June 17, 2019

Why Can’t Some Jews Say Thank You?

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

You would think that a Jewish group would be happy to hear the leader of the free world stand up during his State of the Union address and say things like:

“We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed. With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”

And remind the world that just months ago, “11 Jewish-Americans were viciously murdered in an anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” and welcome Pittsburgh survivor Judah Samet, who “arrived at the synagogue as the massacre began.”

“But not only did Judah narrowly escape death last fall,” the president added, “more than seven decades ago, he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps.”

The president went from anti-Semitism to the Pittsburgh tragedy to the Holocaust:

“Judah says he can still remember the exact moment, nearly 75 years ago, after 10 months in a concentration camp, when he and his family were put on a train, and told they were going to another camp. Suddenly the train screeched to a halt. A soldier appeared. Judah’s family braced for the worst. Then, his father cried out with joy, ‘it’s the Americans.’”

The president wasn’t done with the Jews:

“A second Holocaust survivor who is here tonight, Joshua Kaufman, was a prisoner at Dachau. He remembers watching through a hole in the wall of a cattle car as American soldiers rolled in with tanks. ‘To me,’ Joshua recalls, ‘the American soldiers were proof that God exists, and they came down from the sky. They came down from heaven.’”

As I was hearing the president go on about the Jews, I was almost embarrassed at all the attention. Will others be resentful or envious? But the president still wasn’t done:

“I began this evening by honoring three soldiers who fought on D-Day in the Second World War. One of them was Herman Zeitchik. But there is more to Herman’s story. A year after he stormed the beaches of Normandy, Herman was one of those American soldiers who helped liberate Dachau.

“He was one of the Americans who helped rescue Joshua from that hell on Earth. Almost 75 years later, Herman and Joshua are both together in the gallery tonight — seated side-by-side, here in the home of American freedom. Herman and Joshua, your presence this evening is very much appreciated. Thank you very much.”

So, why am I quoting so extensively from the Jewish section of the speech? Because right after the speech, I received this statement from the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) in response to the State of the Union Address:

“At a time when our country is in need of unity and leadership, President Trump delivered a divisive message characterized by fear and empty words.

Tonight was a missed opportunity for the president to lead and unify the country after a painful period of obstruction and a 35-day government shutdown. There is no onslaught of immigrants or security crisis on our southern border, and the U.S. military must not be used for political purposes. We reject the president’s ongoing obfuscation of the truth.

Trump’s continued insistence on an unnecessary border wall demonstrates that he is out of step with a bipartisan consensus in Congress, the will of the American people, and our core national security interests. Actions speak louder than words, and President Trump’s actions have been completely inconsistent with the best interests of our country and our values.

 In response to the president’s call for unity, we are unified in support of political change that will restore moral leadership and credibility to the White House, and our mission is more important now than ever before.”

Fair enough. Let’s grant, for the sake of discussion, that everything in this statement is true and justified. But why not one word of recognition of the president’s passionate mention of Jewish suffering and the need to fight the disease of Jew hatred? I understand Trump hatred. I’m as aware as anyone about his many flaws.

But does that mean a Jewish group cannot even show a tiny little bissel of gratitude when the president says things that are good for the Jews?

Has extreme partisanship gone that extreme?