A deafening silence from the Jewish Federation

Los Angeles Jewish Federation building

For at least the past half century, Los Angeles has had active Jewish community organizations that often spoke with one voice, took stands, ventured into politically risky territory and helped mark Jews as a force to be reckoned with on the community relations and political scenes.

Today, that is not the case.

The Jewish community’s umbrella organization, the Jewish Federation, remains deafeningly silent on an issue that is high on the list of major concerns of most Jews—the actions and words of the Trump administration.

We know that if there is any group in society that should be wary of a leader who exhibits the traits of Trump, it is us. The history of the twentieth century sets off our antennae and ought to make action natural, reflexive and immediate. 

Over past decades, the authors of this piece were active participants in meetings, demonstrations, legislation, community events and forming alliances that were meaningful benchmarks on the path to Los Angeles becoming the diverse, vibrant and accepting environment that it is. Avoiding tough issues, running from controversy, or fearing internecine backlashes were not how we operated.

Whether it was engaging minority communities in contentious, but civil, debates over affirmative action and preferences in the 1970s or reaching out to neighbors and allies to cobble together opposition to police abuse and the resurgent Klans and Aryan Nations in the 1980s and 1990s, or creating roundtables and coalitions with Muslims, Latinos and African Americans in the 1990s and 2000s—we knew that our fate was intertwined with those of others; parochial self-absorption was not the prevailing ethos, for us, or for others.

It was not without thought that in the early 90s, as Operation Desert Storm began, Jewish leaders (at a time when passions related to the war and Muslims were high) spoke out against potential hate that “might” be directed at our Muslim neighbors. Some in our community were unhappy (“what’s the need?”) but it was the right and proper thing to do and we did it; to remain silent was seen as an abdication of our leadership responsibility.

There is little doubt that were a politician to have surfaced over the past forty years who pilloried minority groups, maligned immigrants as racists and thugs, promoted conspiracy theories that historically were the stock-in-trade of racists and bigots, and scorned reason, data and facts—-protests from the Jewish community would have been thunderous in warning of the danger to our democracy, to the fabric of the community and to ourselves. The non-profit leadership of this community would have been vocal, visible and busy organizing in opposition. 

Today, the absence of a unified Jewish community leadership protesting President Trump’s incendiary comments on myriad topics, including his targeting of minority groups and immigrants, is shocking.

The Jewish Federation in particular, the community umbrella, has remained appallingly silent on Trump’s order restricting the admission of refugees [ironically, they answer critics by pointing out what they did on behalf of Jewish refugees] and his manifest contempt for civility, reasoned arguments and facts.

Whether it is due to Trump’s perceived support for Israel’s prime minister, or a fear of angering conservative major donors, the silence is inexplicable (nearly ¾ of Jews supported Clinton nationally, considerably higher locally).

Leadership demands that one take a stand on vital issues that may not be perceived as essential to one’s mission—protesting on core issues is easy; that’s self-preservation, not leadership. Leadership asks that you recognize threats where others may not see them and then act, even if at a cost.

Where is the overarching community voice willing to condemn the blatant lying, paranoia, undermining of decency, consorting with bigots and bigotry, and targeting of minorities that will, ultimately, harm us all? Do we get lulled into indolence because we are not today’s target? Why are LA’s Jews compelled to start new grass roots organizations to protest Trump (such as Jews United for Democracy and Justice which garnered over 2,200 supporters in just a few weeks) when the armatures for action already exist?

The silence from “6505” is deafening especially in a week when three leading conservative pundits have all parted company with the prevaricator-in-chief and described him as either “irrational bordering on mental illness”(Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal), or as the “most reckless, feckless, and malevolent president in the country’s history” (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine), or admonished Republicans to not “define lunacy down” (Michael Gerson, The Washington Post).

Stephens, Sullivan and Gerson all have readers, long-time admirers and fee-generating organizations that they have angered and alienated because of their courage—but they spoke out nonetheless.

