Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

What do Jews do now?

President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak at his election-night rally in New York City on Nov. 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlo Allegri

If there are typos in this blog, forgive me.

I am typing it with shaking hands.

Because, in the end, it just didn’t matter.

  • Trump’s sexist remarks did not matter.
  • Trump’s baiting of Hispanics and Muslims did not matter.
  • Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns did not matter.
  • Trump’s mockery of a handicapped person did not matter.
  • Trump’s history of reneging on payments to vendors did not matter.
  • Trump’s support from the KKK and the alt-right did not matter.
  • The blatant and latent anti-Semitism in Trump’s campaign — including the targeting of Jewish journalists — did not matter.

It did not matter, because the anger, and fear, and frustration — and hatred, and misogyny — were just too deep.

We had no clue. Or, if we did, we were in denial.

A coincidence: today happens to be the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.

On that night, Emil Fackenheim was in a cell in Germany, along with more than twenty Jewish men. Fackenheim would go on to become one of modern Judaism’s most perceptive thinkers, but at the time, he was a 22 year old rabbinical student.

One of Fackenheim’s cell mates accosted him: “You know more about Judaism than the rest of us here. You tell us what Judaism has to say to us now!”

Fackenheim admitted: He did not know what to say.

I am not sure that I can do any better than Fackenheim. Let me try.

Yes, many American Jews are angry. And sad. And afraid.

But this would be the time for us, and for our institutions, to remember that there are other Others who are also afraid. Time to renew and update our conversations with Hispanics and Muslims communities — and tell them that we hear them, that we understand their fears and concerns.

And, not only their concerns. The concerns of others as well. The others, whom most Jews never see.

Yes, this part is going to be real hard.

The Nobel laureate, Bob Dylan, sang: “Something is happening here and you don’t know what it is — do you, Mr. Jones?”

We are all Mr. Jones. And something is happening here and we didn’t know what it was.

Until last night, when we looked at the electoral map — state by state, county by county.

It is called Jewish — and Un-Jewish– Geography.

Those places where Jews, academics, blacks, and other minorities live? Those were cities and many suburbs. They voted for Clinton.

The counties that voted for Trump were, overwhelmingly, places where Jews and other minorities do not live.

Yes, they live in rural areas. And they lived in small towns, in places that Jews either don’t go to, or haven’t live in for seventy years.

They are the people whom Bruce Springsteen sings about — those people (mostly men) who who live in towns where the jobs have disappeared. They are the people in the book, Hillbilly Elegy.

In the words of my son, Gabriel Salkin:

Our failures last night are our own. Mine, yours, ours. We thought we could win because we knew he was a fascist, a racist, a sexist; and made that apparent. But we forgot that our intellectual privilege blinds us from the others. Being a racist or a sexist means nothing to many of the working class, who lack the desire or time or education or mental bandwidth to contemplate intersectional identity politics when they struggle with a country they do not recognize, political inaction, or the opiate addiction crisis, or complete economic dejection.

It shows that we have so far to go as a country to defeat racism, sexist, isolationism, hyper militant capitalism. But the liberal and intellectual caste encircled the wagons and shuttered the others out. We had the privilege of intellectual power without sharing and empathizing with the others. To call someone a racist or a sexist is not the worst thing you can call someone to a very large amount of this country. Being “corrupt” or “crooked” is a far greater failure of character to many.

We have lost that America — that America where being a racist or a sexist is actually a mark of shame.

Can we bring that America back — an America where hatred and bullying is, itself, stigmatized? Maybe. But, it will take work.

Gabe, again:

David Brooks advocates for a return to moral virtue and a restoration of the power of community. Maybe he’s not wrong. In a future where our government may fail us, we are going to have to turn to each other a lot more. That means a breakdown of barriers between groups, races and creeds. It means seeing each other as people, not a collection of identities that divide people. It means no more safe spaces when we don’t have the luxury. We need to rely on each other and love each other and understand each other.

