Beliefs Culture Ethics Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion Politics

My synagogue colleague is a Muslim

Donald Trump. Credit: Albert H. Teich, via Shutterstock
Donald Trump. Credit: Albert H. Teich, via Shutterstock

Donald Trump. Credit: Albert H. Teich, via Shutterstock

Yes, you read that right.

I have a Muslim colleague at my synagogue.

Her family is from Guyana.

She is a Muslim.

You got a problem with that?

Because I sure don’t. And, neither does anyone else there.

Quite the contrary: in a synagogue that prides itself on its family feeling, she is a member of our family.

I went into her office today, and I told her that I was embarrassed, ashamed, and just plain disgusted about Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering this country.

“We have no idea who is coming into our country, no idea if they like us or hate us…”

Trump is even going so far as to suggest that Muslim Americans should not be allowed back from vacations abroad.

She was clearly moved by my gesture of friendship and support. She said to me: “Oh, that’s just Donald Trump. No one takes him seriously.”

I take him seriously. And so do his ever-growing legion of supporters.

Yes, my colleague is a Muslim from Guyana. A woman who is horrified by jihadist Islam. A woman who has visited Israel with her family, on a pilgrimage of mutual respect (yet another stereotype bites the dust — a Muslim who likes Israel. Yes, it might be rare, and that is what makes it that much more precious).

A Muslim from Guyana? Surprised?

Because our image of Muslims is of people from the Middle East, and therefore perhaps geographically or ideologically tinged with anti-Americanism. (The Muslims of Guyana are descended from indentured servants from India.)

I sometimes need to remind people: those Muslims that you hate and would want to see deported?

Those Muslims include: your Pakistani neighbors, and that Bosnian woman who works in your office, and that Indonesian girl in your daughter’s class, and that family that owns the Malaysian restaurant in your town….

Mr. Trump: When you talk about not letting Muslims into this country, or when you invoke World War Two-era policy towards Japanese-Americans, and when you hint at rounding up Muslims in this country — you are talking about my colleague.

You are talking about potentially deporting a loyal employee of this congregation, a fan of our synagogue’s mission, and a woman who loves Shabbat.

You are considering not allowing my colleague and friend — who, theoretically, might go on vacation to Montreal, London, or back to see family in Guyana — back into this country.

Wait. Hold on a second. She has visited Israel. What if she goes again? You won’t let her back into the country?

No way, Donald. This time, you have gone too far. You have managed to do a wonderful job of imitating every right wing, uber nationalist European ideologue.

Never before in recent American memory — not since George Wallace’s unsuccessful presidential campaign — has a presidential candidate so flagrantly violated the American story, the American soul, the American creed.

I am happy that so many of Trump’s fellow Republican presidential hopefuls have condemned what you had to say — along with a veritable crowd of critics, and most major American Jewish organizations. That list includes the ADL, American Jewish Committee, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Interesting: I called the Orthodox Union, and asked their representative whether the OU has taken a position on Trump’s remarks. His answer: “No.”

It is fair to ask the Orthodox Union: Why not? Why have you refrained from taking a position on the most important moral and political issue in America today?

It is fair to remind the Orthodox Union: The Talmud that says: “Silence is tantamount to consent.” Is the Jewish world to interpret your silence regarding Trump and the Muslims as consent to his words?

I am happy that the Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Florida, has said that you, Mr. Trump, are not welcome in his city.

Yet another mazal tov, Donald. You have managed to bring together a delightful, rich, crazy quilt of Americans, of all political persuasions. They have stood up to say: you do not speak for us. You, sir, are a national and international embarrassment.


Hanukkah has just ended. That means that I am already thinking ahead to Passover. I am thinking ahead to the Passover seder, and the song that we always sing — Dayeinu — “it would have been enough.”

Dayeinu, Donald. It is enough.

Dayeinu, all my friends and others who admire Donald for speaking his mind: honesty is a good thing. But Donald Trump has contributed to the coarsening of our American discourse, and has helped hammer nails into the coffin of American civility.

We must ask ourselves a hard, serious question: What does it say about our country, that every time Trump opens his mouth, and every time he makes an outrageous, hurtful, un-American statement — his popularity goes up?

Dayeinu, America: enough, already.





About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.


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  • Listen to your Muslim friend and don’t take Trump seriously. Trump is Trump.

    As for the American people, whom I suspect is your real worry, have a little more faith in them. Most are wary about Muslims because they’ve never met any. But once they do, they will get the picture and become a lot more tolerant.

    Someone should write an article not only on how Muslims are overwhelmingly good Americans, but how groups that hated each other abroad, like Hindus from India and Muslims from Pakistan, get along in America. It’s truly a wonderful testament to the greatness of our country and a rebuke to Trump’s silliness.

  • The OU and the modern Orthodox rabbinical group, the Rabbinical Council of America, have issued a joint statement condemning calls to restrict immigration based on religion, dated Dec. 9th. I’m curious whether you started writing this last week and didn’t find a statement on their website and that’s why you called.
    Perhaps they’ve been a little slow coming out with this one and this is understandable based on the fact that there seems to be, unfortunately, palpable support for White ISIS in their congregations.
    Mein Coif might be speaking his mind but please don’t call him honest. This is someone who lies every chance he can get if he thinks it’ll get him votes, to the point of making stuff up as he goes along, even if it makes no sense. Last week he claimed he’d sign an executive order mandating the death penalty for cop killers. Today he claimed he’s an evangelical, while taking a cheap shot at Cruz.

  • nobody has a problem with ‘normal’ muslims. not americans, not jews, not judaism. a jew is too allowed to pray in mosque.

    but your rosy PC article doesn’t solve anything.

    wahabbi jihadism is a FACT.
    Saudi arabia, while officially our ‘ally’ , is wahhabi islam- which is the root of islamist extremism, which funds hundreds of free extremist muslim ‘schools’ (midrassas)
    which teach literal interpretation of sura 9:29 and 9:5 in quran- kill or submit EVERYONE.

    yes! are u ok with foresworn enemies of israel and of usa becoming usa citizens, while OPENLY calling for killing of everyone who refuses to bow to Allah AS A MUSLIM???

    That is wahabi official religious stand.

    (i’m a student of quran, and these are simple facts. religious jihad is a MAJOR. part of islam.

  • A very well written article sir.
    Mr. Trump is a shame to the civilised, caring big-hearted Americans.
    I have travelled in America far and wide. I’ve found americans to be very hospitable and friendly.
    America is a huge country blessed with natural resources, the only thing they lack sometimes is good leadership.
    May God give them good leadership.

    You have rightly said that Trump has helped hammer nails into the coffin of American civility.
    I’m quite sure he won’t be successful in doing so.