In Los Angeles there is no over-arching Jewish community voice speaking clearly and unambiguously about the all too obvious dangers, just a troublesome silence. The warning signs are everywhere, where is the leadership?


David Lehrer is president of Community Advocates Inc., a Los Angeles-based human relations organization, and headed the Anti-Defamation League in L.A. from 1986 to 2002. George T. Caplan was The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles president from 1988 to 1990. Steven Windmueller, professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, headed Federation’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) from 1985 to 1995. Rabbi Laura Geller, rabbi emerita of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, was director of the American Jewish Congress in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1994. Michael Hirschfeld headed the CRC from 1994 to 2003.

Standing Together Against Anti-Semitism

The Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue in Seattle was hit with anti-Semitic spraypaint. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

There is a midrash that, when standing at Sinai to receive the Torah, each person received their own personal revelation but responded in one voice, saying, “Na’aseh v’nishma” — “We will do and we will hear.” It is in that exquisite moment that we became one People. Each of us is an individual, but we — and our fate — are inextricably linked, and we are each responsible for one another.

 The Jewish community today is under attack, with more than 148 terrorist threats to our institutions in more than 30 different communities. Hate-filled vandalism and desecration of our sacred places are being perpetrated to wreak havoc and instill fear. Whenever the Jewish community is threatened in such a vile and insidious way, na’aseh v’nishma — we must stand together to face the challenges of the day in a decisive and powerful way. We may come from different vantage points, denominations, walks of life — we may differ from each other in a thousand ways — but nothing compares to that which unites us. This has been true throughout our history as a Jewish People. 

Now we are putting that shared bond to work on behalf of the entire community. As Jewish organizations of all stripes, we will not stand idly by where there is need, and we will certainly not stand idly by while our people and institutions are terrorized. We are all stronger when we work together. 

In the past few weeks since these threats have magnified in number and scope, Jewish Federations have been active on several fronts:

1)  Local Federations are serving as conveners to bring institutions and leadership together to respond to specific threats and attacks, develop plans to expand security resources and mobilize gatherings where appropriate to demonstrate solidarity. Our JCCs have faced significant challenges with calm and determination, and we salute all of their efforts as well.

 2) Through our Secure Community Network (SCN), we are working with federal officials in law enforcement and homeland security to aid investigations of bomb threats and cemetery desecrations. We are grateful to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement, all of whom have been our partners in facing this challenge.

3) Working with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders and other coalition partners, JFNA is working toward a dramatic expansion of funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps nonprofit groups in religious and ethnic communities targeted by hate crimes.

4) Within the next few weeks we will be enabling every Federation to implement a new, powerful and cost-efficient emergency notification system to link them with the leadership of local Jewish institutions and organizations to enable immediate response to crisis situations.

5) We are working in lock-step collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations, communicating daily and leveraging our shared resources and vast reach.

6) JFNA will be convening with the JCC Association of North America, Hillel International, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools and the Foundation for Jewish Camp to ensure coordination of efforts and best practices among these critical national organizations, which serve the widest spectrum of communal agencies affected by these threats and attacks.

 We will not be deterred or distracted by infighting or petty grievances. We will stay the course and guarantee that when our family, friends and neighbors participate in the wonderful mosaic that is Jewish life, they will find the meaning, community and security they seek.

 Na’aseh v’nishma — standing together as one.

 Richard Sandler is chair of the Board of Trustees and Jerry Silverman is president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America

In attacking the media, Trump is reaching the limit

President Donald Trump on Feb. 24. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Over the last two years, President Donald Trump didn’t make any attempt to disguise his disdain of the media. The paradox is that Trump is a creation of the media. He understood the importance of free media attention when he moved from Brooklyn to New York in the late 1970s. In “The Art of the Deal,” for example, he extols the value of The New York Times in helping him get noticed and stand out from the crowd.