I am thinking of the legend about the wicked biblical city of Sodom. With evil swirling all around him, a man sat in the town square — and screamed.

Someone asked him: “Do you think that your screaming will change the world?”

He answered: “I don’t know whether my screaming will change the world.

“But, at the very least, the world will not change me.”

That sound you hear from this blog?

Those are my screams.

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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  • According to a Nov. 8 New York Times exit poll, 24 percent of Jews voted for Trump.

    71 percent voted for Clinton, a clear majority. But there’s a huge difference between “24 percent” and “Zero percent.”

    So how about visiting with those 24 percent of Jews who chose to vote for Trump? How about asking for THEIR side of the story? Ask them if they should be grouped with “racists”, “sexists”, “hyper militant capitalists”, merely because they voted for Trump?

    “What do Jews do now”? Talk with other Jews — those who see the situation another way.

    (And by the way, if there are any black liberals like CNN’s Van Jones reading this post, YOU need to get started doing the same thing, except do it a lot faster and on a much larger scale. Black Americans are NOT monolithic, some of us voted for Trump as well, and we are not backing down. In fact you could often see black faces at Trump rallies just by looking at regular TV news. Come do some dialogue soon, if you dare!)

  • This is a nation obsessed with electing dynasties that just elected a man who’s daughter he’s grooming as an heir is an Orthodox Jew.

    Congrats, this has set the stage for the first Jewish president.

  • The Jewish vote was one area where Clinton performed or out-performed the polls. As you may know from prior comments, I’ve been talking to other Jews this entire election cycle about why they support Trump. As a pulpit rabbi in South Florida I’m sure Rabbi Salkin has done the same. The answer essentially is hawkish right-wing views on Israel and Islam. They have been fed eight years of being told Obama is a secret Muslim out to destroy Israel and that Clinton is the same way.

  • Well, it’s good to know that the answer is in a category OTHER than racism, sexism, or hyper-militant capitalism.

    Thanks for making that clear, since Salkin’s article failed to make that clear.

    Of course, the mere descriptor “hawkish, right-wing views on Israel and Islam” doesn’t mean those views are incorrect.

    Obama is certainly not a Muslim, but Iran, Hamas, etc, really DO appear to be the biggest beneficiaries of 8 years of nomstop Obama / Hillary liberalism. The security of Israel may indeed fare better under Trump. (Can’t do any worse!!! )

  • I see Sulkin is still taking the blue pill and needs an intervention quickly. It is not the right, nor Trump that is anti-Semitic it is the left who has turned on them. I am so sick and tired of the same looped narrative coming from the left demonizing the right. THIS IS WHY I, A FEMALE DEMOCRAT VOTED TRUMP!!!!. Perhaps Sulkin just needs time away from indoctrination of the left and he will come around to see that he has been not only wrong in his assessments, but harsh as well. I understand that people have been bombarded with the notion that in order to be a decent human being one has been told ad nauseum that only the left has the answers, but it is not true. Take some time off, turn off your devices, remember you were human being before the left got to you, and the world is not ending.

  • Did you read his bulleted points about what did not matter to Trump voters, i.e., the hate speech etc.? This isn’t left or right. It is the first time I can remember a candidate running the most prejudicial campaign and winning. George Wallace couldn’t do it in 1972.

  • Wait…I thought Trump was an anti-Semite! Trump’s son in law is a Jew? Wow. I guess he is now a self-hating father in law of a Jew. Or a self-hating Grandfather.

  • The Left is against the nation of Israel’s policies and actions in the occupied territorties – that is not racism.They unfortunately have developed a blind spot and a favoritism toward Muslims. The alt-right and white supremacists hate jews as a race and religion and accuse them falsely and if given a chance will treat them badly.

