Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ever since Donald Trump started campaigning for this election I have been greatly distraught. I have been anxious because it seems to me that the overall Orthodox Jewish community has been utterly blind to the danger and threat Trump has created. I don’t understand how a people who has been persecuted for nearly 5,000 years cannot smell danger when it comes. It troubles me that the people who have been victimized more than any other race or ethnicity are so blind to the threats that are currently posed. But what destroys me the most inside is that the people who have been victims of racism and xenophobia cannot empathize when others are being targeted. How many Jews support a Muslim ban? How many Jews want to deport 11 million Mexican men and women who have raised families in this country? How many Jews tolerate racist comments about African Americans? Moreover, besides the fact that racism is intolerable in and of itself, historically Jews have often been the first ones targeted.

When we hear comments about “the biased media” and “the lobby on Washington” everyone seems to know what it’s referring to except the victims themselves. The same thing happened in Germany in the 1930s when Jews were accused of controlling the media and the government. The only counter-response I hear to this is that Trump has so many Jewish connections. Firstly, those connections have no bearing whatsoever on the whole faction of society Trump gave rise to. Most importantly, though, is that any sort of racism is a huge red flag. A racist and bigot cannot possibly be a supporter of the Jewish community whether or not his son-in-law is Jewish.

As a community, we have an obligation to stop an epidemic when we see one. The epidemic of racism is not something we hear talked about often enough. Somehow the concept of being a “light unto the nations” has been perverted into an elitist mentality. We just read in Shul about how Avraham Avinu fought on behalf of the wicked city of Sedom, and just a week later as to how he davened to Hashem on their behalf.  He was a man who converted the masses to monotheism because of his love and compassion for all of mankind. He was a man who welcomed travellers into his house who he thought were idol-worshipers. He was a man who was so full of benevolence that his name was changed to represent the fact that he was the “father of many nations.” Elitism is simply not a Torah value. How could Jews support a presidential candidate who called Mexicans rapists, who bragged about sexually abusing women, and who called for a ban on Muslims? How could Jews support a presidential candidate who was endorsed by David Duke and never pointedly denounced his endorsement? How can we study Torah whose “ways are ways of peace” and not stand up against hate?

For whatever it’s worth, I am not one who believes that everything is black and white, especially when it comes to politics. Yet, this transcends politics. I believe it is the obligation of every rabbi, teacher and public figure to publicly denounce any sort of racism in the strongest terms possible. Rabbis should get up and preach about the perils of hate and xenophobia. Teachers and parents who hear their children making racially insensitive comments should reprimand them in the harshest terms possible.

To be fair, it’s not hard to understand why people support Trump. A lot of our society has been infused with extremist liberal views for the past decade, including the romanticizing of terror and the refusal of the current presidential administration to say “Islamic terror.”  It is understandable why the masses would elect Trump.  But we cannot allow ourselves to be shortsighted.  Extreme rightism is even more dangerous than extreme leftism.  Besides, racism is not a new problem that was created in the past two years.  It’s when we allow it to build up over time that it becomes so dangerous. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to stand in unity with the brotherhood of man in which we were created. Now is time to make a true Kiddush Hashem, and stand true to the values of the Torah.

Ariel Herzog

Teaneck, NJ

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