An Open Letter to the President

"In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you're being very disloyal to Israel," Trump said in August.

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An Open Letter to the President

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference in Feb. 2017. Image source: The White House via Wikimedia Commons

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference in Feb. 2017. Image source: The White House via Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin D. Applebaum

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference in Feb. 2017. Image source: The White House via Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin D. Applebaum

Benjamin D. Applebaum

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference in Feb. 2017. Image source: The White House via Wikimedia Commons

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To the President of the United States,

Am I Jewish, or am I American? This is a false dichotomy; I am both. However, not everyone accepts this answer. You once again made hateful and exclusionary remarks. You accused American Jews of disloyalty to Israel because many Democrats support a Palestinian state. 

We are often said to have a loyalty to Israel and not to our home country, and your words imply this. But I feel American, and I am American. My loyalty is to the United States of America, though even as I feel safe here, I know all too well that it may be a false sense of hope. 

In Europe, we were blamed for the Black Plague because we were easy scapegoats. We were expelled from many nations, such as England and Spain. In Imperial Russia, we were murdered in pogroms. In the early 20th century, we may have thought that we were able to live freely—in Germany, and indeed other areas of Europe, we felt like part of our nations. That was all about to change. 

The Nazis separated us from the rest of the population, dehumanized us and demonized us. They put us in camps and murdered six million of us. Six million. We have never recovered and we never will. Now, in the USA, where there is freedom of religion, I should feel safe. Here, people are supposed to be tolerant. In my personal experience, people have been. But when the president is clearly anti-Semitic, I find it hard to believe that it will be safe forever.

How do I know if history will repeat itself? The question “what if they come after us?” is not a good question. Unfortunately, it is now “what do we do when they come after us?” 

White supremacists have attacked institutions of minorities in acts of terror that you have refused to label as such. They have attacked every group that does not fit their bigoted vision of a homogenous society. I grew up hearing the song “The Great American Melting Pot,” and while a “tossed salad” metaphor would be better, it shows that diversity improves our society. However, our nation is severely crippled by intolerance.

You say American Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal. You previously made comments regarding “Jexodus,” a forecasted flight of Jews to the Republican party. I don’t think you understand why we don’t vote for you. Having been victims of bigotry for our entire existence, we vote for tolerance. When you make comments like this, it pushes us even farther away from your party.

You seem to think that all Jews are loyal to Israel. We’ve heard this before; it is a common theme of anti-Semitic “rhetoric.” Now that you have legitimized hate, it is hard to feel safe. You are not the first anti-Semitic leader to attack us, but I hope that you are the last.”

In less than three years, you have plunged the nation into ruin. You have normalized and incited hate. The American Dream has become a nightmare—a nightmare that never ends. You did not cause people to hate, but you gave them a voice. You said that neo-Nazis were “very fine people” after a woman was murdered in Charlottesville for standing against racism. It is appalling that you would believe this, but at this point it is unsurprising, especially considering the fact that you declined to disavow the KKK.

You seem to think that all Jews are loyal to Israel. We’ve heard this before; it is a common theme of anti-Semitic “rhetoric.” Now that you have legitimized hate, it is hard to feel safe. You are not the first anti-Semitic leader to attack us, but I hope that you are the last.

I don’t understand why religion continues to divide. After tragedy, communities come together. I have gone to an interfaith service, and I wish they were held regularly instead of only after attacks. The majority of Americans do not agree with the hate you spew, and we must show our resolve by coming together in a show of unity against hate.

Am I Jewish, or am I American? This is a false dichotomy; I am both. I am both because I choose to be, and they will never be mutually exclusive, just as one can be American and have any other facets of their identity. And while I know you will never read this, I hope others will. There is hope. 

From a more than concerned American,

Joseph Berkowitz

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