  • ISIS is celebrating Trump’s victory
    ““Trump’s vulgarity will embarrass (Arab) tyrants and enlarge the field
    of jihad,” one poster wrote on an Internet chat forum used by IS

    The KKK is celebrating Trump’s Victory

    ““Our goal is to help restore America to a White Christian nation,
    founded on God’s word,” the site says. They insisted, however, that they
    don’t want bad things to happen to non-whites. “We simply want to live
    separate from them … As GOD intended. (Lev.20:24-25)””

  • Israel’s security is not in danger. Hasn’t been in some time. The Syrian civil war has been a boon to them. The Iran/Saudi cold war has finally found a battleground where Israel is not sucked into it. Hamas is fast losing its blood money/arms suppliers. Fatah is settling into kleptocracy.

    The fact that we are not at useless war with Iran over their bluff of a nuclear weapons program is something to be congratulated, not condemned.

  • LOL! Trump is a New Yorker, anti-semitism isn’t in his makeup. Plenty of other forms of bigtory, most definitely, probably not that one.

  • Hey Spuddie….I just moved to the Pacific Northwest. You wouldn’t believe the amount of men with hoods running around! It is crazy. The kkk are everywhere! Everywhere men with hoods. 🙂

    Hey btw……………referring to a past conversation we had regarding mk ultra/Laurel Canyon………..have you ever heard of “Gnostic Media”? They do a series on the subject. Check out their “unspun” category. Interesting listen.

  • Well, few people realize that in many cases the Pacific Northwest was perhaps even more segregated and discriminatory than the Deep south back in the day.

    I took a look at Gnostic Media. Interesting stuff. Thanks for the suggestion.

    I generally have little time or use for podcasts. But I blame that largely on the fact it is far easier to sneak readings of something in the workplace than listening.

    As for MK Ultra, I still don’t think the US government has the competency or skills to pull something like that off in such secrecy. At best I treat it like the UFO cover up conspiracies. Somewhere in there is a perfectly mundane explanation which has been buried by sensationalism and fiction media looking for interesting narratives.

  • Sadly………………all of that stuff(segregation etc.) is misunderstood. We need a balance of thought. The last 50 years have been too one sided. That is the work of Cultural Marxism and the Frankfurt School. Ever read any of Kevin McDonald’s books – The Culture of Critique as an example? From a religious perspective, E. Michael Jones has a few good books. Cheers!

  • One more thing…………..the title of your link — Oregon was founded as a Racist Utopia. That’s funny considering Oregon was discovered* and settled by Whites. “Utopia” as if that is a bad thing.

    Is Mexico not a “Utopia” for Mexicans? Or how about Japan. Are the Japanese racist for not opening their country to non-Japanese?
    **discovered as in settling there and building a civilization.

  • Israel has nuclear weapons they would use if they are truly threatened. They’re presently the ONLY nation in the Middle East that’s armed with nuclear weapons. Their security is just fine.

  • Well said. The left imagines itself to be open-minded, but the left has been close-minded in many ways. Trump’s victory is an opportunity for folks on the left to stop the endless moralizing to everyone else. To sit down, and listen to what others have to say, for a change.

  • Well, I’m African-American and Republican but I didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton. Trump has NEVER been a Republican, conservative, or a Christian . He’s an opportunitist like Romney. Trump just played the shape changer game better than Romney. He played into the 35% of the Republican party that is basically ALT RIGHT and bigoted. Yes, some people just voted for him because he’s a billionaire (who doesn’t pay taxes and bankrupts companies).

    Senator Lindsay Graham (R) said on TV on why Trump was doing so well in the primary; he said 35% of my party believes president Obama is a Muslim and not a U.S. citizen.

    Trump could not have won a runoff election one on one against Cruz, Kasich, or Rubio. He just automatically got that 35% of ALT RIGHT BIGOTS and 5% of people like my sister who are hoping that his so called business skills will work for the country.

    And he has appointed extremist. Even Ben Shapiro said Bannon’s website is full of white supremacists. General Flynn is a tool also, and Jeff Sessions was voted against by a Republican Congress for a federal appointment.