By Erin Ben-Moche
Halie Soifer wants to make one thing perfectly clear: President Donald Trump’s values don’t mirror those of the Jewish people.
The executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) has been actively promoting progressive Jewish Americans’ ideals since 2016. JDCA endorsements helped elect 49 Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections, and Soifer said Trump’s behavior in his first term shows he is out of touch with Jewish voters.
Whether he’s accusing Jews of being disloyal, not condemning anti-Semitism or his recent decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Syria, Soifer said Trump’s recklessness concerns American Jews. With a background in foreign policy, she said Trump’s calls on Syria are disastrous.
“Trump’s reckless decision in Syria has very serious security implications not only for the United States but for our allies, including Israel,” Soifer told the Journal. “There is no question that Israel was caught off guard during this decision. This is the bigger issue because it also speaks to whether we can be relied on as an ally. The Kurds were relying on us as an ally, and Trump so recklessly undermines that alliance. I’m sure the Israelis are now questioning whether we — America with Trump as our president — can be trusted, and it’s disconcerting and another demonstration of the fact that Trump doesn’t really understand U.S. foreign policy.”
The JDCA called out Trump during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, and shortly thereafter when he did not denounce the neo-Nazis and white nationalists who were marching.
Since then, the JDCA’s website has listed a timeline of anti- Semitic attacks that have taken place. Soifer said according to polling, anti-Semitism is now one of the talking points driving people to the voting booth.
“For the first time in our history, we as Americans have faced the rise of domestic anti-Semitism,” she said. “We know from polling that 73% of Jewish voters feel less secure today than they did two years ago and 59% of them blame Trump, at least partially, for the synagogue [shootings in] Pittsburgh and Poway.”
Soifer said that Jewish voters are paying attention to Trump’s rhetoric (or lack thereof) when it comes to denouncing anti-Semitism. She said there was an increase in voter turnout during the midterm elections and that “it will continue to impact how Jews vote. It was an issue in the 2018 election and it will continue in 2020.”
In addition to calling out white nationalism and extremism on the right, Soifer noted that the JDCA does the same thing with anti-Semitism on the left, including denouncing Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for their anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media.
“We recognize sometimes the criticism of Israel can be conveyed in a way that is anti-Semitic, especially when you’re talking in the use of negative stereotypes or generalizations against the Jews,” Soifer said. “We call it out wherever we see it on the right or the left. But what deeply concerns us is that we have not seen Republicans do the same. … When it comes from the president of the United States, they are silent.”
On the question of Trump’s impeachment, Soifer said, “I think the president will be impeached in the House. The allegations against him are not only extremely serious but also unprecedented in terms of the violation of our national security.”
Soifer noted that while Jewish Democrats have their eyes on impeachment, their domestic concerns still focus on a wide range of issues, including gun safety, immigration, women’s rights and affordable health care. She is happy to see that these issues frequently came up during the fourth Democratic debate Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio.
Though it is still early days in the 2020 election cycle and Jewish voters are using the debates as an opportunity to learn about each candidate, Soifer said, “They all brought a slightly different but unified view that clearly we need change in this country, and the majority of Americans agree with that. … I think that there was a consensus on that stage that we certainly can and should do better than Donald Trump.”