By: Noah Pollack  | 

A Response To Rabbi Blau on Orthodox Jews and the Political Process: Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

I was greatly intrigued by Rabbi Blau's article entitled "Orthodox Jews and the Political Process." While he does not mention President Trump by name, I believe his critique is addressed to the 45th president as well as to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In his article, Rabbi Blau makes the salient point that President Trump's character traits, specifically name-calling and dishonesty, should be a cause of consternation for Orthodox Jews, as we should hold dear the values of decency and integrity. While he is absolutely correct on that score, there are two main issues that I have with his presentation. First, one could get the mistaken impression from his article that President Trump is the only politician with ethical lapses, and that his political opponents are totally guiltless. Additionally, his article does not articulate the many wonderful policies that President Trump has enacted, which have already helped multitudes of people and are legitimate reasons to support him. 

Rabbi Blau’s piece makes no mention of the numerous Democratic officeholders who express the desire to impeach President Trump yet looked the other way when President Bill Clinton lied under oath. Indeed, some of the very people who voted twice for Bill Clinton are now criticizing those who support Donald Trump. Former Secretary Clinton also has a less than moral past, of which her voters were keenly aware. Whether it be her highly suspicious 1979 cattle futures windfall, her demonizing the numerous women who claimed her husband sexually abused them (apparently accusers are to be believed unless they make a claim against her powerful husband) and most recently, her irresponsible and suspect use of a personal email server for government business which put State Department information at a greater risk of compromise. Furthermore, if we are so concerned with name-calling, she was the candidate who referred to half of her opponent's supporters as belonging in a basket of deplorables. 

Yet, I do not recall Rabbi Blau or any other YU faculty members calling her to task for that or pleading that her supporters think twice before offering her their support. If Mr. Trump’s supporters are to be critiqued for overlooking his faults, then it is only fair that the supporters of his opponents also be questioned for overlooking their faults.

On a broader note, history is full of individuals who did extraordinary things for society yet were deeply flawed in their personal lives. We know today that both President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were serial philanderers. Does that mean we are not supposed to celebrate their contributions to the world, such as preventing nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis and fighting for civil rights? 

An essential way of measuring a president’s success is through his policies, and it is in that regard that I believe Rabbi Blau shortchanges President Trump, an avid and successful policymaker. Even more so, Rabbi Blau admonishes Orthodox rabbis and laymen for supporting President Trump but has not and does not acknowledge the policies currently being espoused and considered by the Democratic Party regarding Israel and the very understandable fear they evoke among many Orthodox Jews. 

Former Democratic President Barack Obama frequently denigrated Prime Minister Netanyahu, signed the Iran Deal which, among its numerous faults, provided Iran with billions of dollars, allowed them to increase their amount of ballistic missiles, did not allow inspections of every suspect site and enabled them to sponsor terrorist organizations around the Mideast that wreak havoc on the lives of innocent civilians. To top it off, towards the very end of his presidency, he refused to defend the Jewish State from United Nations Condemnation. This disgraceful decision was a first for a U.S. President and an action that the Simon Wiesenthal Center named the most anti-Semitic act of 2016.

Is it any wonder then why so many Orthodox Jews have developed a sense of gratitude to President Trump for acting in a manner much more supportive towards Israel than his predecessor? Whether it be moving the embassy to Jerusalem, getting out of the Iran Deal or declaring the settlements legal, American supporters of Israel can sleep at night knowing their president is protecting the Jewish state. Members of our community are absolutely justified in using this as a reason to support President Trump, especially when one considers the growing trend of anti-Israel rhetoric currently emanating from some of the Democratic presidential candidates and the liberal establishment in general.   

Regarding social policy, it is this president who has appointed nearly 200 Conservative judges, including Supreme Court Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, who are committed to stopping the disturbing tide of anti-religious sentiment fostering from the left. This is an issue that means a great deal to those in the Orthodox community who are highly concerned with the full-throated embrace of gay marriage and abortion on demand that has become accepted dogma among the Democratic party.

Another issue that has been discussed in numerous communities is the high cost of yeshiva tuition. President Trump and the Republican Party favor vouchers and charter schools. This will ease the burden for Jewish families struggling to pay day school tuition for their children. To show his seriousness on the issue, President Trump named Betsy DeVos, a woman who has championed charter schools her whole career, to head the Department of Education. The vociferousness with which her nomination was opposed by the Democratic party is indicative of yet one more issue in which the interests of the current Democratic Party do not line up with those held by many Orthodox Jews.

To end where I began, we should strive to live lives of integrity and decency, and not aspire to many of the character traits practiced by our current president. But the same could also be said about many of his political opponents, and that’s something their voters ought to be told as well.

When one combines that fact with the numerous policies emanating from this administration that are benefiting the Jewish community, it is clear why so many Orthodox Jews support this president and will enthusiastically vote for his reelection. 

Noah Pollack, Yeshiva College ‘11