I am very pleased that the Queens Jewish Link is not a monolithic paper, like most of today’s media. It publishes articles on all sides of the spectrum, even those with which I’m sure most of its readers would disagree. But that does not mean that we cannot take serious issue with those articles and its authors.
Last week, the QJL published two articles that were, let us be generous, highly critical of President Trump. (By the time this article will be read it will be the former President Trump.) One was by Steve Lipman, “Where Did We Go Wrong?” and the other was by the indefatigable Warren Hecht, “Crash And Burn.”
Mr. Lipman at one point writes, “I have few – fortunately, very few – supporters of Trump among my friends.” I would like to think that I am one of those few friends and will remain friends despite my vehement criticism of Steve and his point of view. The same is true of Warren Hecht.
Mr. Lipman claims that he is embarrassed by the behavior of a large part of our Orthodox community as it relates to mask-wearing during COVID-19, and its support for President Donald Trump. I will yield to the issue of mask-wearing, as I, as well, am very disturbed by many in the Orthodox community (not ours) who flout those requirements to protect ourselves from disease.
However, regarding support for Donald Trump, Mr. Lipman writes that we are just a bunch of people guilty of “simplistic labels and judgmental of moral superiority.”
It would be very nice if Mr. Lipman were a little more tolerant of those with whom he disagrees. Orthodox support of Mr. Trump was high because his support of Jews and Israel was higher than any other president – and likely higher than any president in the near future. Orthodox Jews vote as Jews – not as those concerned for every other liberal cause other than our own welfare. Let’s just consider what Mr. Trump has done for us.
He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem despite all kinds of criticism and dire warnings from the left. He delivered on a promise made by countless presidents before him.
He defunded the PLO and its terrorist policy of “Pay for Slay.”
He appointed an Orthodox Jew wholly committed to Israel as the US Ambassador to Israel.
He appointed the likes of Nikki Haley and Kelly Craft to represent the US in the United Nations. Both were uncompromising supporters of Israel and its cause.
He recognized the Golan Heights and the West Bank settlements as legitimately belonging to Israel.
He appointed Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State – refreshingly pro-Israel.
He brought a sweeping peace to the Middle East via the Abraham Accords.
He canceled the Iran Nuclear Deal, an existential threat to the State of Israel.
He had a very warm personal relationship with Israel’s prime minister.
He declared legislation making expressions of anti-Semitism illegal on college campuses.
He deported a known Nazi from right here in Jackson Heights, Queens.
He pardoned Sholom Rubashkin, who was subject to an inordinately long prison term.
He kept out immigrants from terror-harboring nations. Many of the immigrants from those nations are already here and some are the chief perpetrators of anti-Semitism in America today.
We are also greatly appreciative of his involvement with the “Freedom of Religion Act.” As well, he passed the Prison Reform Act, so vital to the minority communities. Mr. Trump, prior to the COVID pandemic, had created the best US economy in recent history, which helped create record lows of African American unemployment. We are also thankful that he stopped illegal immigration from swallowing up our jobs and healthcare system.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Those in the Orthodox community who supported Donald Trump were not just a bunch of country bumpkins acting blindly. Quite the contrary. Our support was well-thought-out and well-deserved – unlike the liberals who hated him as a knee-jerk reaction from the moment he took office.
There is a concept of hakaras ha’tov, recognizing the good done by others for us. That concept is central to Jewish behavior. Unfortunately, it is totally lacking in too many parts of the non-traditional community. In fact, they were “m’shaleim raah tachas tovah–repaid good with evil,” being in the forefront of Mr. Trump’s critics.
Did Mr. Trump mishandle the coronavirus? I can certainly understand the argument that he did. But I suspect that Mr. Lipman detested him years before the virus broke. And let us not forget that Operation Warp Speed accomplished just that. Thanks to Trump, the vaccines have been produced in record speed. It is our local governments that are bungling its distribution.
Last week, I mentioned that I posted on a rabbinic chat that it looks like the Never Trumpers have been vindicated, as Mr. Trump was apparently complicit in the invasion of the Capitol. That was because I swallowed the media narrative that he egged them on. It turns out that it was nothing like that. He urged the crowd to march peacefully to the Capitol. Is he right about the election being stolen? Probably not. But Nancy Pelosi said the same thing about the 2016 election and spent four years trying to oust him.
Mr. Lipman writes that we Orthodox Jews have turned to Fox News for guidance instead of Chazal. I wonder where he and his friends turn to. Is it CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, SNL, the Washington Post, or The New York Times? The entire media has given us a one-way story for years. In fact, the media was found to have a 90% negative reporting rate on Trump. He could simply do no good. And that is why he received almost no credit for that which I listed above.
If Mr. Lipman is embarrassed by his Orthodox friends, I wonder how he feels about all those Jews who solidly supported President Obama, despite his hostility to Israel in the UN, his promotion of the Iran Nuclear Deal via an “echo chamber of lies” (his aide’s words), and the onslaught of ISIS, whom he referred to as “junior varsity.”
How about Jewish support of Bill Clinton? He could not control his base behavior even in the Oval Office itself, and blatantly lied about it. His Oslo Accords brought nothing but grief and death to thousands of Israelis and did not achieve its goal of peace to the region. Is that not something to be embarrassed about?
As for Mr. Hecht, I guess he follows the principle voiced by Eric Holder, former attorney general: “When they go low, we kick them” – as opposed to Michelle Obama, who said, “When they go low, we go high.” To refer to President Trump and his wife Melania, a wonderful woman by all accounts, as Haman and Zeresh is about as low as you can go – and a mean kick to an outgoing president and first lady.
Steve and Warren, I know I can still count on you as my friends, despite our major political differences. We cannot allow the great political divide to separate friendships, which is unfortunately what is taking place on both sides of the political spectrum today.
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.