A question for Jewish Republicans

Anti-Semitism lies at the core of white nationalism. Squirrel Hill had barely buried its dead when President Trump staged an ill-timed visit. His entourage was met with thousands of protesters with signs reading “Your words have consequences; denounce white nationalism,” “No hate, no Trump,” and “Pittsburgh — proud home of refugees and immigrants.” The shooter had posted on social media about a Jewish immigrant resettlement agency just as the right are stoking fears about a caravan with everyone from “Middle Easterners” to lepers to pedophiles. (Yes, Chris Christie, Trump’s divisive language did help light this fuse.)

Whether the Democrats’ House win tamps down this vile rhetoric remains to be seen. The election buoyed on white nationalist sympathizer (Steve King, R-IA) but defeated another (Corey Stewart, R-VA).  Days before the Pittsburgh massacre,  a MAGA supporter sent a pipe bomb to George Soros, a frequent target of right wing critics. As described in “How Vilification of George Soros Moved From the Fringes to the Mainstream” (October 30) conspiracy theories against Soros are part of the GOP’s barely veiled anti-Semitism. Aware of heightened scrutiny, House Majority Whip John Cornyn deleted his October 24 anti-Semitic tweets—two days after the Soros bomb was found— accusing Soros, and Michael Bloomberg of buying the 2018 elections.

In New Jersey, Jews comprised 6.1 percent of the population in 2017—the second highest of any state (New York tops the list at 8.9 percent). Historically, Jewish voters favor Democrats 3 to 1 over Republicans. Just over a week after the Pittsburgh massacre, what was on the minds of New Jersey’s Jewish Republican voters? Did they recall the silence of prominent Jewish Republicans after Charlottesville? Or their belated condemnations of last year’s Jewish cemetery attacks, after which Trump suggested Jews may have been the culprits? Or the whitewashing of anti-Semitism and racism?

Of course, Jews aren’t monolithic. Some prominent conservative Jews — editorialists Max Boot and Bret Stephens — are openly critical of the GOP’s tacit endorsement of white nationalist.

Hate crimes are up in the U.S.; Jews are the most frequent target. Countering the “it’s just Trump” defense, dog whistles from the GOP don’t confine themselves to the party’s fringes. Nor, sadly, my Jewish Republican friends, do they distinguish much between you, Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, or the LGBTQ community. On Solidarity Shabbat, the first Sabbath after the Pittsburgh shooting, Bill Maher interviewed New York Times columnist Bari Weis, who became a bat mitzvah at Tree of Life. She acknowledged the bargain American Jews have made: “They have traded policies that they like for the values that have sustained the Jewish people…Welcoming the stranger; dignity for all human beings; equality under the law; respect for dissent; love of truth. These are the things we are losing under this president — and no policy is worth that price.”

I attended Solidarity Shabbat at my synagogue. Like many others across New York City and America, we came together to say Kaddish for the Tree of Life victims. The service opened with Blowin’ in the Wind, and I was struck by Peter, Paul, and Mary’s probing words:

“How many times can a man turn his head/And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Karen Bonuck, PhD

‘Shades of Salem witch trials’

Jamie Janoff’s publisher’s note ends with the punchline “How the hell did we get here?” (November 2). The changes in our society towards hate and violence have been happening in plain sight for two years, reported on by thousands of news reports and analyses in such as The New York Times and Washington Post. How can anyone claim to be puzzled after all that documentation and the performances by our president at his hostile rallies reminiscent of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s.

This was followed by a barely disguised hatchet job on one Lena Epstein, for the crime of inviting a rabbi to deliver a prayer beginning with an ecumenical, all-embracing theme giving recognition to the Jewish God and Christian faith (“With rabbis like these…”). As some nobody exclaimed on Splinter News, that was just short of a Nazi salute, and you tar Ms. Epstein and the rabbi with that horrid and false accusation. Additionally it is claimed that Ms. Epstein has been criticized in an “open letter from the Jewish community,” a laughable concept on its face. Then, in a snide and smarmy “more positive note,” it is revealed that she once took a selfie with Ted Nugent, who in turn has been criticized for allegedly anti-Semitic pro-gun Facebook posts! Wow, now a politician who takes a selfie with someone obviously adopts that person’s complete history on the internet as interpreted by self-appointed critics? In a crude parting shot at Ms. Epstein, Yudelson reveals that the rabbi she chose “has been defrocked by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations.” Shades of the Salem witch trials, Ms. Epstein must be doing the devil’s work! On the heels of the Pittsburgh tragedy why did your paper begin with insincerity and a small time political hatchet job? Shame on you.

Al Richter
Woodland Park

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