People of the Book 'The Radetzky March' - Don't Blame the Grandson

It’s impossible to look at America in 2017 and not think of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early 1910s at the end of its gloriously long sunset, unwittingly ready for the journey into eternal night. In those years, its capital, Vienna, was the most diverse, most exciting, most interesting place on Earth. Nobody knew it, but it was the most volatile too.

The Empire felt like it would continue forever, exactly the same as it was. Emperor Franz Josef ascended the throne in 1848, year of the last revolution any European remembered. Life seemed to continue exactly as it was for nearly seven decades thereafter.

If you wanted to see the Empire’s cracks, they were right on the surface, yet everyone pretended they weren’t there until Russia helped a small group of nationalist fanatics pry the cracks open, which dropped 18 million people into the earth.

“The Radetzky March,” published in 1932 by the Viennese-Jewish writer Joseph Roth, feels like swaths of it take place not just in America, but in one of its more Semitic neighborhoods. At the moment, I forget how that old Jewish cliché goes about how “The first generation achieves, the second generation honors, the third generation desecrates,” but clearly Roth follows that formula, and I suppose the odds are about even whether he picked it up from Thomas Mann’s “Buddenbrooks” or some Haredi trying to make him lay tefillin on the sidewalk of Kaertner Strasse.

Nowhere does America feel more stable than in Pikesville, where the same Jews kibbitz at each other who kibbitzed in 1969 as though they’ll still be kibbitzing in 2069. And yet right across Northern Parkway is the neighborhood we left behind, decrepit and suffering, and we still pretend it’s not there. The crack on Northern Parkway has always been there, yet the suffering it causes somehow isn’t our problem.

At the heart of “The Radetzky March” is a lie. A Slovenian soldier sees a sniper aiming for the young Emperor and knocks him down before he’s shot. The soldier’s promoted to nobility for his service. Years later, he reads about himself in his son’s government-issued textbook, which significantly exaggerates his heroism. At heart, he’s still a peasant to whom it never occurred that authorities lie to people. He’s incensed by the lie, and goes to the Emperor to personally demand a change. The Emperor basically answers him, “What’s the harm?”

The hero’s so disillusioned that he bars his son from a military career and won’t tell his son why. The son prospers as a bureaucrat like so many aging Pikesville workaholics — accustomed to a daily routine never violated for decades. He thinks the world always was and will be the way it seems to him, and therefore has no reason to wonder if his world’s more tenuous than it seems.

This son lives vicariously through his own son, whom he insists has the military career his father arbitrarily denied him. The heroic grandfather is dead, and the grandson is unprepared for the temptations of military life. When the soldier’s lifestyle gets the grandson into trouble, the son of the hero can only compare his own son to his own father and see how much weaker, more spoiled, more entitled the son’s whole generation is. The situations into which the grandson’s thrown could never have happened to his forebears, and therefore he has no example to follow. Privilege is so unfamiliar to this family that it’s lost as quickly as it’s gained. There’s no fourth generation.

The hero could just as easily be a dyspeptic Holocaust survivor who wonders why every shul throws a dinner in his honor. His son could be a dentist with a 5,000-square-foot McMansion on Michelle Way. His grandson could be a filmmaker living in Old Goucher with an allowance he spends on weed. Everybody in Pikesville thinks the grandson’s a Mamzer, but until recently, few Jews ever had experience of privilege, so who could properly advise him? All that reverence for past traditions did him no favors. It did not give him role models who negotiate life as its lived, but idols whose great feats seemed foreordained. If his actions are not similarly foreordained, how can he be prepared for life?

Every Jewish Day School gives preemptive admonishments to its students for betraying our faith years before we can. We’re taught to revere the order of things, which is completely “Beshert.” “The Radetzky” March is one of many books that English teachers in Jewish Day Schools should assign, but never will. It shows that the order fragile, arbitrary, stifling and often dishonest. Perhaps every society’s built on lies, but when they’re built on shaky foundations, we shouldn’t be surprised when they take only a lifetime to collapse.

Evan Tucker is North Baltimore-based writer and composer. He is the violinist and lead singer of the Yiddish rock band Schmear Campaign and has a monthly podcast, “Tales from the Old New Land,” which is a Jewish version of A Prairie Home Companion. Listen at podomatic.com/podcasts/oldnewland.

We All Are Immigrants

Kevin Kamenetz

For Jews, the issue of immigration is deeply personal. In 1905, my grandfather arrived in this country at the age of 18. His name was David Kamenetz. He emigrated from the town of Zagar (now in Russia) to escape czarist persecution. He came here to work hard and live in freedom.

