Mathew Karlovsky’s assertion that Jews voted contrary to their own best interests in the Nov. 8 election by overwhelmingly voting for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump is predicated on the false equivalence premise of saying Trump is pro-Israel and therefore pro-Jewish (“Jews and the Golden Calf,” Jewish News, Nov. 25, 2016). His overly simplified assertion that Democrats have forsaken their Judaism by voting for Clinton is sophomoric and myopic. To the contrary, Jews in this election understood the candidates for exactly what they are. They voted for the most qualified person for the office and, by far, the lesser of two undesirables.
Karlovsky blames the Jewish vote on a lack of religious-based commitment to Israel. Israel exists today due to Zionist commitment to nonreligious human rights to a homeland from which they were displaced and dispersed, as clearly stated in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948. The declaration deliberately avoids attributing the realization of independence to the divine, just as does the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Ben-Gurion and the other 36 signers of the document wrote that independence was predicated “on the Balfour Declaration, November 2, 1917, the Mandate of the League of Nations, July 24, 1922, and the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution that the establishment of a Jewish state was the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state.”
Using Karlovsky’s own words, “godless universal secularism and global suffrage of oppressed peoples” are precisely what enabled Zionism’s achievement in the rebirth of Israel. The perseverance of those secular Zionists is what achieved statehood for Israel. The Pew research indicating 40 percent of American Jews believe that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jews is slightly more than the 32 percent that believe it is necessary to believe in God to be considered Jewish; 68 percent do not believe it is. Karlovsky’s assertion that Jewish identity equals Israeli support is out of step with most American Jews who feel their Jewish identity is based on their cultural, ancestral and communal connections. To equate global justice with being a foreign idol, Erev Rav (Jews who are an enemy from within, who try to dissuade other Jews’ belief in Sinaitic Torah) is an affront to American Jewry. If American Jews elevate core Jewish values such as tikkun olam (repairing the world) to include global justice, it is their right, some say obligation, to do so; to chastise global justice is contrary to Jewish ethical principles. His describing global suffrage of oppressed peoples as corrupt is the antithesis of performing gimilut chasidim (acts of lovingkindness). Karlovsky’s dismissiveness of the Jewish community prioritizing values like the above, portraying people as agitators as opposed to tzadekkim (righteous ones) is insulting Judaism’s basic mitzvot (good deeds). Embracing global justice is not Erev Rav, but rather Lo Ta’amod Reiachah (not standing idly by). Jews act in the interest of oppressed people. To suggest otherwise is either ignorant or misguided.
Karlovsky’s religious fundamentalism of equating Trump’s supposed support of Israel with the best interests of American Jews is naïve. Karlovsky’s evangelical-based Christian Zionist Republican party supports Israel because of one or both of two reasons: the geographically strategic sliver of land is crucial in the most unstable region on the planet and without that land in the fundamentalist Christian eschatology, the rapture, the second coming of Christ, and eternal salvation cannot occur. It has nothing to do with caring about Jews. Understand his actions; he appointed Stephen Bannon as chief strategist, the leader of a premier alt-right website and a loose-knit group of white nationalist supremacists and unabashed anti-Semites who are openly against justice for Muslims, Hispanics, gays, women and African Americans. They are anything but supporters of global suffrage of oppressed people. Bannon and Trump’s reported allegiance to Israel does not excuse bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia on the grounds that the new administration supports Israel. It is a dangerous over-simplification and does not immunize his negative statements about Jews as exaggerated rants to an ex-wife, which are the equivalent of Trump’s off-the-cuff “locker room talk.”
Where will Karlovsky stand in the Trump bizarre alternate parallel universe where the new Crusades against Muslims result in a society in which other nonbelievers, Jews, are swept up by the angry disenfranchised on the Trump anti-non-Christian white bandwagon the same way they did in 1096 in the First Crusade when Jews were murdered by the ranks that hung onto the Crusader noblemen on their way to free Jerusalem from Islamic control. Jews always seem to be collateral damage in ethnic cleansings’ suffering from the brunt of anger with those in power. Best be vigilant and on high alert. Be careful who you think of as friends. We all should remember global suffrage of oppressed people, we are some of them and recall the words of Leviticus 19:18 V’ahavtah L’reiacha Kamochocha, Love your neighbor as yourself. Agreeing with Karlovsky, “good friends are hard to come by” – just make sure who they are.
Jeffrey Schesnol is president of Or Adam Congregation.