Jeffrey Salkin

Trump must now denounce the alt-right and anti-Semitism

At the end of the day, this is the man who America elected.

A man who has made sexist remarks, and who has been accused of sexual assault. A man who has baited Hispanics and Muslims. A man who has made history by being the first president to not release his tax returns. A man who publicly mocked a handicapped person. A man who has a history of reneging on payments to vendors and creating a fraudulent university that bears his name.

As my Yiddish-speaking grandfather would have said: Fartig! Enough. It’s over. The election is done.

There is one thing that Trump can do – immediately – that might put the minds and souls of many Americans at ease.

Donald Trump has gotten massive support from the alt-right; in fact, a perusal of selected web sites will reveal that they are viewing his election as, well, Christmas – the birth of the new white Messiah who will lead this country back to the 1940s.

For the first time in American history, anti-Semitism was a factor in a presidential election.

Almost every time a Jewish reporter criticized Trump, anti-Semitic messages and tweets followed. Some of their public messages included the German term “Lügenpresse!” (“lying press”) in German, which the Nazis used to discredit the media.

Some messages have depicted Jewish reporters, with their heads photo-shopped onto the bodies of Holocaust victims.

Some Jewish journalists have received messages, telling them that they are prime targets to become “soap.”

According to the ADL, there have been 19,000 Twitter mentions of journalists that contain at least some anti-Semitic content. Since Trump’s election, there have been various incidents of swastikas in public places; one in Wellsville, New York, said: “Make America white again.”

Let us ignore, for the moment, the various comments that Trump himself made that echoed anti-Semitic themes, and that might have been intended as “dog whistles” to the alt-right.

Donald Trump will not be able to – or, perhaps will not even want to – walk back ugly comments that he has personally made.

But, there is one thing that he can do – immediately – to send a message of healing to the American Jewish community – 70 percent of whom did not vote for him.

Donald Trump can, and should, immediately denounce the alt-right, its white supremacist message, and send a message of comfort to those journalists who have been so hatefully victimized.

More than that: The Republican Jewish Coalition has condemned the ADL for pointing out and criticizing the anti-Semitic imagery and rhetoric employed by Trump’s campaign and supporters.

In other words – the RJC is criticizing the ADL for doing its job – a job that, under “normal” conditions, they would endorse.

The Republican Jewish Coalition remained mute during the Trump campaign.

By contrast, prominent Jewish Republican thought leaders like David Brooks, John Podhoretz, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer summoned their moral courage, and publicly condemned the Trump candidacy.

The Republican Jewish Coalition should call upon Donald Trump to (even belatedly) criticize the manifestations of anti-Semitism that emanated from his campaign – and they should do so as well.

This past summer, we lost the greatest Jewish moral voice of our time — Elie Wiesel.

These are his words – words that speak to this moment in American history:

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference…

The election is now over. Donald Trump has now gotten all of the votes that he needed. He should have no fear of alienating supporters – who deserve to be alienated.

Mr. Trump can begin to heal the wounds of his words, and his supporters’ words.

He has a choice. He can speak the words that will address the pain.

Or, he can remain silent – and leave the American people continuing to wonder: What, exactly, does he believe?

About the Author
Jeffrey K. Salkin is the rabbi of Temple Israel in West Palm Beach, Florida, and a frequent writer on Jewish and cultural matters. He also blogs frequently at Martini Judaism: for those who want to be shaken and stirred, published by Religion News Service.