Okay, okay, so I didn’t really have a conversation with legendary actress Julie Andrews. But I did have one with a certain woman who has a somewhat similar name, and which also happens to be the name of a famous actress of yesteryear.
Before I continue, I would like to say that over the past few weeks I’ve received an enormous amount of reaction to my article “Cancel Culture Comes to Orthodoxy.” The reaction came from throughout the religious spectrum, here and abroad, and continued right through late last week. I found the comments, which I received in writing, via blogs, and by phone, to be extremely enlightening. It seems we have serious problems in the Modern Orthodox world of chinuch, but we have a related set of problems in the right-wing world, as well, but on a different level. I hope to write about the issues in a coming article, b’ezras Hashem.
Back to “Ms. Andrews.” There is a fine woman who lives alone in Queens, who, for many years, has been in touch with our shul, going back to my father’s active days right through today. Although I never met her, and neither has my father, she apparently is in need of financial help and calls as many rabbis as she can for tz’dakah. I have been sending her modest checks over the years for which she is quite grateful, expressed by “thank you” cards, something otherwise unheard of.
Last week, I told her I would send her a check for Rosh HaShanah, which I did. But I gave her notice that there may be delays in the mail, which has been my experience lately. Her response was totally unexpected.
“Of course the mail is delayed; Trump stole half the mailboxes!” Naturally, this opened up a lively discussion. When I asked her where she got her information, she told me that it’s all over the news and everyone knows it.
She went on to state that Trump is a known anti-Semite, “and don’t be impressed with his Jewish son-in-law.” She continued, “His father was a known anti-Semite as well.” That, of course, is the furthest thing from the truth.
I asked her if she voted for JFK. She said of course she did. (She’s old enough.) When I told her that JFK’s father was a known Nazi sympathizer, she shrugged it off. Then she rattled on what a coarse person Trump is and his behavior toward women is a disgrace. I then asked if she voted for Bill Clinton; she let me know she did twice. When I told her that Clinton could not even control himself in the White House, she also felt it was irrelevant.
What about his being the most supportive president Israel ever had? That apparently struck a chord with her, as she screeched, “Oh, my G-d, Rabbi Schonfeld. Don’t tell me you’re going to vote for Trump!”
What concerns me most about the conversation is she is so typical of most of today’s Jews. They hate Donald Trump but can’t logically express why. They just do.
Now, I get that today’s liberal Jews are more concerned about the rights of our enemies over our own concerns. I understand that they don’t like his position on abortion or his choices for the Supreme Court. I understand that Israel is not their issue. But what about traditional Jews? Why do too many loathe the man?
A little while ago, I was on the phone with a highly-respected day school principal regarding a student in his school. During the course of the conversation, he suddenly said, “Rabbi Schonfeld, you must do something to reelect Trump!” I asked, “Me? Why me?” “Because you have influence.” Well, I was flattered to be thought of in those terms, but let’s just say that was just a bit of an exaggeration. He went on to tell me that in his Orthodox community lives a former member of the Trump administration who happens to be a traditional Jew. That person is afraid to walk the streets, as half the community supports him but the other half nastily derides him when he steps outside. What has happened to us? What did the president do to deserve this? Yes, most Orthodox Jews will be voting for Mr. Trump, but too many will not.
Shmuly Yanklowitz at one time davened in our shul. He is now associated with the leftist (Open Orthodox) Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and its affiliate, Torat Chayim. In late August, he Tweeted, “It is asur (prohibited) to vote for Donald Trump as he is to be considered like a ‘rodeph’ (pursuant killer) and a ‘rotzeach’ (murderer),” ostensibly for denying science. Total insanity.
Perhaps my most disturbing exchange was with a person whom I admire greatly. This Orthodox man is a high-level officer in a lobbying organization for Israel with which I am somewhat involved. I had reason to believe that he was an Obama supporter, which I never understood.
During the course of an email dialogue about five weeks ago, he dropped a line that let me know that he was no fan of Donald Trump. So I asked him, “But weren’t all the talking points, which you would drill into us in advance of our trip to Congress, addressed by Trump and violated by Obama?” I reminded him how over the years we were trained to lobby against the Iranian Nuclear Deal, to press for increased funding for Israel, to cut aid to the PLO and Hamas, and to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. For all those matters, Donald Trump was on our side and Obama was the problem!
His response: “Just goes to show you how much I hate the man!” How crazy is that?
I am glad “Ms. Andrews” received her check in the mail and successfully deposited it. Maybe one day, Jews like her will drop a thank you card in the mail to our political benefactors like Donald J. Trump, and, come to think of it, to Alfonse D’Amato.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.