2020 was a year few of us will ever forget. Covid-19, an election year and a petulant bully in the White House who denied both. For many reasons that need to be explored, this man, his presidency, and Trumpism has taken a huge toll on the American Jewish community. Yes! There was a pandemic. Over four hundred thousand Americans died, mostly on “his watch”. Yes, Donald Trump lost the election by over seven million legal votes and seventy four electoral votes.
For those of us who experienced this turmoil unfolding, it was particularly disturbing to learn that a large number of American Jews voted for him. Reporting and surveys seem to indicate that the religious right wing of the Jewish Community as well as the “1%ers” stood firmly behind Trump. In 2016 more than 25% of the Jewish community (according to the Pew Research center) voted for Trump.
It didn’t take very long after the election for Trump’s true colors to be displayed. Charlottesville in 2017 was a defining moment for the world to see and hear who Donald Trump was and what he believed. It’s impossible to forget his words that day: “there were very fine people on both sides.” It was clear, at that moment, when he defended the behavior of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists what was to come. We were not dealing with a man who had the main – stream humanitarian values we expect from Presidents of these United States. That statement opened the flood gates for the Nazis, white supremacists and fascists to step up their game and leave the shadows they had been lurking in for years. The former Commander and Chief actually encouraged it and going forward, HE gave them a platform.
After four years of hate speech, immigration atrocities, countless incidences of violent anti-Semitic behavior, discrediting of the Black Lives Matter movement, casting doubt on free and fair elections, and inciting a mob to take over the Michigan statehouse. One would expect that all this would-be sufficient cause to break the ties with the President. It didn’t. Why? How could this be?
2020 saw a rise in in the Jewish community’s support for Trump. More than 30% of the Jewish community (according to AP) voted for Trump. Many in this large segment of the American Jewish Community believed all of the lies.
Then there was the January sixth insurrection. It was the coming out party for the racist, white supremacists, and truly Anti-Semitic fringe, who stormed the capital in the name of Trump at his personal invitation.
Then to make matters worse, he was acquitted by his faithful base of senators who were so afraid of the fringe base that they chose party politics over justice and honor
Let me be clear. The Jewish Trump supporters are not the only ones responsible for our four-year national nightmare. There is plenty of blame to go around and it will be written about and studied by historians and political scientists for years to come.
I honestly don’t understand the undying allegiance and fascination with Trump. A man who literally fiddled (played golf) while the country burned. He lied about the pandemic, he lied about the election, and his open support of white supremacist groups has fueled the fires of anti-Semitism. Just between 2016 and 2018 there was a 60% rise in anti-semitic incidence according to the Anti-Defamation League, going from 942 in 2015 up to 1267 in 2016. Those statistics more than double by 2019 going up to 2107, the highest number since 1979. The direct cause and effect is plain as day.
The Jewish people have been persecuted, killed, expelled from countries all over Europe, for centuries for just being Jewish. I find it inconceivable how any Jewish person could support a man who has complete contempt for the values we hold most dear. The Jewish people are supposed oppose racism, oppression, discrimination, because we as a people understand what that means in the most severe and dire of instances
The hard truth is that Liberal and Conservative Jews must put aside their differences to fight Trumpism. Trump is gone but Trumpism is just getting started. New right-wing media outlets, spewing lies and propaganda, will continue to empower hate groups. Only standing together can overcome this hate.
The aftershocks of the Trump administration and of Trump himself will be felt for years, possibly decades to come. We need to be better. We must hold the moral high ground, because when we don’t, the anti-Semites know just where to find us. It is extremely naïve for us as a community to be assured of our place in America.
My hope for this film will be to document a direct line from Trump’s election in 2016 to a deadly rise in anti-semitic events and behavior as a result of his four years in office. I will do that through interviews with community leaders, scholars, Jewish political associations and legitimate news sources. My intent is to get answers to the questions of: “How did we (the Jewish community) get here” and “How can we fight against anti-Semitism in 2021.” I will also make sure that the countless anti-Semitic events of the past four years are documented for all to see and not swept under the proverbial rug.
It’s imperative that we find some common ground where we as the Jewish community can stand together against racists and fascists of all stripes, because at the end of the day we are all Jews.