With just over ninety days before Election Day, the uniqueness of this election season is becoming increasingly apparent. This week fifty Republican national security officials blasted Trump's incompetence on foreign policy, and he encouraged his supporters to assassinate President Hillary Clinton. His negatives rise daily, and only a few supporters, such as extreme right-wing columnist, Hugh Hewitt, are left to publicly come to his defense. A new "Republicans for Hillary" PAC is reportedly in formation. Clinton is leading significantly in North Carolina (the home of the rabidly anti-LGBT HB2!), Georgia and Arizona, expanding the swing-state map.
This is not your father's presidential election year. Yet in spite of conservative pundits such as George Will and Michael Gerson jumping ship, most of the Republican establishment sitting it out or joining the Clinton campaign, there is one community that is remaining steadfast in its silence. Remaining steadfast even after the head of the American Nazi party praised Trump. That community should have been the first to go. Yet silence reigns.
That community? The American Jewish community. Only one major national Jewish organization, Bend the Arc, has come out publicly (#JewsRejectTrump) against Trump.
Is there an American Jewish Emergency Committee Against Trump? No. In spite of a long history of such communal actions, beginning in 1940, and continuing through the establishment of Israel and revived multiple times since on behalf of the Jewish state (I participated in the Israel Emergency Fund of the 1973 Yom Kippur War while in college), there is nothing today. AIPAC invited Trump to address its supporters and felt obligated the next day to issue a public apology to the President. Even the overarching Jewish political organization, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is silent. Not a single press release, not a story planted in the Forward or Tablet magazine discussing internal dissension.
To be fair, there have been a few public comments calling out specific Trump comments, particularly by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Most Jewish organizations are non-profits, so they are hampered from involving themselves in politics. But this isn't politics; this is a matter of life or death for our constitutional republic, and few stand to lose as much from its demise than the American Jewish community. If these groups want to act, and to do so with the power of broad communal support, they could find the means to so legally.
So what is going on? Have American Jews become complacent in America, siding with the establishment even in such dire circumstances? Have they become "white," and forgotten that they were strangers, like today's immigrants, in a land not theirs?
I don't think so, based upon what I see in social media and what I observed at the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago. Democratic Jews are fully engaged against Trump, just not through any organization other than Bend the Arc (which has called upon the RJC to withdraw its support of Trump) outside the Democratic party structure. That is shameful, and a monstrous failure of communal ethics, and it has occurred because the Republican Jewish Coalition has endorsed Trump, and many such Republican Trump supporters fund the major Jewish social organizations.
It's bad enough to see Jewish individuals such as Larry Kudlow, Ari Fleischer and Steven Roth supporting him. Even Hitler had Jewish supporters. There's a Jews4Trump Facebook page. There are Jews, particularly among the orthodox, who fear modern society and will support anyone embraced by conservatives, and there are those who are so hawkish in their support for Israel that they will do whatever their Israeli right-wing friends tell them to do.
I grew up in New York (I know all about "New York values") with the slogans "Never Again" and "It Can't Happen Here" reverberating in my skull. Given the history that America turned progressive while Europe turned fascist, and then went all out to defeat fascism, it was easy to believe that the United States was exceptional. Sure, FDR didn't bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz, and the State Department was rife with anti-Semites who caused the deaths of thousands trying to escape Nazi Europe by their refusal to help, but America ultimately did the right thing. It was a very comforting tale.
It might be that many of these Jewish Republicans (and not all such Republicans support Trump) are very unhappy with their nominee, and have simply decided to sell their soul to the devil for another tax cut or the in the naïve belief that Israel is better off as an authoritarian state oppressing its majority non-Jewish population. The American Jewish community suffered a grievous wound last August when the Republican Jewish community turned fully against the President on the Iran deal, and many of those wounds have failed to heal. This current division may create wounds which will last far longer, assuming the Republic lasts and the Republican Jewish community doesn't end up joining the rest of us in camps under a Trump administration. That is, assuming he doesn't blow up the planet first with nukes.
But none of this excuses the sane faction of the American Jewish community from taking a coherent, strong position, with or without Republicans. Without such an effort, what are we signaling to our children? What chance will we have to educate the millennial generation to bring them home to a Jewish space from which many are already alienated because of Israeli behavior? What message are those of us nearing our retirement left with, having lived in an affluent America after our families were decimated just years before our birth, when this is what we've become?
It's time for our rational and patriotic national Jewish organizations to reject the donations of those Jews who stand with bigotry, xenophobia, know-nothingness, and anti-Semitism. It's time to stop making excuses for such people, in the name of unity or a shared religious history. It's time to do without the money, cleanse our souls and act to save the American republic, and to do so decisively.