Last night, the president of the United States called the vast majority of American Jews stupid or disloyal.
You don’t need me to rehash the details, or to be the 10,000th person to attempt to find new English words to describe how heinous, twisted, and dangerous this statement is. What we need to do today as a community is decide how to respond. First, though, we need to sit with it for a moment. Despite the seemingly endless onslaught of anti-Semitism in America today, this one is important because it came directly from the president.
The real either/or here isn’t whether American Jews are dumb or evil—it’s whether the president of the United States is. Personally, I think he is both. There is ample evidence of profound stupidity as well as mind-numbing coarseness, but I also know that it doesn’t matter because in his case the consequences are the same for the Jews, and they are frightening.
President Trump is well aware that the vast majority of American Jews voted against him and are loyal to the Democratic Party. He is well aware that the vast majority of the Jewish members of Congress are Democrats. The idea that the Democratic Party stands against Israel is certifiably false. Regardless of how you feel about Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar—I find them contemptible, not least for lying to Jewish voters during election season about their views on a two-state solution and BDS—they are two junior members of the Democratic Party. They do not represent the majority, or even a sizable faction within the party.
Indeed, last week over 40 of their peers, freshman Democrats, visited Israel. Yossi Klein Halevi described them as a diverse group of policymakers who were empathetic to Israeli security concerns and excited to be there. When we talk about party leadership the lie becomes even more obvious. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the extremely powerful House Appropriations Committee; Hakeem Jeffries, likely the next speaker of the House and the highest ranking African American in the House; Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, all have impeccably pro-Israel records. The notion that the Democratic Party supports cutting foreign aid to Israel is laughable—especially considering that the last person in Congress to actually block aid to Israel was a Republican.
In fact, if you’re looking for something that a big number of Jewish Democrats agree on, it’s the investigation of Trump’s alleged crimes: Nearly half the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are Jewish—including Chairman Jerry Nadler.
No. What’s really happening here is not just irresponsible; it’s purposeful. The president thrives on fear. He hopes that by dividing America and frightening America he will win. And so he engineered this political moment. He pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the wrong call so he could reap the political rewards. He created this political moment so he could call the majority of American Jews disloyal. He can’t make the case for us to vote for him on merit, so he resorts to bullying us.
Now we must grapple with how to respond to this terrifying moment.
Let’s start by being honest with ourselves. As hard as this is to accept, it’s simply a reality that whole swaths of the American political establishment are treating us like morons. Like we couldn’t possibly believe that Omar’s rhetoric is anti-Semitic and Trump’s rhetoric is also anti-Semitic. As though we couldn’t possibly be nuanced enough to be furious at both these few members of the House as well as the president. As though we couldn’t recognize both the left and the right have anti-Semitism problems. Be furious at BOTH. Demand better from BOTH. Look at your side of the aisle and raise hell—that is what you owe your people, your tribe; not lockstep agreement or partisanship, but the courage and conviction to demand the very best from those you vote for, volunteer, donate to, identify with. I want to see you at every town hall, meet-and-greet, and advocacy day demanding that those who are asking for your vote fight rising anti-Semitism always, not just when politically useful.
To that end, I want to say that I am profoundly disappointed not a single Democrat condemned Omar and Tlaib sharing a deeply anti-Semitic cartoon drawn by the second place winner of Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoon Competition, Carlos Latuff. I encourage all of you to reach out to Democratic leaders in your community and express your anger, dismay, and disappointment at their silence—and tell them you demand better if they want your vote.
I believe this president seeks only to destroy and divide for his own political benefit and that we must defeat him at the ballot box and destroy Trumpism before it takes root and destroys America. I love my country. I am loyal to America, I believe that we must fight to form a more perfect union. I can hold all of the horrors of American slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese internment, the genocide of Native Americans, and so much more. I can hold all of that pain and horror and cruelty and grief and still love the America that gave my family a future. That created generations of Jews that were freer than we ever dreamed possible. We can make the country we love better. True loyalty does not demand blindness but clarity and vision. We must fight hatred in America because we are loyal to America.
Secondly, beyond our elected officials and our government, we need to decide how we want to respond as a community. Trump and Omar and Tlaib seek to divide us into good Jews and bad Jews on their own terms. We should not submit to this, and frankly only we can grapple with this divisive rhetoric. Anti-Semites seek to sow community discord because they know a community that is at one another’s throats is weak.
I am loyal to my community. I love it—you all—so much, and I desperately want us to help to send this president out of the White House and back to one of his many golf courses. I know a lot of you agree with me. I also know that some of you don’t.
I make one promise to you in the face of all this ugliness. I will stay in community with MY community. I will try very hard to never hate a single one of you. Not the Trump supporter. Not the men who said my mom could never be a rabbi. Not those who question my husband’s Jewishness based on his blackness. Not the anti-Zionist. Not the Jew who says I am a bad Jew for working to reelect Obama. Not the Jew who despises me for not voting for Bernie. Not the Jew who calls me a liar and fake. Not the Jew who calls me a bad Jew.
I will try my hardest not to ever HATE any of you.
I may fight with you. I may organize and advocate against your positions. I may get very angry with you— justifiably. But I will not hate you. I will ask you to be better—just like I ask America to be better. I will not hate you because that is how the enemies of our community win—by sowing hatred of Jew against Jew, and American against American. We cannot turn on each other—the danger is too great. We love each other—despite our differences and despite our disagreements. We demand the best of each other. That’s what loyalty is.