Among the historical roles of rabbis has been defender of the Jewish community. Whether in ancient Rome, fifteenth century Christian Spain, Czarist Russia, or Nazi Germany, rabbis have stepped forward to forewarn their communities about the imminent dangers confronted due to political or governmental threats. Warning of danger is not “preaching politics.” It’s a role that has historically saved lives and communities.
There were rabbis just prior to the Shoah who preached moderation, that Hitler was a temporary phenomenon that would blow over, or HaShem would protect Jews. Others perceived the actual danger, and warned Jews with the goal of the Talmudic dictum: “One who saves a single life, it is as if he has saved an entire world.”
Jews have historically fared well in the U.S. since the Holocaust, but American history has not been unblemished by anti-Jewish hatred. Our country was rife with antisemitism in the era of Henry Ford, Father Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh. FDR refused to bomb the concentration camps. Nixon hated Jews. And there’s never been a single, major party Jewish nominee for President, despite our talents and successes. For the most part virulent antisemitism has disappeared over the last 70 years, but once again White Supremicists and other haters on the political right and left have arisen to threaten us.
The rule of law, the courts and the Constitution of the U.S., have protected our liberty and are the reason Jews have thrived. We have never had to fear an American tyranny. Our free participation in governmental affairs, our roles in the greater civic community, and our equal status under the law: these are our best protections against the exclusionary tendencies that historically have arisen time and again in American life.
Let me be plain: President Trump has been intent on attacking and undermining American democracy, the rule of law, the basis of Jewish security. He has blatantly and often viciously attacked the free press, a bulwark needed for an informed electorate. He has undermined our security services, the CIA, FBI and NSA, preferring the opinions of our national enemy, the former KGB agent and now President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. He has illegally accepted aid from foreign nations to support his election and undermine American public confidence in our electoral system. He has attacked the integrity of our courts, exonerated those who break the law and do him favors, refused to obey lawful legal procedures like subpoenas, and believes himself to be superior to American laws.
Donald Trump refused to denounce Nazis who marched saying, “The Jews will not replace us,” and is a recognized political ally of anti-Semites Richard Spencer and David Duke, refusing to denounce them, or the current dangerous conspiracy theory, QAnon. He regularly attacks the American civil service, loyal employees who serve our nation to run a functioning government, instead preferring loyalists and political appointees who will do his bidding rather than work for our nation.
These and many more transgressions against our democracy bode ill for American Jews and the constitutional future in this country under Trump. We live freely in the United States because we are protected equally as Americans by laws. As this country turns toward autocracy and a Presidency that believes the laws of this nation do not apply to him or his cohorts, we must be wary of our future.
I do not care at this moment about political party. Donald Trump and his minions are a threat to American democracy, to all Americans, and particularly a threat to minorities. These issues supersede all else: concerns about Israel, concerns about particular party politics, concerns about the stock markets. If the U.S. loses its democracy, as Donald Trump prefers, our nation and our own existence will be under threat.
To save American democracy and our home, we must defeat Donald Trump in this election, and restore the U.S. republic to its Constitutional basis. Free life as we know it in these United States hangs in the balance, tottering toward the abyss of tyranny. We’ve seen that picture before, and it's deadly.
Make no mistake. This election is not about political party or the economy. This election is the choice between tyranny and freedom. We dare not lose.