I don’t have that much space in this column, I will limit myself to what is causing me — and people I know and love — enormous amounts of distress.
Let me start by stating unequivocally that I treasure being Jewish. I know I am part of an incredibly complicated, rich, challenging, and sometimes even confounding tradition and people. I feel especially proud of the fact that we are the people who gave the world the original speakers of truth to power, viz., our prophets.
I think about that a lot these days, about the men and women of old who called out corruption, who challenged the disregarding of human suffering, and who pointed an accusing finger at those who chose power and access to it over how we were meant to behave in the world…over what we were created to be.
I am not a perfectly literate Jew, but I am an engaged one. I have continued my Jewish education into my adulthood and appreciate it now much more than when I was younger. And that is in many ways the crux of the problem. The more I learn, the more I am appalled at an organized Jewish community that seems too willing to sell its soul.
Let me be crystal clear: I find any Jew who justifies having voted for Donald Trump someone who has tossed anything resembling real Jewish values on the trash heap of morality. There is simply no way to reconcile being a good Jew with being a Trump supporter. We can disagree about Republican and Democratic policies and priorities, but if there is daylight between us about whether it is okay to vote for and support a man who mocked a Gold Star family; who mocked a disabled reporter; who bragged about groping and ogling women and girls; who has a documented history of being a cheat and a fraud in business; and who invoked and embraced anti-Semitic themes and outright anti-Semites and racists during his campaign, then we have big problems. So big, in fact, that the powers that be in the Jewish community that have remained silent or worse–supported Trump–have alienated those among us who take seriously the notion that being a good Jew actually means standing up for and defending Jewish values, irrespective of politics.
It may be the case that an entire segment of the Jewish community is happy to write off people like me. But I can tell you that you will lose my children as well. Not because I tell them not to take being Jewish seriously and not because they aren’t proud to be Jews. But precisely because they DO take being Jewish seriously and ARE proud to be Jews, they cannot—and should not—countenance Jewish communal leadership that is either cowardly in not forcefully rejecting what the current American President and his administration stand for or worse, because they actively support him and his agenda. My children’s values—which are their primary inheritance from their father and me—won’t allow them to sell their souls for access to people and programs that are anathema to everything they have been raised to know is Jewishly right, important, and necessary.
It’s all pretty simple for me, really. I fall back, repeatedly, on Hillel:
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”
Imagine a world in which each of us adhered to this standard. And now imagine that world and still supporting Trump. If you can, then the break between us is likely permanent. That is a loss, to be sure, but I can live with it. In fact, I would argue that I have no choice, if I take seriously all that I have been raised to believe, know, and embrace about what it means to be a Jew.