In recent months, writes Karol Markowicz, the increasing concern expressed by liberal American rabbis over incidents of anti-Semitism has often become indistinguishable from their vocal opposition to the current president. She comments:
Too many rabbis and other Jewish leaders are linking the threats against JCCs and other Jewish spaces . . . to President Trump. Sure, you stand against anti-Semitism, and that’s good. But you do it under the umbrella of groups like Get Organized Brooklyn, groups with openly political leftist aims. Your fight against anti-Semitism is part and parcel of your fight against the president. It shouldn’t be. . . .
At a time when we need to stand together, you must know you are fostering an atmosphere that is working against that goal. When you infused the Purim shpil with your opposition to Donald Trump, do you know that you alienated people? I don’t mean people in faraway red states—I mean people in your own congregations. . . . Yes, though it may surprise you to learn, . . . people in your own congregations . . . voted for the man you so openly oppose. Your efforts to pretend these people don’t exist, or don’t matter, or are on the wrong side, don’t do anything to bridge any divides.
Indeed, it’s fair to ask: is your purpose to make people feel unwelcome? Certainly your emails, filled with calls for vigils and pleas for peace, as if Donald Trump were the great evil facing Jews (if not the whole world) and Jews have a duty to stand up to him, suggest that. But why can’t you live up to the values you write to me about weekly—most notably, tolerance for people with different points of view?
Yes, we need to take anti-Semitism and threats to our community spaces seriously. Being a Jew can never mean sitting back and hoping for the best. There’s a reason we’ve had concrete blocks outside so many of our Manhattan buildings, metal detectors at our doors, security guards at every entryway. But this didn’t begin with Donald Trump, and it won’t end with him. . . . It’s time for Jewish leaders to disentangle their justified concern for the safety of Jews from their desire for a different president. Weakening Jewish unity and politicizing threats to Jews won’t do anyone much good.