Grandpa settled in Jewish Baltimore and became a tailor. As a “greenhorn,” he married my grandmother, Dora Singer, and together they raised four children. He later brought over his siblings and his parents and gave them a home too.

Grandpa lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and operated Kay’s Tailors in Hamilton near the county line. He had some struggles but never lost faith in our country. He faced bigotry firsthand when he was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan. But he remained always optimistic. He paid his taxes and obeyed the laws. He attended shul without fear of persecution, and we were all raised Jewish.

Grandpa taught us to love this country’s opportunities. He taught us by example that if we worked hard in America we could achieve our goals. We believed him because we knew that when he first arrived, he had less than a dollar in his pocket, a lot of hope and knew not a word of English.

I thought of Grandpa when President Donald Trump issued a poorly planned and sloppily executed executive order. The president imposed a religious test for immigrants, a Muslim ban. It didn’t matter that you were to enter this country legally. The result was chaos.

As Jews, we know in our bones what it is like to be discriminated against because of our religion. That is why my grandfather left czarist Russia. We also remember how when the shadow of the Shoah was falling across Europe, Jewish refugees were desperate to escape Hitler’s clutches but were turned away from America by bigoted immigration laws. We know how our own tradition speaks to us, many times in the Torah, to not mistreat or oppress a foreigner “for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). We were taught, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

Grandpa never became a citizen; for his whole life he filed his papers as a “resident alien” in the land of Maryland. But because of the opportunity he was granted to earn his way, his four children and 14 grandchildren were allowed to become productive citizens.

The precipitous actions of Trump remind us of the pharaohs who act arrogantly without consultation with others and rule by diktat as if they are a law unto themselves. Trump’s Muslim ban affronts the very values of the Constitution that make us proud to be Americans. This country’s Founding Fathers were united in the belief that America’s pluralism would be its north star, the very refuge that Thomas Paine wrote would be for the “persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty.”

Beginning in early colonial days, for more than 350 years, generations of immigrants have arrived on our shores and built the strongest nation in the world. It makes our culture rich and our economy strong.

Every American family has a David Kamenetz, an immigrant ancestor. This is what unites us. This is our story. This is who we are and why we must remain true to our values. And this is why I cry out now and denounce Trump’s assault on our liberty. As Jews, we must lift our voices in defense of these immigrants. This is who we are as a people. This is who I am as the grandson of David Kamenetz.

Kevin Kamenetz is an Owings Mills resident and the Baltimore County Executive.

HIAS Should Return to Its Roots

Imagine you are an impoverished religious Jew living in Paris. You can no longer wear religious garb out of fear of being set upon by assailants from North Africa who will beat you to within an inch of your life, if not take it. Your children are bullied in school, as their teachers ignore their complaints and might even take perverse satisfaction in their plight.

Even though French political figures make speeches condemning anti-Semitism and police are routinely sent to protect Jewish institutions, the anti-Semitism grows on the body politic with the onslaught of migrants from Muslim-majority countries who carry anti-Semitism with them as part of their cultural and religious socialization.

When immigrant mothers are angry at their children, they unabashedly call them “Jews” as if it were an invective, not caring who hears.

In 2014, a survey of 1,580 French respondents found that Muslims, who comprised one-third of the interviewees, were two to three times more likely to be anti-Jewish than French people generally.

You too would like to leave France, but you don’t want to go to Israel, where the standard of living is more down to earth than luxurious, where there is terrorism and a state of siege and where the language is difficult to learn.

Who will help you? In your grandmother’s day, there was the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — the one and only agency that, with the help of private contributions, came to the aid of European Jews.

But the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of your grandmother’s day no longer exists. It has dropped the “Hebrew” and has become simply HIAS, avoiding the word Hebrew because its clients are no longer Jewish, although the last fundraising letter I received flaunted painful scenes of Jews trying to escape Europe on the eve of World War II.

The Jewish roots of HIAS go back to rescuing Jews from the Russian pogroms of the 19th century. Its role as a lifeline for Jews who had nobody else to help them is prominently displayed in its fundraising pitched to Jews, but the word Hebrew might “offend” the Muslim refugees from the Middle East that HIAS is now busy resettling in America.

No longer headquartered in New York, HIAS has moved to the Washington Beltway to be near its new source of funding — the federal government.