 It is only recently that we hear Trump use the term “fake news”. Indeed, there is branch of journalism, the satirical media (Charlie Hebdo was part of it), that creates fake news to criticize the actions of Governments or any other authority. This has been a long tradition in democracies and it is part of what makes a free press. The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo demonstrates how a free and tolerant press threatens intolerance. I doubt this is what Mr Trump refers to when he accuses the press of spreading “fake news.” 

 What I think Trump refers to is a new trend that has emerged in recent months. Some individuals invent stories out of whole cloth and disseminate them over the Internet for the sole purpose of misinforming. You could argue that it is a fine line between satiric stories and fake news, but in my opinion, this is a thick line. When reading satire, you know immediately that the author is mocking and twisting reality for the purpose of making a point. When reading a fake news article, such as the one on Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump, there are no signs that what you are reading is false. It is presented as a credible account and is specifically designed to mislead the reader.

Calling CNN “fake news” is cynical and destructive. As much as I was a critic of President Obama, he never accused Fox News of spreading “fake news”. Both media outlets scrutinize the powers that be, and each can be somewhat biased. In a mature democracy, it is up to the viewer to make up his own mind and account for that bias. But even though an issue is presented through the human lens of a journalist, it is not designed with the intention to mislead.

The great irony, of course, is that Trump himself is the king of fake news. To cite just a few examples, during his campaign, he said time and again that American Muslims were dancing in the streets of New Jersey after the 9/11 attack. He doubled and triple down on this fake story. There are no records of such dances. He accused Obama of being a Kenyan Muslim who never attended Columbia University. He accused Ted Cruise’s father of being involved in a plot to assassinate President Kennedy. During one of the debates he said that vaccine causes Autism …and on and on.

Of course, he never called his own fake news “fake news” because he saw it as helpful to his agenda. Now that the actual news is not helpful to his agenda, it’s a logical step in his narcissistic mind to demean it as “fake news.” In other words, any news that he doesn’t see as helpful automatically becomes fake. This is not just reckless, it’s dangerous.

Trump is trying to blur the lines between honest reporting, commentary, satire and normal bias. By calling it all fake, he is painting the whole media enterprise with a dark and cynical brush and undermining one of the main pillars of democracy.

As Karl Popper wrote, the ability of a free media to scrutinize the powers that be is the principle tenet of all open societies. Weakening the media ensures less scrutiny, and, ultimately, less transparency and a greater likelihood of corruption, intolerance and injustice.

One month into his presidency, Trump has reached a crossroad. Either he finds a constructive way to deal with the media, in which case he joins the long tradition of American presidents as a champion of the democratic free world, or he continues in his present approach and becomes the first U.S. President who can longer claim to be the leader of the “free” world. That would be a lot worse than fake news.

Albert Dadon  is an Australian businessman, philanthropist and musician.

Burned in the ovens, drowned at sea, rammed by vehicles, bombed to pieces or marched to death. Where does the world want Jews – or any of us – today?

A photoshopped image showing a depiction of ‘me’ at a concentration camp with a yellow ‘Jude’ star, originally published on a neo-Nazi website and disseminated widely.

I walked into a concentration camp in Germany – and I walked out. A Jewish woman leaving a Nazi camp defies the odds and realities of millions of human beings.

“If you are done with the alt-right you filthy kike, then fuck off to Israel or just get into the oven. Problem solved.” A man wrote me those words, which I read before coming face to face with the crematorium at a Nazi concentration camp in Germany, the very ovens where bodies of millions of Jews were incinerated.

I found myself unexpectedly terrorized, shaken to my core — a horrific feeling that resurges upon hearing of or seeing the now near-daily occurrences of anti-Semitism and hate crimes. Never did I imagine visiting a concentration camp. Despite being born to a Jewish mother, I had zero desire and felt no family connection to the Holocaust. But there I found myself in Sachsenhausen: standing trapped within barbed wire and walls, fighting the most intense bone chill of my life, losing hope in humanity and in myself.

