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Posted by on Mar 16, 2016 in Haaretz | 22 comments

American Jews’ Fight Against Trump Starts at AIPAC

American Jews are beginning to wake up. And they are getting ready to take on Donald Trump.

American Jews’ Fight-back Against Trump Starts at AIPAC

(Photo by AP)

There is not yet much hard evidence that this will happen, but it will. And I suggest that it will begin at AIPAC next week. As a gutsy if non-specific statement by Reform Jewish leaders indicated, they intend to use the occasion of Trump’s appearance at AIPAC to protest his policies, and there is word that many others at the convention intend, in one way or another, to do the same.

This is, to say the least, a departure from past practice. The delegates to the AIPAC conference are there to cheer on Israel and go out of their way to avoid choosing sides among the political parties or favoring one candidate over another. But not this year. American Jews, looking around in stunned disbelief, are concluding that protocol be damned; enough is enough. The address of the most divisive figure in American political life at the largest gathering of the organized Jewish community is pushing Jews to engage in precisely the sort of partisan intervention that AIPAC delegates of all persuasions have always been careful to avoid.

The interesting question is why it has taken so long. It’s not that we Jews had any doubts about who Trump is. His bigotry, meanness, and zealotry were clear to us from the first day of his campaign. But we have been silent because his politics of division were so ugly and crude that they seemed almost farcical and — you will excuse me — even occasionally funny. It was as if he were a bad, slightly drunk comedian at a seedy nightclub. And we told ourselves that he was not a real threat. Any minute now, we said, the American people would catch on.

Americans love their country, and American Jews, a deeply patriotic bunch, love it more than most. Could a rich, race-baiting reality TV star be elected our President? We believed that it couldn’t possibly be. Soon enough, we assured ourselves, the fundamental decency of our fellow citizens would cast aside this quasi-entertainer and babbling buffoon and spit him out.

But it didn’t happen. Like so many others, American Jews misread the depth of the anger that propelled Trump’s rise. And not only were the American people slower to react than we expected, and seemingly indifferent to the hurt and hostility that he inflicted, but Trump was shrewder, cleverer, and better at the political game than we ever imagined.

Might protests at AIPAC hurt Israel’s cause? They might. Will an ongoing, organized Jewish effort to battle Trump’s bigotry adversely impact Jewish security and well-being in America? If Trump is elected President, it could. But no matter. American Jews are seeing things that they never expected to see in their country, and they are dismayed and frightened.

First, of course, are the attacks on Muslims, Mexicans, and immigrants of all ethnicities. To be sure, there are legitimate issues of policy to be debated here, but serious debate is not what Trump is giving us. And we Jews, who have borne the burden of oppression, must forever be about inclusion. And we know better than anyone that those forces that come after one of us in the morning are looking for the rest of us in the afternoon of the same day.

Second, there is the anti-Semitism. Yes, anti-Semitism. And we don’t care a bit that Trump has many Jewish friends and a daughter who has converted to Judaism. What we know is that in his appeals to nativism and populism, Trump has called forth an endless stream of vicious anti-Jewish attacks from right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis who have rushed to defend him from his critics. The best people to ask about this are the Jewish Republicans and conservatives who have attacked Trump from the right. Bethany Mandel, a conservative essayist and Trump critic who writes for The Federalist, a conservative-libertarian journal, has been subjected to a continuous stream of online insults, ranging from “you deserve the oven” to “you slimy Jewess.” So too has John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine. Does Trump himself believe these things? Probably not. But he has encouraged them with his sly, barely-camouflaged appeals to thuggery and mob violence, and seems content, if not delighted, with the chaos he has unleashed.

Third, there is Israel. I am a Zionist dove, and I don’t expect Presidential candidates to express lock-step agreement with the policies of Israel’s government. But I do expect a coherent, pro-Israel policy, rooted in a consistent and knowledgeable approach to foreign affairs and in a broad commitment to American leadership in the world. Trump has demonstrated none of these things, and seems to know hardly anything at all about Israel, the challenges she faces, and how the Middle East actually works.

And there is more, much more. And this is why Jews will be speaking up at AIPAC, and in their synagogues and communities. This is why, if Trump is nominated, Jewish conservatives and Republicans will be voting for Hillary Clinton. This is why rabbis will denounce Trump in their sermons, pushing the law about non-partisan pulpits to its very limit. And this is why Jews will be hoping and praying, for the sake of everything that we hold dear, that anyone other than Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.



  1. Trump is a fake.

  2. I was taught to be respectful and open minded. I would be embarrassed if any candidate running for any office was disrespected at AIPAC.

  3. mr. trump was invited to speak we have freedom of speech in the u.s.a. I feel that these jews who feel that trump is offensive did not think the same way about fdr in 1938 with his policy against jews.

