Jewish historians speak out on the election of Donald Trump

As scholars of Jewish history, we are acutely attuned to the fragility of democracies and the consequences for minorities when democracies fail to live up to their highest principles.
November 15, 2016

As scholars of Jewish history, we are acutely attuned to the fragility of democracies and the consequences for minorities when democracies fail to live up to their highest principles.  The United States has a fraught history with respect to Native Americans, African Americans and other ethnic and religious minorities.  But this country was founded on ideals of liberty and justice and has made slow, often painful progress to achieve them by righting historic wrongs and creating equal rights and opportunities for all.  No group has been more fortunate in benefiting from this progress than American Jews.  Excluded by anti-Semitism from many professions and social organizations before the Second World War, Jews in the postwar period became part of the American majority, flourishing economically and politically and accepted socially.  There are now virtually no corners of American life to which Jews cannot gain entry.  But mindful of the long history of their oppression, Jews have often been at the forefront of the fight for the rights of others in this country.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s electoral victory, it is time to re-evaluate where the country stands. The election campaign was marked by unprecedented expressions of racial, ethnic, gender-based, and religious hatred, some coming from the candidate and some from his supporters, against Muslims, Latinos, women, and others.  In the days since the election, there have been numerous attacks on immigrant groups, some of which likely drew inspiration from the elevation of Mr. Trump to the presidency of the United States.

Hostility to immigrants and refugees strikes particularly close to home for us as historians of the Jews.  As an immigrant people, Jews have experienced the pain of discrimination and exclusion, including by this country in the dire years of the 1930s. Our reading of the past impels us to resist any attempts to place a vulnerable group in the crosshairs of nativist racism.  It is our duty to come to their aid and to resist the degradation of rights that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has provoked.

However, it is not only in defense of others that we feel called to speak out.  We witnessed repeated anti-Semitic expressions and insinuations during the Trump campaign.  Much of this anti-Semitism was directed against journalists, either Jewish or with Jewish-sounding names.  The candidate himself refused to denounce—and even retweeted–language and images that struck us as manifestly anti-Semitic.  By not doing so, his campaign gave license to haters of Jews, who truck in conspiracy theories about world Jewish domination.

We condemn unequivocally those agitators who have ridden Trump’s coattails to propagate their toxic ideas about Jews. More broadly, we call on all fair-minded Americans to condemn unequivocally the hateful and discriminatory language and threats that have been directed by him and his supporters against Muslims, women, Latinos, African-Americans, disabled people, LGBT people and others. Hatred of one minority leads to hatred of all. Passivity and demoralization are luxuries we cannot afford. We stand ready to wage a struggle to defend the constitutional rights and liberties of all Americans. It is not too soon to begin mobilizing in solidarity.

