Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoeller was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938 and interned in Dachau until 1945. After the war he said:
“In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came up for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.”
I agree with Deborah Lipstadt in her Forward piece (see below) that Donald Trump is probably not an anti-Semite but that he has internalized anti-Semitic attitudes, which are far worse. At the very least, he is grossly insensitive to our historic and religious experience and what animates Jewish fear. His recent posting of the 6-pointed Star (of David) over a pile of cash in criticizing Hillary Clinton reminds me of the Chassidic story about the Rebbe who asked his disciple one day if he loved him.
“Of course I love you!” The Chassid said.
“Do you know what hurts me?” the Rebbe asked.
“No – I do not.”
The Rebbe explained: “If you do not know what hurts me, how can you say you love me?”
One can legitimately argue that Mr. Trump didn’t initially realize that his use of the Star (of David) was hurtful and insulting to Jews. Almost immediately someone in his campaign removed the 6-pointed star and replaced it with a circle. That would have been fine in my book, his campaign borrowing images from a white supremacist website notwithstanding. But Mr. Trump didn’t allow the issue to subside. In Cincinnati before thousands of supporters and a national audience, he criticized his own campaign and his Jewish son-in-law saying that the star-image should never have been taken down in the first place because it isn’t the star of David.
Mr. Trump says he loves Jews. He says he loves women. He says he loves Hispanics. He says he loves Mexicans. He says he bear no animus towards Muslims.
Mr. Trump is an equal opportunity offender of just about everyone.
In this last week’s Torah portion, Korach, our sages noted that Korach‘s great sin was that he divided the people against each other. That has marked Trump’s campaign from the beginning and we ought to judge him the way Judaism judges Korach, as a rabble rouser whose egotistical quest for power blinded him to the needs of everyone else. Is this what we need in a President?
There are so many decent Republicans in this country, thank goodness, who have quietly decided they cannot vote for this man for President. That being said, why have so many of them chosen to remain silent? Why has there not arisen a strong and vocal ground swell of protest coming from millions of decent Republicans?
Rabbi Joachim Prinz spoke to the thousands assembled on the Washington, D.C. Mall in August 1963 and said:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”
Dr. King offered essentially the same message:
“We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Yes, I acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is an imperfect candidate for President, but her imperfections fade into the ether when compared to the depth and expanse of the moral failings of Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated over the course of her entire adult life a deep concern for and activism on behalf of the most vulnerable people in our society and world – women, children, the powerless. I see no such moral sensibility in Mr. Trump’s life or career.
Trump’s vigorous defense of anti-Semitic image a ‘turning point’ for many Jews
By Jose A. DelReal and Julie Zauzmer, Washington Post, July 8, 2016
“Donald Trump’s vigorous defense of an image widely regarded as anti-Semitic has alarmed many Jewish Americans, who are growing increasingly fearful that someone who could be the next president is willing to stoke the kinds of stereotypical attacks that have haunted Jews around the world for generations.”
Is Donald Trump’s Inadvertent Anti-Semitism Worse Than the Real Thing?
By Deborah Lipstadt, Forward July 7, 2016
“Trump is like a drug dealer who sells the stuff and urges others to use it, while he never touches it himself. Because he is not an anti-Semite, he fails to grasp that he is engaging in traditional anti-Semitism.”
Note: The viewpoint expressed in this blog represent my own only, and do not represent any religious institution or organization with which I am affiliated.