  4. It should not be “anyone but Trump”. Any other Republican candidate, especially Ted Cruz, is a menace to what this country is supposed to hold dear: inclusion; compassion; kindness; tolerance; the protection of the weak, young, elderly, sick, powerless; loyalty to our allies, etc. The ONLY way to achieve this is to elect the Democratic nominee. That nominee will guarantee a separation of church and state, a country where everyone has a chance to succeed and will stop the Republican money machines from buying our government and crushing the Constitution.

  5. I am a convert myself, and I’ve been a member of the Jewish community since 2006. What has taken us so long to speak about this??? Ever since Donald Trump’s campaign began, I have been deeply disturbed by the tone of his comments, rallies and events. I know such things immediately when I see them. I am disappointed it took you so long.
    How? I am adopted twice over, the daughter of an internment camp survivor, who passed away in April 2005. Dad was only 5 at the time. He never talked about his time there,but taught us how to recognize and fight bigotry and racism.
    Here’s what I have learned. Talking to racists about racism doesn’t work. Action is in order. Get out the vote; register others, vote yourself.
    By the way, I do not think that inviting Mr. Trump to speak at AIPAC is the correct way to deal with him; that’s like trying to have a rational conversation with a lunatic. Such people only become more radical in their actions and it’s very possible that their supporters may become even more violent.
    The ONLY way this man will understand how unacceptable his views are is for him to lose this election! Beat Trump and his views publicly, repeatedly and logically. I think we need to ‘speak” to him only in actions, in ways Donald Trump will understand. Make him lose… probably for the first time in his adult life, and lose badly. My advice? Vote your conscience, in numbers. And beat him like a rented mule.

  6. AIPAC should disinvite Trump to speak. Would we have invited Hitler to speak? Today, Trump is coming for the Mexicans and the Muslims. You can be sure we News are next. All it takes for evil to triumph is for go out d people to do nothing. Never again!

  7. Kol ha-kavod and thank you for this essay. I would just add that while I also see Trump in a category of his own, in terms of what he does and represents, Ted Cruz may in fact be equally dangerous. If Cruz ends up the nominee, I think it will be important for Jewish groups and leaders not to give him a free pass for some of his actions and stances. He just hired the guy who wants to create a national Muslim database in the US as a key adviser. And he has not been that far from Trump in a number of reckless and xenophobic statements. Seeing various GOP establishment figures begin to support Cruz scares me almost as much as the thought of Trump.

  8. This article is plain out of touch…I am a Jew and support Trump. Jewish intellectual thinking, like this article will only result in cutting our own throats. It’s embarrassing when Gentiles ask why we do this stupid exercise, looking to avoid confronting radical Islam terrorism and be politically correct. Wake up dopes!

  9. In my opinion you have it all wrong. Enough of the “old school” politics. It is ruining America. Your thoughts and comments do not represent me or many of my colleagues. Do not pretend to speak for the Jews in this country.

  10. When a bigot and racist is given such a platform we must stand and join in with all who raise their voice to protest hateful speech.
    We stand together to remember all who were lost in the Holocaust each week as a community. We can do no less or even more to stop racism that lead to violence and death of so many Jews and non Jews who were killed not long ago.
    I am a WW11 American war veteran and will not be silent. Howard Feltman


  12. Thank you so much for this, Rabbi. Trump is not functioning within the boundaries of decent, respectful behavior. This mean we cannot walk the typical pathway to deal with him.

  13. It would be most disheartening if the students did not mount an impressive display against Trump and Trumpism. It would be more disappointing and even heart-breaking if they were not joined by a significant number of others. Polite is not called for here. This man is a racist, and an existential danger to all minorities. I don’t care how any wealthy Republican Jews are members, AIPAC showed very poor judgement in inviting him. They must stand up or watch their influence wane.

  14. This American Jew and Israel activist will certainly listen and thank Mr Trump for being gracious enough to address AIPAC. In the past I did not protest Pres Obama, even though I believe he is not a friend of Israel.
    I feel it is terribly wrong for a leading Rabbi to advise protesting a Presidential candidate at AIPAC.

    • I completely support Rabbi Yoffe and HIS right to an opinion. I totally disagree with AIPAC’s invitation. Why? The only way you fight this kind of person is to let him know, in no uncertain terms, how unacceptable such views are. Inviting him feeds his ego…and puts another notch on Trump’s resume. I don’t think doing so is wise.

    • No Jew protested Hitler and look where that got us. There is a difference between a candidate that disagrees with you and one that spews bigotry and hate.

  15. Rabbi, We certainly agree with your blog comments. I’m actually upset that Trump is speaking at the AIPAC convention. Was he invited or did he invite himself? Are other candidates addressing the convention?

  16. Why was such a hateful , coarse bigot invited in the first place? It only gives him undeserved legitimacy.

    • The reason given is that all of the candidates were invited.

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