On the heels of hearing a German parliamentarian negate that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe or worldwide, a cab driver affirm that Jews were responsible for 9/11, and a former neo-Nazi quote an Austrian military officer in saying his radical political beliefs would have been welcome had they won the war, I felt paralyzed – staring into the ovens in search of answers, of lessons, of direction.

Still, I walked out through the gates of the concentration camp on my own two feet – because I could. Because I can. I retraced the fatal footsteps of 35,000 prisoners who were forced through that very same gate on a now infamous Death March. Even late in World War II, when it was clear that the Nazis were soon to fall to Allied powers, no one stopped to help the fragile souls in the streets of local towns.

Houses were eerily close to the camp, adjacent to its walls, lining the perimeter, second story windows above the tops of the stone barriers. Residents cannot say they did not know what was happening, smell the burning corpses, note the ash falling from the sky, hear the screams of death, see the human beings forcibly marched by their doors.

Along one border of Sachsenhausen lie former SS barracks. This very building where Nazi forces who tortured and murdered tens of thousands trained, restocked and strategized is now a training ground for modern day German state police.

“They don’t see any connection between what was and what is now,” my tour guide responded, when I asked whether anyone recognized or vocalized the troublesome nature of that fact.

I found her statement to be particularly terrifying. While the stories are far from identical, if we do not learn from history, it is doomed to repeat. I am ever reluctant to equate anything with the Holocaust and agree wholeheartedly with the statement by Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, in response to President Trump’s tweet asking if we were living in Nazi Germany. “No one should cavalierly draw analogies to Nazi Germany, especially the next leader of free world. It is not only a ridiculous comparison on the merits, but it also coarsens our discourse and diminishes the horror of the Holocaust. The President-elect should apologize for the remark.”

We now find ourselves alive at a dramatically different moment in time – though striking similarities to 1930s and 1940s Germany continue to plague me in the form of troubling questions.

The Holocaust did not begin with death camps and gas chambers. We say “never again,” but are we doing enough to combat the perilous rise in anti-Semitism, extremism, racism, nativism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacy, isolationism, the list goes on?

Our country denied entry to the St. Louis during World War II; the majority aboard the ship were returned to Europe, where 254 Jews died. A young girl named Anne Frank was refused a visa to the United States; she perished in Nazi concentration camps at the hands of the very perpetrators she was attempting to escape. Is issuing a rash Executive Order to close our borders, ban refugees, and suspend visas to those fleeing veritable religious, ethnic and political persecution and violence the answer?

On Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) in November of 1938, many thousands of synagogues, as well as Jewish homes, schools and businesses were damaged and destroyed throughout Germany. Gravestones in countless Jewish cemeteries were overturned and desecrated. Just yesterday, eleven bomb threats evacuated Jewish centers in cities across the country, while over one hundred headstones were toppled or damaged at a St. Louis Jewish cemetery, violently uprooting peaceful, prayerful places of rest. How does a country, a people, a government, law enforcement respond to this latest act of violence in a string of anti-Semitic hate crimes, which make up the largest portion of religiously-motivated attacks in the US today?

“I was just following orders” was a claim made by many Nazis in attempt to defend the indefensible during the Nuremberg trials – and lies at the heart of an ongoing, widespread debate about what does or does not constitute a war crime. Are there not parallels between that and the President of the United States justifying his spreading of lies by saying, “I was given that information” by some other actor?

Government-ordered military deportation forces once rounded up millions of children and adults, permanently ripping apart families. The current administration is/was considering mobilizing as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, per an 11-page draft memo obtained by the Associated Press. Should any such action ever be put into motion, what is the best way to protect and defend the mental and physical safety of the most vulnerable, the minorities, the targeted in our own cities and towns – such that young people aren’t hiding terrified in attics?

The Nazis rose to power in 1933, as anti-Semitism surged. Anti-Jewish laws were enacted, death camps operationalized, professionals barred from service, work or practice, immigration restricted, synagogues destroyed, shops looted, students expelled from schools, masses forced into ghettos and deported, and six million murdered by 1945. Jews were far from the sole group persecuted: gay and lesbians, political opposition, Gypsies, physically or mentally disabled, communists, priests, the list goes on of other groups targeted because of race, action or belief.

