I can see from the President Donald Trump’s recent statements that he is very frustrated by the fact that a strong majority of Jewish Americans, like me, did not vote for him or the Republican Party in 2016 and 2018 and probably won’t in 2020 either.
Trump even went so far as saying that Jews who vote for Democrats had “a total lack of knowledge” or “great disloyalty.” Ouch.
Jews throughout history have been arch capitalists, socialists, neo-cons, neo-liberals, Marxists and every ideology in between. We have a diverse set of views about international relations. We disagree, a lot, about Israeli politics and the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
And by the way, most other religious and ethnic groups in America are equally diverse and don’t really like it when others assume them to be a monolith.
Today’s refugees could have been us.
For this reason, I realize I can’t speak for the 79 percent of American Jews who voted Democratic in the 2018 midterms. But I can explain why I voted that way.
First of all, most American Jews have a close connection to immigrants. Many of us are second-, third – or fourth – generation immigrants. We feel strongly that refugees escaping persecution should be able to seek safety and shelter in America because throughout our history we have been persecuted and forced to flee to save our lives.
We have been on many refugee caravans. Ferdinand and Isabella evicted us from Spain, the czars used pogroms to chase us out of Russia and we fled on boats and trains and by foot from the Nazis. We support today’s refugees because we know they could have been us.
We also support civil rights and diversity. We know what it’s like to be an oppressed minority, for we “were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
We may feel very comfortable and secure in America, but we recoil when any American is targeted as “the other” – whether it be the Mexican you accuse of being a rapist or the Muslim you stereotype as being a terrorist – because so often we have been “otherized.”
The Jew with horns, the Jewish moneylender, the Jew with dual “loyalties.” We know that a frenzied mob calling for an American citizen of color to be kicked out of the country might be chanting to kick us out too one day soon. The places where Jews have thrived the best have been pluralistic democracies: the U.S., Great Britain and Israel. But we also know the signs of an eroding democracy.
When a charismatic leader scapegoats minorities for society’s ills and claims that “I alone can fix it,” our deeply engrained Jewish warning lights start flashing red. We have seen this play before.
Trump can order a Star of David be placed on the American flag, but I will never vote for someone with values so antithetical to mine. These values I consider essential to me as a Jew.