NEW OPED: What Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand About U.S. Jews
Donald Trump welcomed the Jewish New Year with an antisemitic message, unconscionably claiming liberal Jews “voted to destroy America and Israel.” While perhaps unsurprising coming from the twice-impeached, four-time indicted former president, Trump’s message underscored his animus toward and misunderstanding of the vast majority of American Jews. In response, I wrote the following op-ed for Haaretz. You can also find it here.
To mark the Jewish new year, Donald Trump used his social media platform, Truth Social, to send an ominous message to American Jews. Unlike a typical New Year’s greeting, Trump’s included apocalyptic hyperbole, veiled threats, political propaganda and antisemitic tropes. It wasn’t the first time – and likely won’t be the last time – that Trump expressed anger and frustration with the fact that he is disliked by the vast majority of American Jews.
The words of the former president and leading 2024 Republican candidate exemplify his egregious misunderstanding of Jewish American voters. Trump’s Rosh Hashanah message started with a “quick reminder to liberal Jews” – who, according to the Washington-based nonpartisan think tank Pew Research Center, constitute half of the Jewish American population – that they voted to “destroy America and Israel.” While America and Israel remain very much intact after more than three-quarters of Jewish voters supported Joe Biden in the 2020 election, it’s clear that Trump simply cannot fathom how Jewish Americans could have voted against him, given his policy toward Israel.
What Trump fails to understand is that not all Jews supported his policies toward Israel. Going into the 2020 election, Jewish voters indicated that they trusted Biden more than Trump in regard to Israel by nearly 15 percentage points. Additionally, while Israel is important to Jewish Americans, it is not our sole priority, nor are we one-issue voters. According to consecutive national polls by the nonpartisan Jewish Electorate Institute, domestic policy issues – beginning with “the future of democracy” in 2022 and 2023 – largely determine how Jewish Americans vote. On domestic policy issues including democracy, abortion, antisemitism, climate change, gun violence and the economy, Jews trust Democrats more than they trust Republicans because Trump and the GOP’s policies are antithetical to the values and views of the majority of American Jews.
While more than seven out of 10 Jewish American voters cite “an emotional attachment” to Israel according to the Jewish Electorate Institute’s June 2023 poll, that does not mean they believe one must support the current Israeli government in order to support Israel. To the contrary, according to the same poll, just 28 percent of Jewish American voters have a favorable view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 61 percent believe that his government’s proposed judicial overhaul will weaken Israel’s democracy. American Jews see parallels between the threats that Trump and Netanyahu pose to democracy, which is why their abysmal approval ratings are within points of each other among Jewish American voters.
Heading into the last presidential election, Trump expressed anger eerily similar to this year’s Rosh Hashanah message. In August 2020, he asserted that he relocated the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv “for the evangelicals” who were “more excited by [the move] than the Jewish people.” In doing so, he revealed that his policy toward Israel was largely based on self-serving political calculations, as opposed to the national security interests of the United States or Israel. While he had clearly hoped the embassy move would have improved his standing with Jewish Americans, once he realized that it did not he was quick to attribute the move to a more “loyal” group of voters.
Exactly one year earlier, Trump admonished the vast majority of American Jews for lacking loyalty to both him and Israel. In August 2019, Trump accused any American Jews who vote for Democrats of “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” This reference invoked a classic antisemitic trope that alleges dual loyalty, which according to the Anti-Defamation League has “led to the harassment, marginalization, oppression, and murder of Jewish people” for centuries.
Trump facetiously concluded this year’s Rosh Hashanah post with “let’s hope you learned from your mistake and make better choices moving forward! Happy New Year!” This threat echoed Trump’s warning last year that Jews must “get their act together” on Israel “before it’s too late.
Trump’s repeated threats and ominous warnings targeting the majority of American Jews are inherently antisemitic. His policies on Israel, whether good or bad, are not a defense to his bigoted, hateful and dangerous rhetoric. The views of American Jews toward Trump aren’t changing; the only thing for which it’s too late is Trump gaining Jewish support. Not after he called neo-Nazis “very fine people,” refused to condemn white supremacy, incited an insurrection, tried to overthrow an election and repeatedly trafficked in antisemitic tropes, including while trying to wish us a Happy New Year.
We hope you will join us in our efforts to ensure that Donald Trump never steps foot in the White House again, and we look forward to working with you to re-elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Thank you for your partnership and support.
CEO, Jewish Democratic Council of America