“Fire up the ovens,” countless people have told me – in emails and across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. “You’re the oven-dodging kike who doesn’t belong in America but in Hell,” I heard, reinforcing the idea that I do not belong in the country in which I was born, in which I am a citizen, in which I have created a life.

Where do they want me? Want us? Where do we turn? Where do we go from here?

I have never been more acutely aware of the fact that I am Jewish than at this moment in history, with the newfound spike in anti-Semitism and hate crimes throughout the campaign season and since the election of the new President.

When asked about the impact of his campaign rhetoric on spiking anti-Semitism in a recent press conference, Trump somehow responded by congratulating himself on his election victory margins – and stated that he knew Jewish people, including his son, daughter, and grandchildren without addressing the topic at all. When asked about how his administration plans to respond to the undeniable surge in anti-Semitism at a subsequent press conference, he responded by calling the Jewish reporter’s question unfair, saying he hated it and found it insulting, and instructed him to sit down without offering any answer whatsoever – aside from blaming the press. Trump called himself the “least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” though refuses to outright condemn by name, show up alongside, step up to protect the targeted, or order an investigation of the spike in hatred, hate-fueled violence and hate crimes against Jews or other peoples; the President and Administration are deafeningly and dangerously silent on anti-Semitism.

An unprecedented 67 bomb threats have been phoned in to 56 Jewish centers across 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of the year has barely made headlines, yet invoked a paralyzing fear and terror in thousands of families, staff and community members of all faiths. A truck purposefully running over young Jews in Israel made the news cycle briefly. New Yorkers discovering and erasing swastikas from subway cars was a feel good story spotlighted for but a moment. A Chicago synagogue defaced with swastikas and a broken window is barely even searchable online.

How many swastikas is too many? One. How many slurs? How many hate crimes?

We ignore, deny, trivialize and understate horrors and attempt to normalize discrimination or hate speech until there is no possible alternative, until we find ourselves at the entrance of a death camp – metaphorically or in reality. We must remain vigilant and stay sensitized to both language and action, subtle and overt, specifics and generalizations, popular sentiment and government policies.

As a Jew, I should not have walked out of that camp alive. I should have died within its walls, succumb to the most debilitating bone chill of my life, toiled until my body collapsed, withered away without adequate nutrition. But I did not. And I will not.

I said Kaddish for those who were murdered in death camps, for those who have been victims of crimes against humanity, for those who perish as the world watches, be it in Aleppo, in Chicago or in the Philippines. This is not solely about Jews, rather all of us, people of color, religious or ethnic minorities, the persecuted, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the needy, the victimized, the marginalized.

Who will be the next ones rounded up from their homes? Sent to camps? Targeted by hatred? Decimated in a genocide?

I want to be able to say that I would have been there to cross the bridge in Selma with Martin Luther King and John Lewis, that I would have been at the Salt March with Gandhi, that I would have been the one to harbor my Jewish neighbors when the Nazis came. So I stand, I speak, I march with my fellow females at the Women’s March, with my black and brown brothers and sisters in the streets of our cities, with my indigenous and native family at Standing Rock, with the immigrants and refugees who make our country what it is at the airports, with my LGBT community at Pride.

I am for myself and my Jewish people, as I am for others. Because this is our continuous struggle for justice – for our humanity, our dignity, our future.

Erin Schrode is an American social entrepreneur, environmental and human rights activist, speaker, brand consultant and Democratic Party Congressional candidate.

Trump, Bannon and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

White House senior advisor Steve Bannon attends as U.S. President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was an early example of fake news originating in Russia that has inspired anti-Semites and ignited anti-Semitism for over 100 years. Now, that revolting ideology may have found a new home in the White House.

