‘What It Means to be a Jew in the Age of Trump’

Tree of Life Synagogue (Photo from L’Simcha Congregation website)

The massacre of 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 has prompted widespread shock and grief. It has also led to comments about the role that racist rhetoric plays, as well as other comments urging that the deaths not be politicized.

Writing in The Forward, opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon explores, in the wake of the killings, “what it means to be a Jew in the age of Trump.” Since white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville in 2017 and chanted “Jews will not replace us,” Ungar-Sargon says, “suddenly we American Jews were no longer a model minority but an embattled one.”

We are not, of course, embattled the way people of color are; no Jew can credibly claim that our situation is anywhere near as precarious as that of black and Latino and Muslim communities. And some Jews, of course, support Trump. His popularity among the Orthodox has skyrocketed since he took office.

But what Trump has done more than anything else is reveal — and heighten — the already existing contradictions in Jewish American life.

We’re at home – but anti-Semitism still proliferates. We have white privilege – but not all of us are white. We’re safe – but white nationalists march. We’re liberal – but some of us voted for Trump. We’re pro-immigrant and pro-LGBTQ and pro-choice – except those of us who aren’t. We are pro-Israel – but not this Israeli government. We’re a religious minority, but also an ethnic group.

We are a racial minority in America – but one for whom the police will throw themselves in the line of fire.

We are the brothers and sisters of George Soros – but also Sheldon Adelson.

We are Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. We are Jews of no religion.

It’s these contradictions inherent in Jewish life that Trump has augmented, just as he has for American life overall.

Yet the Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh community was emblematic of such contradictions: three different communities worshipped at the same synagogue. The editorial writer goes on to state that:

The role of the Jew in the age of Trump is to celebrate our differences – from each other and from the white majority.

And it’s to remind us of our difference from the minority communities who have it so much worse than we do.

Read more of Ungar-Sargon’s comments in The Forward.

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