Jewish Life in Trump’s America
By Ellen Wexler
After Donald Trump gave his victory speech in the early-morning hours of Nov. 9, we asked readers a few questions: How do you feel? What does the future look like? What will it mean to be Jewish in Trump’s America?
Some wrote about their fear of anti-Semitism, saying they would be more careful before revealing their religion to strangers, and that this isn’t the world they envisioned for their children. Some wrote they were optimistic about the future and never doubted their safety. Others described their confidence in the American system of checks and balances.
Here is a selection of our readers’ responses.
When the election results came in, how did you feel?
“Aghast, dismayed, and frightened—if not terrified. Although I have read the newspaper, I have not watched the news since 11/9.”
“Devastated. I’m worried about rolling back progress since the 1930s.”
“Numbed, shocked but not totally surprised. Trump’s motto should be “Make America White Again.” That is what many of those who voted for him have in mind. Cultural diversity is not their hallmark.”
“It was a bad joke.”
Murray Abraham Braun, M.D.
“Sick to my stomach.”
“I like to compare my feelings this time, with my feelings after the 2000 election. When the 2000 election results came in—that is to say, after the Supreme Court intervened—I was angry. I had felt we were robbed. When the 2016 results came in, I was sad. I am still ‘recovering,’ and I will likely be recovering for two or four years, at least.”
“Shocked that the polls and projections could have gotten it so wrong and that someone so unsuitable would be president.”
Michael L. Ticktin
What will it be like to be Jewish in a Trump presidency?
“I will be more careful to reveal my Jewish identity in certain situations. Anti-Semites have top-cover for the first time in a long time.”
“Definitely more aware of being a minority, not only because I am not Christian but also because I am dedicated to making the world a better place, for the earth and all it inhabitants.”
“I doubt my being Jewish will be of any relevance one way or another. The Trumpists are not preparing a new Kristallnacht.”
Michael L. Ticktin
“I am apprehensive but believe in the American system of checks and balances. Most of what Trump bloviated about during the campaign was nonsense and most of it undoable. Renegotiate trade agreement with China; there isn’t one. Reduce taxes, balance the budget, how? Bring jobs back, how? I think he is surprised to be president, not comfortable. The appointment of Bannon cannot endure. Luckily, Ivanka and Jared have great influence and that may keep more anti-Semites out of the Trump lineup.”
“Safer environment to raise a Jewish family under the Constitution without big government intervention.”
“Insecure. As a second generation, this is the worst result imaginable. It confirms my parents’ fears, that the Jews would be dealt with unfairly.”
Murray Abraham Braun, M.D.
“I believe Trump will treat Israel with great respect and I am very optimistic this time for the future of Israel.”
“With the alt-right rising like a Phoenix from 1945, I cannot imagine that it will be good or safe for any Jew, Muslim or person of color in the U.S. The president-elect seems to be disavowing any modicum of responsibility for words or actions unleashed against minorities by his campaign rhetoric. At this point, many Jews can ‘pass,’ making the threat less immediate. But there is no doubt that the hatred, ugliness and anti-Semitism are alive and thriving.”
“I am optimistic as I don’t think that he is an anti-Semite. His daughter has become Jewish and is raising her children as Jews. Trump has great respect for his Jewish son-in-law and relies on him for advice.”
“Very uncomfortable regardless of what happens. It seems to me that Trump has been playing both sides. Even if he and his team make it clear that there is no longer space or tolerance for any form of hate speech, bias or violence toward ‘the other,’ the stage is set for this to continue. Not only has the curtain been drawn back on this hateful element in our society, but now people are unencumbered by ‘political correctness’ and feel free to openly express their hatred.”
“Probably more or less the same. No one takes anti-Semitism seriously outside of our circles anyways, so I doubt anything will change for better or worse as a Jew.”
“As a white female Jew-by-choice with ancestral ties that predate the Revolutionary War, I am vividly present to my white privilege now. I fear both that ultimately, when Trump is unsuccessful at accomplishing his aims, he will target the secret all-powerful Jewish cabal as the reason he was unsuccessful, and almost more horrifically, that when my family is attacked as a result, they won’t consider me ‘really Jewish.’”
“For the first time in my life, I will be totally conscious of my Jewishness and alert to anti-Semitism.”
What are your thoughts about the future?
“I am confident if apprehensive but believe that the Republic will survive. I am a son of parents who ran from Hitler and I teach about the Shoah, so well aware of what can be. The idea that ‘it can’t happen here’ is always in the back of my mind. Democracy is not a simple system. The fact that 41 percent of eligible Americans chose not to vote says much about their knowledge, education, thinking and lack of thinking. Evil comes from a failure to think and this election certainly reflected that.”
“People now feel entitled to egregiously express their long-kept-silent hatred. We have a long road ahead of us to expunge this from our society. I feel sad that my daughter will grow up knowing anti-Semitism. I thought our country was past this.”
“Today on the street a random man saw my Star of David necklace then proceeded to call me a kike and tell me that ‘Trump’s coming for you once he finishes with the rest.’ The future is going to be difficult as hate has now become normalized and Jews are still a minority.”
“I think the Congress and Supreme Court will be excited to turn the clock back on many progressive initiatives. Progressive activism needs to put its foot on the accelerator.”
“I alternate between pessimism and optimism that this crisis will encourage and motivate the silent majority that does support progress to walk the walk and not just talk the talk in our own echo chambers.”
“The GOP base of older, white, less-educated men will continue to shrink. Maybe Millennials and minorities will vote in greater numbers next time in the states where it matters most. The demographic changes that have been evident for years will continue and will eventually overcome the effects of gerrymandering by Republican legislatures, concentration of Democratic voters in urban districts and the weighting of the Senate and the electoral college to give excessive influence to small states.”
Michael L. Ticktin
“A return to prosperity, respect for America in the world, respect and support for Israel, enforcement of our laws, eradication of terrorists, drugs, street gangs, corrupt government, special interest bias. A stronger military and better treatment and healthcare for veterans. Build our embassy in Jerusalem.”
“I am very confident and believe that our country will be great and stronger and well respected with this new administration.”
“I am hopeful that Trump and his cabinet will make decisions that will protect the U.S. more than if Clinton had been elected.”
“I’ve lived through presidential administrations that were absolutely repulsive to me before. I was nauseated every day of the George W. Bush administration. But this is different. Although cajoled on all sides to ‘just relax’ and ‘see how it goes,’ with the appointment of Bannon, I believe we’ve seen where this is going. I am quietly and subtly preparing, so that if my family must flee, we are able to do so. As an American, I am shocked and horrified that I now have to think of escape.”
“I am afraid for our country, for our children and grandchildren, for the safety of all of us who are deemed ‘less than’ by those who supported Donald Trump, who heard his message and felt affirmed and emboldened by it.”