Can anti-semitism be kosher?
Aheadline in the Washington Post last month asked: “Can Donald Trump be anti-semitic if his daughter is Jewish?” The answer offered by Kelsey Osgood, a convert to Judaism, was a resounding yes.
She wrote: “The idea that having a child who converts precludes distrust or even hatred toward the child’s chosen faith is as facile as the idea that you cannot be anti-semitic because you do business with Jews, have Jewish friends or are Jewish yourself.”
In her research on a book about religious conversion, Osgood concluded that “when a child converts, family members often feel deeply ambivalent – about the perceived personal rejection, about the child’s religious stance in an increasingly secular world and about the child’s chosen faith specifically.” She suggested that the parents of converts often feel hurt by their child’s decision to depart from the faith in which he or she was reared.
Osgood’s research tallies with my impressions. Having taught and counselled many young women and men who wished to embrace Judaism, I found a lot of resentment by members of their families, especially parents, the same kind of resentment that many Jewish parents have when their children embrace another faith or even another form of Judaism.
But whether or not Trump resents his daughter’s conversion, and though her Jewish husband is said to have joined his inner circle of advisers, there are indications that point to anti-semitism in what he has said and in what members of his entourage seem to espouse. Writing in the Kiyv Post, Alexey Bayer reported that Trump “has suffered plenty of snubs from New York Jewish developers who never invited him into their highly cultured society.” And he’s allegedly “incapable of letting go of his numerous grudges.”
Moreover, adds Bayer, “the dynamics of his regime will force him to turn against American Jews, and, quite possibly, to do so violently,” because he’s “riding a movement that fits most descriptions of fascism.”
American Jews seem to sense this. Many U.S. Jewish groups have come out against Trump. For example, a statement by 200 American Jewish historians argues that Trump’s campaign and the aftermath of his election have already led to an increase in hatred of Jews and other minorities.
Israel’s prime minister thinks otherwise. In an interview with CBS’S 60 Minutes, Benjamin Netanyahu said the new president feels very warmly about the Jewish state and the Jewish People. This reflects the view of Israeli right-wing political parties hoping that Trump will allow Israel to further expand settlements in the West Bank and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
A survey by the Dialog polling firm indicates that most Israelis “were not overly concerned with fears of a rise in anti-semitism in the U.S. in the wake of Trump’s victory,” even though it has “emboldened some racist and anti-semitic groups, part of the so-called ‘alt-right.’” It appears that political aspirations of many Israelis have persuaded them some forms of anti-semitism can be kosher.
Whereas Israelis tend to argue that criticism of Israel is usually anti-semitic, some seem also to believe that support for their nationalist ambitions makes anti-semitism irrelevant.
To repeat, most Jews in America think differently. In recent months, we’ve witnessed many examples of sharp differences between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. To the festering controversy over prayer access by non-orthodox Jews to the Western Wall has now been added the even more serious difference in perceptions about anti-semitism in the wake of Trump’s election.
Whereas Diaspora Jews see the anti-muslim slurs by Americans and Europeans as versions of the kind of hatred of Jews that led to the Holocaust, many Israelis fail to see the similarities and tend to believe that attacks on Muslims imply automatic support for Jewish claims.
Dare we hope that these are only temporary expressions of enthusiasm for a president who seems to be much more prejudiced against Jews and others than his much-maligned predecessor?