With gratitude to Dr. Steven Bayme who in a webinar spoke of the 3 aspects of a Jewish response delineated in this blog.
Why was Abraham chosen to be the father of the Jewish people? We know why God chose Noah to restart humanity after the flood. He was a righteous man in his generation. We also know why God chose Moses to lead the Jewish people to freedom from the early stories of his life in the Torah. At risk of his palace home, his elevated position in society, and his very life, he protected an Israelite from the task master’s whip and tried to make peace between two Israelites. Moses also showed concern for the weak and bullied non-Israelites when he came to the aid of Yitro’s daughters at the well.
But we know absolutely nothing why God chose Abraham and entered a covenant with him and showered him with all of those blessings. The blessings include that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore. God has given the land of Israel to him and his offspring. All who bless Abraham will be blessed and all who curse him will be cursed. The Torah just recounts that God told him leave his homeland to a place He will show him and Abraham left when he was 75 years old.
So why did God choose Abraham? I think that the answer is embedded in Genesis 18 just before Abraham begins to argue on behalf of the wicked people of Sodom and Gemorrah. God says: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do… For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right."
I don’t know whether you voted for or against Donald Trump. Either you are jubilant like some of the Jews I daven with at Young Israel or you are in shock and mourning like I am. As descendants of Abraham, we must keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right as we confront a Trump presidency. Whether you a Republican or a Democrat, what is the Jewish response to him being our next president?
First of all, we need to heal the breach amongst us citizens. The country is evenly divided in half. Hilleary Clinton won the popular vote by a mere 200,000 votes. A lot of people have been left behind and are suffering and have put their hopes in Trump. They are in the older sectors of the economy that will never come back no matter how many trade agreements Trump renegotiates. I read in the newspaper that manufacturing in the United States is at a high rate if not at all-time high. But the vast majority of the jobs people used to do like on assembly lines have been replaced by robots. These jobs are never coming back. We on the left have to hear their pain, not ignore, and help them.
People on the right have to hear our fears and consider them real. Muslims are scared. The major of Teaneck who is a Muslim himself has never seen his community so terrified. They don’t know what to do. Fight back? Lay low? A friend told me that her gay niece is frightened out of her mind. She is right to be terrified. I saw an article with a picture of a young gay man bloodied beaten by two Trump supporters after he left a bar.
For the real first time in my life time, I think anti-Semitism that used to lurk in the shadows is entering the mainstream American life. Jewish reporters have been trolled. “After she wrote a profile of Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, for GQ magazine, the journalist Julia Ioffe was deluged with anti-Semitic taunts on Twitter. When Mrs. Trump was asked about the controversy, she said Ms. Ioffe had “provoked” her attackers. Jonathan Weisman, an editor at The New York Times, has been sent, among other things, cartoon drawings of the hooknosed Jew and an image of the gates of Auschwitz against the words: ‘Machen Amerika Great.’ And when Ben Shapiro, a former editor at large at Breitbart, the right-wing news website, announced on Twitter the birth of his second child, he received this reply: ‘Into the gas chamber with all four of you.’”(Jonathan Mahler, “Anti-Semitic posts, many from Trump supporters, surge on Twitter, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2016)
Secondly, we need to restore a civil discourse in our society. The discourse during this election reached an all-time new low. Instead of speaking respectfully about the issues, we all heard chants of “Lock her up,” “Lying Ted” and “Crooked Hillary.” The absolute lack of respect was disgusting. Every human being is created in God’s image. We are commanded to respect the other because of that. You can vehemently disagree, but as a person enters the discussion with his or her dignity intact, so should he or she leave the discussion with his or her dignity intact.
Finally, we need to push back those extremist views back to the margins again. Thursday night I was meeting with a couple for the last time before their wedding. The bride is an 8th grade teacher and she told me that 3 racially motivated fights broke out in her school the day after the elections. In one case, a white kid told a second generation American of Mexican descent to go back to Mexico. The offended American punched the other in the mouth. Graffiti linking Trump’s name to hate speech like “Make America Great Again Go back to Africa.” And David Duke, the former Louisiana lawmaker and former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted that Mr. Trump’s victory was “one of the most exciting nights of my life,” and also, “Our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!” In another tweet, he wrote, “Anyone telling you this was a vote for ‘unity’ is a liar and they know it!” (New York Times editorial “Denounce the Hate Mr. Trump, November 11, 2016) In no uncertain terms, we have to proclaim that racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and homophobia can find no home here in America. As President George Washington wrote to the members of the Touro Synagogue “For happily the Government of the United States give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should mean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their mutual support.”
If we heal the breach in our country, restore civil discourse to our society, and push the racists, anti-Semites, the Islamaphobes, the homophobes back to the margins, then we shall help make America great again and be proud descendants of Avraham Avinu (Abraham our father).