Mika Ahuvia, University of Washington
Allan Amanik, Brooklyn College of CUNY
Karen Auerbach, Brandeis University
Leora Auslander, University of Chicago
Eugene M. Avrutin, University of Illinois
Carol Bakhos, UCLA
Shirly Bahar, New York University
Omer Bartov, Brown University
Orit Bashkin, University of Chicago
Leora Batnitzky, Princeton University
Ela Bauer, Haifa University
Albert Baumgarten, Bar Ilan University
Elisheva Baumgarten, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Elissa Bemporad, Queens College
Joel B. Berkowitz, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Lila Berman, Temple University
Daniel Bessner, University of Washington
David Biale, University of California, Davis
Amos Bitzan, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Corinne E. Blackmer, Southern Connecticut State University
Jeffrey Blutinger, California State University, Long Beach
Miriam Bodian, University of Texas, Austin
Ra’anan Boustan, University of California, Los Angeles
Jonathan Aaron Boyarin, Cornell University
Ross Brann, Cornell University
Benjamin Braude, Smith College
Francesca Bregoli, Queens College
Jonathan Brent, YIVO Institute, Center for Jewish History
Adriana Brodsky, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
David Brodsky, Brooklyn College
Alexandra Carbarini, Williams College
Flora Cassen, UNC Chapel Hill
Bruno Chaouat, University of Minnesota
Julia Phillips Cohen, Vanderbilt University
Mark Cohen, Princeton University (Emeritus)
Shaye J.D. Cohen, Harvard University
Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College
Alon Confino, University of Virginia/Ben-Gurion University, Israel
Jessica Cooperman, Muhlenberg College
Erin Corber
Kierra Crago-Schneider, University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Sarah A. Cramsey, Tulane University
Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University (Emeritus)
Carolyn Dean, Yale University
Evelyn Dean-Olmsted, University of Puerto Rico
Rachel Deblinger, University of California, Santa Cruz
Nathalie Debrauwere-Miller, Vanderbilt University
Jonathan Decter, Brandeis University
Nathaniel Deutsch, University of California, Santa Cruz
Hasia Diner, New York University
Marc Dollinger, San Francisco State University
Glenn Dynner, Sarah Lawrence
Lois Dubin, Smith College
Arie Dubnow, University of Haifa
John Efron, University of California, Berkeley
Susan L. Einbinder, University of Connecticut
Ellen Eisenberg, Willamette University
Jonathan Elukin, Trinity College
Todd Endelman, University of Michigan
Marc Michael Epstein, Vassar College
David Feldman, University of London
Marcie Cohen Ferris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Steven Fine, Yeshiva University
Reuven Firestone, Hebrew Union College – USC
Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago
David Fishman, Jewish Theological Seminary
Arnold E. Franklin, Queens College
ChaeRan Freeze, Brandeis University
Joshua Furman, Rice University
Ziva Galili, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Eric L. Goldstein, Emory University
Allyson Gonzalez, Florida State University
Jaclyn Granick, University of Oxford
Rachel Greenblatt, University of Connecticut
Daniel Greene, Northwestern University
Ronnie Grinberg, University of Oklahoma
Shaun Halper, Yale University
Liora R. Halperin, University of Colorado
Alma Heckman, University of California, Santa Cruz
Kathryn Hellerstein, University of Pennsylvania
Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth University
Jonathan Hess, UNC Chapel Hill
Brian Horowitz, Tulane University
Martin Jacobs, Washington University at St. Louis
Ari Joskowicz, Vanderbilt University
Jonathan Judaken, Rhodes College
Robin Judd, Ohio State University
Dan Judson, The Hebrew College Rabbinical School
Marion Kaplan, New York University
Jonathan Karp, Binghamton University
Eran Kaplan, San Francisco State University
Brett Ashley Kaplan, University of Illinois
Ruth Mazo Karras, University of Minnesota
Verena Kasper-Marienberg, North Carolina State University
Samuel D. Kassow, Trinity College
Emil Kerenji, University of Maryland-Baltiimore Co.
Hillel Kieval, Washington University at St. Louis
Rebecca A. Kobrin, Columbia University
Rachel Kranson, University of Pittsburgh
Lawrence D. Kritzman, Dartmouth University
Nathaniel Kurz, University of London
Cecile E. Kuznitz, Bard College
Jacob Ari Labendz, Pennsylvania State University
Nitzan Lebovic, Lehigh University
Lisa Leff, American University
Matthias Lehmann, University of California, Irvine
Mordechai Levi-Eichel, Princeton University
James Loeffler, University of Virginia
Evyatar Marienberg, UNC Chapel Hill
Jessica Maya Marglin, University of Southern California
Devi Elizabeth Mays, University of Michigan
Julie Mell, North Carolina State University
Paul Mendes-Flohr, University of Chicago and Hebrew University
Michael A. Meyer, Hebrew Union College
Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin
Stuart S. Miller, University of Connecticut at Storrs
Yehudah Mirsky, Brandeis University
Pinchas Giller, American Jewish University
Susan Gilson Miller, University of California, Los Angeles
Regina Morantz-Sanchez, University of Michigan
David Myers, University of California, Los Angeles
Deborah Dash Moore, University of Michigan
Kenneth Moss, Johns Hopkins University
Devin Naar, University of Washington
Pamela S. Nadell, American University
Alice Nakhimovsky, Colgate University
Rachel Neis, University of Michigan
Philip Nord, Princeton University
Alexander Orbach, University of Pittsburgh
Avinoam Patt, University of Hartford
S.J. Pearce, New York University
Laurie Pearce, University of California, Berkeley
Derek Penslar, Harvard University
Ronnie Perelis, Yeshiva University
Eddy Portnoy, YIVO
Riv-Ellen Prell, U of Minnesota
Todd Presner, University of California, Los Angeles
Shari Rabin, College of Charleston
Simon Rabinovitch, Boston University
Sara Reguer, Brooklyn College
Bryan Roby, University of Michigan
Aron Rodrigue, Stanford University
Sven-Erik Rose, University of California, Davis
Mark Roseman, Indiana University
Kate Rosenblatt, University of Michigan
Jordan Rosenblum, University of Wisconsin
Gavriel Rosenfeld, Fairfield University
Marsha L. Rozenblit, University of Maryland
David Ruderman, University of Pennsylvania
Susan Rupp, Wake Forest University
Elisha Russ-Fishbane, New York University
Maurice Samuels, Yale University
Eric L. Santner, University of Chicago
Allison Schaechter, Vanderbilt University
Rachel Schley, Harvard University
David Schlitt, John Heinz History Center
Jonathan Schorsch, Potsdam University
Joshua Schreier, Vassar College
Daniel J. Schroeter, University of Minnesota
Daniel Schwartz, George Washington University
Seth Schwartz, Columbia University
Rhona Seidelman, The University of Oklahoma
Joshua M. Shanes, College of Charleston
Adam Shear, University of Pittsburgh
Eugene Sheppard, Brandeis University
Lisa Silverman, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
David Shneer, University of Colorado
Jeffrey Shoulson, University of Connecticut
David Sorkin, Yale University
Daniel Soyer, Fordham University
Ronit Stahl, University of Pennsylvian
David Stern, Harvard University
Sarah Abrevaya Stein, University of California, Los Angeles
Lior Sternfeld, Pennsylvania State University
Sarah Stroup, University of Washington
Claire E. Sufrin, Northwestern University
Jarrod Tanny, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Paola Tartakoff, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Adam Teller, Brown University
Magda Teter, Fordham University
Barry Trachtenberg, Wake Forest University
Katja Vehlow, University of South Carolina
Nick Underwood, University of Colorado, Boulder
Scott Ury, Tel Aviv University
Jeffrey Veidlinger, University of Michigan
Robert Weinberg, Swarthmore College
David Weinfeld, Virginia Commonwealth University
Dov Weiss, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Steven Weitzman, University of Pennsylvania
Beth Wenger, University of Pennsylvania
Rebecca Winer, Villanova University
Diane Wolf, University of California, Davis
Diane Wolfthal, Rice University
Mirjam Zadoff, Indiana University
Noam Zadoff, Indiana University
Sarah Zarrow, New Europe College
Jonathan Zatlin, Boston University
Yael Zerubavel, Rutgers University
Steven Zipperstein, Stanford University
Tamara Zwick, State University of New York, Albany

Additional signatures should be sent to David Biale (dbiale@ucdavis.edu).

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