“Worst fears, best hopes” for the Trump presidency

by | Dec 5, 2016 | Other News

(JTA)—The upset victory by Donald Trump in the 2016 elections stunned a Jewish activist and leadership class that is at times as divided as the electorate at large. JTA asked some of those leaders to describe their concerns and expectations in a series of brief essays, “Worst fears, best hopes.”

Nancy Kaufman

National Council of Jewish Women

As progressive Jewish women, our hope is that as President-elect Donald Trump realizes the gravity of his new role in the U.S. and the world, he will move away from the misogynistic, racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic and anti-immigrant tone set by his campaign and many of his supporters.

We hope he will recognize the need to unite the country and reach out to the more than 50 million Americans who did not vote for him.

We hope that he can indeed be president of all the people, as he has promised he will be. We agree with the importance of addressing the economic pain in communities burdened by unemployment and falling incomes, but not at the expense of those least able to make ends meet. We hope his appointments will set a tone of inclusion and respect for all who call our country home. The idea of a Muslim registry is anathema to all of our most basic values as Americans and as Jews.

What we fear most is that Presidentelect Trump will do what he promised to do—appoint Supreme Court justices pledged to overturn Roe v. Wade, abandon voter rights and protections, and turn his back on women and children in need.

We fear he will deport millions of immigrants, ban Muslims from entering the United States and deny asylum to refugees escaping war and persecution. We dread a reversal of Obamacare that leaves 20 million without health insurance. We are afraid he will threaten freedom of speech and of the press.

NCJW has engaged activist women for over 120 years and we will continue doing such work to preserve all that we can in the new Trump administration. We are proud, passionate and powerful women and we will not stand idly by.

We vow to remain true to our Jewish values in the face of these unprecedented challenges. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said during the days of racial segregation: “This is no time for neutrality. We Jews cannot remain aloof or indifferent.” —Nancy K. Kaufman is CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Nathan Diament

Orthodox Union

A majority of Orthodox Jews voted for Donald Trump for president. They did so upon the twin bases of rejecting Hillary Clinton as the candidate of continuity (for a “third Obama term”) as well as policies Trump proposed on key issues.

The foremost reason Trump earned their votes was the belief that he will be best for the security of Israel. Trump vigorously criticized President Obama’s policies toward Israel. Indeed, Trump’s election will have a beneficial impact before he even takes the oath of office on Jan. 20. It likely makes a rumored lame duck peace process move by Obama, at the United Nations or via a presidential address, unlikely, if not irrelevant. Moreover, Trump making good on his firm commitment to finally relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem may send the most useful message to Israel’s enemies in decades. Trump also regularly spoke out against the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal and promised to abolish it; those who voted for him are counting on him delivering on that promise.

On the domestic front, Trump committed himself to improving education opportunities for American children through school choice initiatives. The cost of Jewish education is the preeminent domestic issue in many Jewish households. Trump broadly spoke of redirecting $20 billion in federal education funds to school choice programs. Such a reform could spark new educational opportunity in America and dramatically address the challenge of Jewish education affordability.

Last but not least, religious liberty is the bedrock upon which American Jewry has flourished. It didn’t get much discussion in the campaign, yet it motivated traditionalists in many faiths to vote for Trump. America is in the midst of a fractious debate over the interplay between expanding gay rights and religious liberty. A compromise approach that delivers fairness for all will take real leadership from the White House and bipartisan leaders in Congress. More broadly, Trump must finds ways—in rhetoric and action—to embrace the value of American society’s religious and ethnic diversity and thus make good on his commitment to be the president for all Americans. —Nathan J. Diament is the executive director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center.

Jeremy Ben-Ami

J Street

The battle lines in the fight for our shared future have never been starker. The Trump administration and its allies have indicated that they may abandon the two-state solution, embrace the settlement project and undermine the Iran agreement. They have threatened to target Muslims, immigrants and other vulnerable groups.

We must now defend our shared fundamental values of tolerance, equality and democracy. My hope is that the Jewish community and our country can rise to this new challenge together, forging a better future for Americans, Israelis and Palestinians alike in the process.

We will not get there tomorrow. As Jews and as the children and grandchildren of immigrants, we remember what it means to be victims of persecution. Worryingly, I’ve seen deep-seated fear etched on the faces of colleagues and allies in the United States as well as in Israel, where I spent the week soon after the election.

But resistance and courage is as integral to our DNA as is our history of oppression.

In that spirit, we at J Street intend to give voice in the days and months ahead to the values of the overwhelming majority of our community. We will fight policies grounded in bigotry, we will stand up when those without power are threatened, and we will speak out against extreme foreign policy prescriptions and attempts to use military force when there are diplomatic options available. —Jeremy Ben-Ami is the president of J Street.