Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: President Trump’s Bigotry Has Gone Too Far

President Trump speaks a National Day of Prayer event in the White House Rose Garden on May 2, 2019, in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


You know the term “jumping the shark,” don’t you?

It comes from an episode of “Happy Days,” in which Fonzie water skies over a caged shark.

Ever since that memorable episode in American television history, “jumping the shark” has indicated the moment when something has simply gone too far — run out of steam, become too ludicrous, or has simply, well, jumped the shark. 

That is what has happened with President Trump’s bigotry. 

The other day, he proclaimed that freshman congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes should go back to the countries from which they came.

Then, he followed up with the statement that Rep. Omar “hates Israel” and “hates Jews, hates Jews. It’s very simple.”

Lindsey Graham supported the President’s statements.

He stated on “Fox and Friends”:

“Well, we all know that (New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country…They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

Then, the Republican Jewish Coalition announced that it agrees with Graham.

I should not need to write this, but here goes.

  • As for the suggestion that the congresswomen go back to their “own countries:”  For three of them — Pressley, Tlaib and AOC — those countries happen to be the United States of America — where they were born. To say that people should go back to an imagined somewhere is the very definition of nativism.
  • As for the suggestion that the congresswomen are Communists: I like 1950s nostalgia as much as the next person. But, I take my nostalgia in the form of doo wop, Buddy Holly, and Midge Maisel — not in the form of longing for Joseph McCarthy.
  • As for the suggestion that the congresswomen hate the United States: If wanting our country to live up to its best ideals means that you hate the United States…

Let me be clear.

Communism is evil.

So, too, was McCarthyism.

We must hold both of those truths, simultaneously, in our minds.

But, of course, it does not stop there.

This is also (surprise!) about the Jews and Israel.

Let us try to unpack this.

Does Rep. Omar hate Israel? At the very least, she is very critical of Israel and Israel’s policies.

Does she also “hate Jews?” Is it really “very simple?”

We can debate whether being “anti-Israel” is the same as being antisemitic.

Quite often, it is — especially if you link support for Israel with a desire for the “Benjamins,” implying that those who support Israel are doing it for the money — which is not only a slur, but also wildly and dangerously inaccurate.

The whole question of anti-Israel/antisemitic is actually irrelevant.

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Source: Religion News Service