President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Jan. 29. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Back story behind the Holocaust statement proves Trump’s a mensch


It turns out, according to today’s JTA, that the Holocaust Statement was written — all or mostly — by Boris Ephsteyn, a strongly identifying American Jew, of Russian Jewish ethnicity, who is in the Trump inner circle and who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors.

I shall now place myself in Trump’s place, and I invite you to so so.  I am a chief executive, and I want to issue a statement on Cesar Chavez Day, so I ask a trusted advisor who also is Chicano to handle the statement.  Or I ask an African American close advisor to draft my Martin Luther King Day statement.  He or she gives it to me.  I read it.  It seems very sensitive.  So I approve it. We issue it to the public.

Then it turns out that I did not catch some nuance that would be uniquely sensitive to the group in question.  It did not say “Jewish” in the otherwise-meaningful statement that remembered and mourned the loss and suffering of the Holocaust victims.  Remember — here, I am in Trump’s shoes:  As a non-Jew who associates the Holocaust with the murder of Six Million Jews, I took it for granted that the statement mourned Jewish Holocaust victims. It never occurred to me that it was flawed because it left out the word “Jewish.” Just as with my other two examples: The Cesar Chavez statement did not say something that a Chicano would expect, or the MLK statement omitted some word that an African American would expect. Like, I don’t know — does the statement have to include the phrase “We Shall Overcome”?  Or is it sufficient if it condemns racism, bigotry, hate, and division?  Well, the Chicano or African American who is so close to me, whose wisdom and counsel I value, wrote it, and it seemed sensitive, so I approved it, and it was issued.

And now I am under a torrent of criticism descending on me — from vipers who criticize my every breath every day, constantly suspecting the most evil of motives no matter what I do or say.

One choice I have: I can dump on Boris Epshteyn.  I can point fingers at him, blame him, maybe even force him to apologize publicly. Maybe even fire him. Even publicly.

But that is not Trump’s way.

Interestingly, despite Trump’s unbelievably boorish side — as in the debates, horribly so — Trump curiously has another side: he somehow also is an incredible mensch, a really nice guy, and he rewards loyalty with loyalty.  Remember how he stood by the speech writer who gave Melania that speech plagiarized from Michelle Obama?  How he stood by Corey Lewandowski after that incident with the reporter in the crowd whom Lewandowski perhaps touched? People expected that speechwriter to be fired; she even handed in her resignation.  However, Trump stood by her.  And he has stood by Lewandowski, through and through.  Just watch Lewandowski talk about Trump on CNN or Fox.

Trump stands by his people.  He will not feed his people to the wolves, even when they mess up, even when their error embarrasses him personally, just to protect himself.  He feels he has strong shoulders, and he can carry the load, no matter what hits.

Not all executives are like that, but many believe that you get the best results for the long term when your team knows that the boss has their backs as long as they demonstrate loyalty, are well beyond competent, and as long as they truly do their best.  I had that experience with a boss once.  I once made a mistake in a law position that caused him a bit of embarrassment.  He knew it was my mistake, and — oh my! — I knew it even more so.  He never said a negative word to me about it.  He acted publicly, when others tittered, as though it had been his error.  When I apologized about it later, he made a light joke about it — “I guess you were spending too much time last night studying the Talmud, Rabbi.”  That was it.  Today, 23 years later, I feel such an incredible loyalty to him, as do all others who ever worked for him.  We love him.  We would do anything for him.

That is a leadership style.  Not everyone agrees with that style — In the large law firms where I worked, many nasty partners lived by an alternative credo that, if you let a subordinate get away with making any mistake, he or she will be careless all the time forevermore.

In the end, for those who are willing to view the recent Holocaust Statement Imbroglio without a bias, the disclosure by JTA that Boris Ephteyn wrote the Holocaust Statement actually is to Trump’s praise.  No one has made this observation yet.  I think it worth noting.  He has absorbed the blame and has taken the pot shots — particularly from the usual critics and Democrat Party hacks — for a statement that one of his Jewish advisors drafted.

At least on this one, his critics owe Donald trump an apology.


Rabbi Dov Fischer, an attorney and adjunct professor of law, is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County and holds and has held prominent leadership roles in several national rabbinic and other Jewish organizations including Rabbinical Council of America and Zionist Organization of America. He formerly was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review and thereafter clerked for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

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