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  • Writer's pictureSteven Windmueller

Donald Trump and America’s Jews: Some Reflections on his Presidency

The Casden Institute’s 2021 Annual is dedicated to examining the impact of Donald Trump’s Presidency on American Jewry and Israel. I was privileged to have been invited to serve as the editor as well as provide a contribution to this publication. The book will be available on December 15th, 2021 - you can pre-order it by clicking here.

Posted below are a few excerpts from some of the contributing authors to this volume:

Dr. Gary Zola of the American Jewish Archives of HUC-JIR points to the culture of synthesis that binds Americanism with Judaism. In his essay Rabbi Zola identifies four characteristics of “Trumpism” that have undermined the welfare and status of Jews in this nation, the promotion of anti-Semitism, faith in the durability of America’s democratic institutions, the undermining of truth, and the rise of a distinctive parochialism that seeks to dismiss Jewish universalism. Zola provides a contrast on how the Trump Presidency compared with other former presidents in relating to the Jewish community.

The arrival of Donald Trump on the political stage, according to AJU Holocaust historian Michael Berenbaum “has made it so much easier to explain the rise of Nazism.” Berenbaum embraces T George Packer’s views as laid out in The Atlantic: “ America under Trump became less free, less equal, more divided, more alone, deeper in debt, swampier, dirtier, meaner, sicker, and deader. It has also become more delusional.”

Republican Jewish Coalition Director, Matt Brooks, offered this assessment:

“Both the good and the bad of the Trump presidency arose out of Donald Trump’s “outsider” status and mentality. He broke through conventional wisdom and changed long-standing policies, often to tremendously positive effect. Unfortunately, the political polarization in the Jewish community, exacerbated during Donald Trump’s term in office, is an impediment to rendering a just verdict on his presidency today.”

“Israel comes first, but not for everyone” as political analyst Dan Schnur walks us through the Jewish divide around Trump, and how Israel played a defining feature among his supporters inside the Jewish community. By contrast, Schnur noted: The president’s attempt to create an equivalency between “both sides” of the Charlottesville riot early in his term was widely denounced by Jewish leaders, and many Jews also blamed Trump for encouraging nationalist and nativist behavior among hard-right activists that they felt often veered into anti-Semitism.

Dr. Saba Soomekh points to the messianic character of Donald Trump, certainly as seen and understood by many Iranian American Jews and other pro-Trump Jewish groups, as she explores how various Jewish audiences responded to the Trump Presidency.

Rob Eshman, National Editor of the Forward, commenting on how the Jewish press covered the 45th President note: “But the press did more than just report. It played a crucial role in helping Jews adjust to what for many was a confusing and shocking sight. Shocking, because so many of the policies these Jews and their boss stood for were anathema to the largely Democratic American Jewish community and scores of their Republican Jews as well.”

Two young writers, Adam Basciano and Shanie Reichman, point to the rise of a state of political anomie, as younger Jews who were not otherwise wedded to the President or overtly opposed him, found little room within the Jewish establishment for a constructive and essential debate on how Millennials and Gen Z’s should manage this condition. Their work with the Israel Policy Forum formed the basis of this fascinating and insightful piece.

ZOA leaders Mort Klein and Liz Berney offered the following assessment: “Trump’s affinity for the Jewish people and Israel was deep-rooted.” They conclude their essay with the following observation: “We believe that history will ultimately recognize Donald Trump as one of the greatest presidents ever for the Jewish people, Israel and America.”

Democratic Pollster, Mark Mellman, offered an opposing assessment, when he wrote,

“Trump embraced a policy agenda that was anathema to American Jews. On immigration, guns, choice, healthcare, civil rights, the environment, and a host of other issues, Trump’s views were diametrically opposed to those of most American Jews.”

“Israeli-Jews were driven by their national interests, while American Jews were driven by their values and political preferences…” this was but one of the many valuable insights of Israeli political scientist, Dr. Ehud Eiran, who offered his extensive observations on the Trump Presidency in connection with the State of Israel.

Finally, Dr. Gilbert Kahn provides one of the most comprehensive analysis of why Orthodox Jews are actively supporting the Republican Party, and more specifically Donald Trump. Professor Kahn points to a number of contributing factors, among them: “Orthodox Jewish attachment to Israel has become an overwhelming, driving force in how they vote.”


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