First published in Russia in 1903, the forged document was quickly translated into many languages. The document purports to be an account of a late 19th-century meeting (which of course never took place) where Jewish leaders allegedly discussed their goal of global domination. Their means to world control would be through subverting the morals of non-Jews and by controlling the international press and the world’s economies. Sound familiar?

The influence of this infamous libel was far-reaching. Henry Ford financed the printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the United States in the 1920s. The Nazis used the Protocols to stir up hatred against the Jews. Despite being conclusively proven to be a forgery as early as 1921, it is still widely available today in many countries and languages as well as on the Internet and continues to be presented by some as genuine.

This early Russian foray into the invention of fake facts is interesting in light of what’s happening today. The spiritual heir of the original forgers is President Putin who during last year’s US presidential election authorized a flood of lies, smears, inventions, distortions and slanders designed to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and help the election of Donald Trump. It’s hard to measure how much influence this had but one fact is clear – Trump and not Clinton is President today.

Trump’s chief White House strategist is Steve Bannon, the former head of the alt-right Breitbart News which has become notorious for its use of anti-Semitic tropes, many harking back to the same themes as those of the Protocols.

For example, during Bannon’s reign over Breitbart, the website ran articles referring to conservative commentator Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum as “a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.” The theme was that Jews have allegiance not to any one nation but only to each other.

After Bannon joined Trump’s presidential campaign, it too started flirting with anti-Semitic tropes, including tweeting an image of a star of David with Hillary Clinton’s face superimposed on a pile of money. His closing ad warned of a shadowy cabal of bankers and international elites, several of whom had Jewish names. These were words that could have been copied verbatim from the Protocols.

Once in the White House, it didn’t take long for Bannon to make his mark. The administration issued a statement on international Holocaust Day that contained no mention of the Jews. Of course, Holocaust denial is a staple of far-right neo-Nazi movements worldwide. It’s hard to make people hate the Jews when they feel sorry for them. Therefore it’s necessary to erase any sympathy people might have for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

When Jewish groups objected to being airbrushed from history, the Trump administration doubled down. The White House made it clear that the omission of Jews was no accident. Trump’s people wanted to make the point that other victims also suffered and died in the Holocaust.

Trump appears to have thoroughly absorbed the lessons taught to him by Putin, who himself draws of decades of lies and distortion put forward by the various rulers of the former Soviet Union and Tsarist Empire. Now Trump claims that any polls showing opposition to him are fake. On Feb 6, he tweeted: “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.” His adviser Kellyanne Conway referred to a “massacre” of Americans in Bowling Green, Kentucky which simply never happened. Yet Conway spoke of the lives of American troops lost as if it were a real event.

If the history of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion teaches us anything, it should be to be very wary and very fearful. Lies can have immense staying power. They can lead to extreme suffering and destruction. They can help pull the entire world into war and place the existence of an entire people under threat. They are especially dangerous when promoted by national leaders like Trump and Putin with almost unlimited access to the media and other means of communication at their disposal. They must be resisted at every turn. We have faith that the truth will eventually out – but it won’t unless we fight to make it so.

The author is Special Adviser to the President of J Street

The intellectual incoherence of Jared Kushner, and what it teaches us about Jewish Trump supporters

Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner arrive at inauguration ceremonies swearing in of President Donald Trump. Jan. 20. Carlos Barria/REUTERS

On July 6, 2016 Jared Kushner took to the pages of his New York Observer, determined to prove once and for all that his father-in-law was neither an anti-Semite nor a racist. It had been one day since Donald Trump had sought to demonstrate that his opponent was “corrupt” by tweeting an image of her face beside a Star of David and wads of American currency. A month earlier, he had said that Mexican parentage made a judge unfit to rule on a Trump-related lawsuit.

Facing an uphill battle, Kushner did what any Trump acolyte would do with no evidence to support a claim: talked about something else. In the op-ed, Kushner told the harrowing story of his grandmother’s escape from Poland, where her brother and sister had been murdered by the Third Reich. Kushner chose to publish this narrative during the fervor of the campaign, he wrote, to verify his credentials for distinguishing “between actual, dangerous intolerance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points.”

