Serious discussion of which candidate most deserves the support of Jewish voters should, I think, begin with the values of our tradition and what those values require of us.
Judaism obliges us, as part of our covenant with God, to help repair an imperfect world. At its core, that covenant, that obligation, means respecting and displaying love and kindness for other human beings, recognizing the central teaching of Judaism that all human beings have intrinsic dignity and are created in the image of God. For that reason, one simply cannot be a serious Jew without caring about those who are downtrodden — the stranger, the orphan, the widow, the poor.
If we take the values of Judaism seriously, Jewish voters should support Joe Biden for the same reasons all Americans should support him: Biden is a decent, compassionate man who shares our values, while Donald Trump plainly does not. Trump’s embrace of bigotry, race-baiting, xenophobia, corruption and cruelty jarringly clash with those values. Based on his nearly four years in office, it is impossible to conclude that Trump recognizes the intrinsic dignity of all human beings. Biden, on the other hand, exudes respect for others and concern for the downtrodden.
Trump also poses a genuine threat to American Jews. It is beyond dispute that Trump exploits white supremacy and antisemitism to his political advantage. Antisemites, white nationalists and neo-Nazis are drawn to him, and he welcomes and encourages their support. His 2016 campaign trafficked in antisemitic tropes and anti-Jewish stereotypes, and even now he accuses Jews who don’t support him of “dual loyalty.” Moreover, his top advisors include white nationalist Stephen Miller and neo-Nazi sympathizer Sebastian Gorka. It’s no coincidence that hate crimes and incidents targeting Jews and other minorities have increased dramatically since Trump took office.
How then can one explain the support Trump appears to enjoy among even a minority of Jews, especially Orthodox Jews? The explanation one hears most often is that Trump is strongly pro-Israel. But putting aside whether that alone justifies Jewish support for Trump, the fact is that Israel is actually worse off than it was four years ago. The Iran Deal was working, but Trump walked away while Iran was still in compliance. Then his “maximum pressure” strategy failed, his efforts at the U.N. to continue the arms embargo against Iran failed, and his efforts at the U.N. to snapback sanctions against Iran failed. Iran is closer to nuclear weapons than when Trump left the deal; his failures on Iran should be reason enough for anyone who cares about Israel to vote him out of office.
The accomplishments Trump touts on Israel are long on symbolism, short on substance, and have not made Israel safer or more secure. Israel’s security does not depend on where our embassy is or what we say about the Golan Heights. It depends on peace with the Palestinians, not peace with far-away countries with which Israel was never at war.
Nobody can doubt Biden’s position regarding Israel, given his five-decade record of unshakable support for the Jewish state. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to note that Biden’s pro-Israel record is longer and stronger than any candidate ever to run for president from either party. So even if one focuses principally or exclusively on Israel, voting for Trump simply makes no sense.
Apart from Israel, some Jewish voters no doubt base their support of Trump on a belief that his policies regarding taxation and regulation better align with their views and help create an economy that benefits all Americans. I don’t question the good faith of such voters, but I do question the correctness of their views. We see evidence every day of the terrible consequences of income and wealth inequality, neither of which appears to generate much concern from Trump. But as Jews, surely we must understand the importance of striving to create a fairer society, one in which the wealthiest Americans pay a little more in taxes so that children don’t go to bed hungry, so that every child is taught to read, so that all Americans have access to basic health care. If Jewish voters don’t care about alleviating poverty and human suffering in our country, who will?
Which leaves us where we began — with the values of our Jewish tradition. Viewed through that lens, it is clear beyond any serious doubt: Biden should be the choice of all Jewish Americans who embrace those values. Biden is a mensch, and we badly need a mensch in the White House.
Michael Rosenzweig is a board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and a head of the JDCA Georgia chapter.