As an American Jew, I feel an obligation to speak out against hate, bigotry, and demagoguery in this country.
First let me say that I am not religious. I'm agnostic at best. I generally want nothing to do with organized religion, including my own, because in my opinion religion does more harm than good in this world. I never went to synagogue as a child and rarely as an adult. I didn't have a bat mitzvah, and I don't know many Hebrew words.
But I don't hesitate to identify myself as Jewish.
Not only because I know that my entire family going back generations on both sides is Jewish, but because the rest of the world knew it too, and they punished us for it.
Demagogues do not act alone. They rise and flourish because they are enabled. Not just by an audience of their sympathizers, but by bystanders who stay silent and allow their cancerous ideas to metastasize throughout the body politic.
It's an understatement to say that Jews and Muslims have a historically bad relationship, if not in America then certainly in the Middle East. This is partly owing, I am sure, to the similarities between the two religions: (ritual head coverings, dietary laws, circumcision, to name a few). We Jews can argue that "they want to kill us," but to the extent that's true--and I don't think it generally is in America--that only makes "them" like everyone else in history who has wanted to kill "us," including Christians and white supremacists.
All you need to do is replace the word "Jew" with "Muslim" or "Judaism" with "Islam" in today's rhetoric and it's immediately clear that Donald Trump is operating using the playbook of vicious anti-Semites that went before him.
Failing to speak out against Donald Trump is to act as his accomplice. He is more than just an odious rich buffoon. He is a profound narcissist who doesn't really believe in or care about what he says, as long as it keeps garnering him adulation and attention. And that's even more frightening on some level. A demagogue driven by his own ego rather than his principles, however repellent, is the most dangerous kind of all because there is nothing he won't say or do to promote himself.
Donald Trump appeals to all of our lesser selves and he poses a very real danger to our democracy. Today in Great Britain, a petition circulated to keep him from entering the U.K. because of hate speech. Based on the number of signatures, British Parliament must now debate the petition.
So let's step back and review: A serious contender for the United States Presidency might be denied entry. To England. For hate speech.
What does this tell us?
It tells us that the jig is up with Donald Trump. The time has come to quit laughing and assuming that saner heads will prevail. And the time has come to stop enabling him by giving him a pass on his dangerous, fascist words. Words which all too often have terrible real world consequences for American Muslims.
There but for the words of Donald Trump go the Jews in this country, and if for no other reason, that is why American Jews should condemn him.