Donald Trump could not conceivably be anti-Semitic, Kushner was suggesting, because his son-in-law’s grandparents had survived the Holocaust.

Of course, it’s a false dichotomy. Kushner was implying that Trump could not at once be an anti-Semite and the father-in-law of someone descended from Holocaust survivors. But the two are not intrinsically connected.

Kushner’s second fallacy is his claim of unqualified authority. Just as my grandfather’s experience as a uniform salesman does not give me the expertise to advise a potential uniform-buyer, Jared Kushner’s family history—painful, true, and affecting as it is—does not end the debate on Donald Trump’s history of racism.

Misleading information from the Trump inner circle isn’t remarkable. An army of logicians working overtime and weekends would miss half the fallacies peddled by Trump and his surrogates. But Kushner’s complicity in the rise of Trumpism is significant because it is one instance in broader phenomenon: the willful cognitive dissonance happening in right-wing American Jewish circles.

While over 70 percent of Jews voted against Trump in November, more than a small handful of major Jewish institutions and leaders have backed his policy agenda. On the morning of November 9, 2016, the Republican Jewish Coalition released a rhapsody to Trump, saying in a press release that the group “could not be happier” with the election results. Within the month, the Zionist Organization of America had invited Steve Bannon—Trump’s white nationalist senior advisor—to receive an honor at its annual gala.

December marked the Hanukkah party of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, held at the newly minted Trump Hotel in Washington. In the new year, Rabbi Marvin Hier, who leads the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, offered a prayer at the inauguration. And last week, World Jewish Congress president Ron Lauder said the White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day “appropriately commemorates” the genocide, in spite of the administration’s deliberate decision to make no mention of Jews.

On a pragmatic level, these choices are self-defeating. For instance, the decision of a Jewish group to honor an influential anti-Semitic propagandist for his “pro-Israel” stance is like lighting a stick of dynamite in your home in the hope that it will keep you warm.

On an intellectual level, these choices are incoherent. Jewish support for Trump is the result of a one-dimensional reading of Jewish history and its contemporary implications.

The reading sounds like this: Jews, as an ethnic group, can only be kept safe from mass brutality if there is a strong Jewish state. A strong Jewish state is sturdiest when it is employing conservative policies and maintaining an occupation. Likud and the Israeli right are championed by Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had a tenuous relationship with Barack Obama and has been propped up, almost unconditionally, by Republicans. The Republican standard bearer is now Trump.

This syllogism—the premises of which are rooted in unresolved trauma—holds that Donald Trump is our best bet at ethnic endurance.

There is morbid hypocrisy in using the survival of a long-persecuted group as the pretext for backing this president; Trump’s first week in office heralds the erosion of that very ethic.

In his eagerness to exploit his family’s oppression narrative to exonerate his father-in-law, Jared Kushner has both permitted and embraced Trump’s warped version of tokenism, in which the President’s proximity to a person who holds a marginalized identity serves as a panacea to any suspicions of ill will toward other people who carry that same identity. If Kushner continues to suggest that this, in itself, isn’t “actual, dangerous intolerance,” he is either severely misguided, or he is lying.

Kushner isn’t a flawless case study for understanding the motivations of Jewish support for Trump. It’s clear that he has other potent forces acting on him, like a familial relationship with the president, the proximity to power, and a desire to consolidate more of it. But the defense he has mounted highlights the lapses in reason that have led some American Jews to stand with the paranoid and vengeful agenda of this White House.

Jewish support for Trump isn’t just immoral—it is nonsensical. One must wonder whether Kushner and the heads of these other groups have the rational capacity to extrapolate and use the lessons of our past as warnings for someone else’s future, or our own.

Ami Fields-Meyer is a 2016-2017 Fellow in Public Affairs at the Coro New York Leadership Center.