I had promised my readers distractions and generally positive posts leading up to November 8th, but the stakes are just too high. Trump's closing campaign ad which was released this weekend has been widely condemned and criticized by Jewish leaders as being filled with classic anti-Semitic tropes and images of Jewish bankers and monetary leaders.
The Anti-Defamation League has decried the ad for "rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews and still spur antisemitism.” Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the Director of the Religious Action Committee released the following statement:
We denounce, in the strongest possible terms, the use of contemptuous and historically anti-Semitic tropes in the recent campaign ad of presidential candidate Donald Trump. References to 'the establishment' and a 'global power structure,' juxtaposed over images of Jewish public figures, create thinly-veiled allusions to centuries-old anti-Semitic propaganda.
This latest ad is, regrettably, part of a pattern of the use of such words and imagery that has been repeated by the Trump campaign over many months. There is no place in civil political discourse for the perpetuation of harmful and baseless stereotypes. It is the responsibility of every candidate for elected office to promote the interests of all Americans, without resorting to dangerously xenophobic and otherwise bigoted rhetoric or insinuations.If you are a Jewish Trump supporter and you don't hear these dog whistles, then nothing I can do or say is going to change your mind or your vote. I can say that I am thoroughly disappointed that you have gotten so complacent and comfortable in your bubbles that you have neglected to recall the lessons of the past.
Last December I wrote the following post during Chanukah from Florida. It was early in the primaries and Florida was just gearing up for their dance. I am reposting it here because my sentiments from that time have not changed, except to say that I am more anxious and fearful for my friends, family, and neighbours to the south. Tomorrow is a crucial day in world history. I beg you all to get out and vote for the America that we the world know you are. Denounce hate. Renounce bigotry. The choice is clear. When we say never again, we mean for anyone.
Tonight I lit Chanukah candles with a gentleman from my building who happens to be a Holocaust survivor. Since this is South Florida and it has been unbearably humid, he was suitably dressed for the climate in a short-sleeved golf shirt. As we chatted, it was difficult not to notice the numbers tattooed on his forearm. I have had many conversations with this man over the years and I have always marvelled at his strength and fortitude in keeping his horrific experiences alive in the hearts and minds of the next generations through his participation in education programs, speeches, and countless trips back to Auschwitz on March of the Living. But tonight, we were just a group of Jews lighting candles to recall our people's struggle against another tyrant living centuries before the one he survived.
And then I came upstairs and watched Donald Trump's latest foray into demagoguery. I watched as supporters at his rally shouted "Heil Donald Trump-THE ULTIMATE SAVIOUR" and it sent shivers up and down my spine. Trump's completely fascist call to ban all Muslims from entry into the United States can no longer be dismissed as the ravings of fringe entertainer. Tonight he and his supporters entered a new realm of right-wing jingoism, Neo-Nazism, and totalitarianism that every thinking person in the United States and around the world should vociferously denounce. Usually, I am loathed to evoke memories of or comparisons to Hitler, and I can't ever remember calling up Godwin's law before, but Trump and his supporters are definitely skirting a dangerous line. When protestors are physically attacked at his rallies; when overt hatred of Muslims is spouted by his supporters; when white supremacist organizations are now a solid part of his base; we can no longer ignore the comparisons.
I have had several conversations recently with Jews who are ardent Trump supporters and I have to admit to being baffled. Now I am just disgusted. It is no longer acceptable for Jews (or anybody else) to support this dangerous fascist bigot knowing what we know and knowing the extreme consequences of actions like the ones he is proposing. Trump's call to isolate and bar Muslims is one step away from the Judenfrei policies of Hitler's Nazis.
Tonight, in response to Trump's announcement, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Centre of Reform Judaism issued the following statement:
While we take no position on Mr. Trump's candidacy for president, we condemn in the strongest terms his comments calling for barring the entry of Muslims into the United States. As Jews who too often suffered persecution because of our faith, we cannot abide religious bigotry.
Our nation, founded by those fleeing religious persecution, is rooted in principles of religious freedom. The absence of religious tests for entry or for office and the freedom of every individual to practice their religion are sources of national strength, not weakness.It is time for Jews of all political stripes to speak up and finally suppress Trump and his dangerous rhetoric. Jewish Republicans need to find another candidate and they need to say this man is anathema to everything that Americans hold dear. At this season when we recognize light over darkness, religious freedom over persecution, and rededication over hate, Americans must commit themselves to vanquishing this dangerous hyperbole before innocent people suffer. It is a debt that this generation of Jewish Americans owes to people like the man in my building.