Refugee resettlement is big business, so much so that it is difficult to parse whether the emphasis is on doing well or doing good.

HIAS is the only “Jewish” organization approved by the federal government to resettle refugees, but it is a small player compared with the other religious and secular organizations in the business of refugee resettlement.

Still, CEO Mark Hetfield, in 2014, commanded a salary of more than $318,000, plus $22,000 in benefits. In the eight years of the Obama administration, HIAS received funds exceeding $157 million, most of which came from the federal government. A small percentage of this funding is used to lobby the public at the grassroots level and to lobby legislators. Consequently, members of the American public pay for HIAS to convince them, and their elected representatives, to continue to sustain HIAS refugee programs with tax dollars.

There are 65 million displaced people in the world, so this is not a business that is going away. And after 120 days, when organizations like HIAS that bring in refugees can no longer support them and they have not found employment, the resettlement organizations take them to the local welfare office. The majority of Middle Eastern refugees are on some form of assistance, with 90 percent getting food stamps, 73 percent getting medical assistance and some 63 percent receiving outright cash welfare. Middle Eastern refugees cost the American taxpayer more than $64,000 per person.

Now HIAS, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the Trump administration over its travel ban. From his lofty perch, Hetfield is lecturing the American public on how refugee resettlement is the fulfillment of American values. This hectoring earned Hetfield a place on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where he was asked to explain what values are being celebrated by bringing in refugees. He could not remotely articulate what those values are.

In my value system, there are Jews throughout Europe who are living lives all too reminiscent of the pogroms that gave birth to HIAS. Yet, HIAS does nothing for them. Half the Jews of Malmo, Sweden — a favorite destination of Muslim immigrants — have found life there intolerable and have left. HIAS was not there to help.

European Jews will not qualify for refugee status as it is currently defined. The American government will not provide grants to assist them. But they are condemned to lives filled with ongoing terror. The difference between the pogroms of Russia and the violence against Jews in Paris is that in France, the government still attempts to protect Jews.

But as the percentage of Muslims increases in France and throughout Europe, the pogroms launched by them — like the locking of Jews in a synagogue — will get worse. Maybe next time, the mob will burn the synagogue as the French gendarmes are overwhelmed by the sheer number of attackers.

It’s time for HIAS to rediscover its roots. If it is concerned about rescuing the most victimized of people, it should begin with the Jews of Europe who are eager to escape the anti-Semitism of Islam and for whom there is no help in the West. The organization should do this even though there are no government subsidies for these people and, perhaps, no lofty salaries in the offing.

When that is done, I will be most pleased to be lectured not only about American values, but also Jewish values. And my grandmother and mother, who fled the pogroms of Russia, would have been proud of such a version of HIAS.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center. This article was provided by JNS.org.

People of the Book David Simon’s Baltimore

David Simon (Photo by Hannah Monicken)

Were you at Beth Am Synagogue last Kol Nidrei, you would have seen David Simon standing at the Aron with his young daughter and all the other new members with last names starting with S through Z. Two feet to his left was another burly Jew, a foot shorter, his jaw on the floor. Except on Monday, I never again saw David Simon at Beth Am, so I think I’m safe — this column’s readers makes “The Wire’s” original audience look like “MASH’s.”

David Simon is what passes for an A-list celebrity in Baltimore. When The Wire was on, nobody watched it. After it went off, many called it the greatest show ever. I think The Wire deserves neither fate. I’m the only Baltimorean who hasn’t binge-watched it, but from the 20ish episodes I watched, it’s a very good show whose preachiness disguises a police procedural. It’s funny, has great characters, but not as insightful as fans think.

It’s worse than fans think, better than fans deserve. It insists affluent whites recognize plights of people they’d never acknowledge, but gives them a prurient view for which they congratulate themselves. When radical-chic fans turned on Simon for decrying the 2015 riots, he reaped what he sowed.

“The Wire’s” subject is the modern city’s mechanisms — characters exist as cogs in that machine. I’m amazed its characters are interesting because individuality in “The Wire” is present to show how it’s crushed, and every personality becomes what the system demands of him (and why are there so few women?) Those who cannot adapt self-destruct. If that’s the way the world is, then a show criticizing the system wouldn’t find an audience, so why do millions love “The Wire”?

And what system does The Wire rail against? Is it capitalism? Bureaucracy? All I’m sure of is that it hates “the system.” Ideologues see “systems” as the problem, not the messy humans who invent and maintain them. I even wonder if Simon hates the system he decries. He takes us through its details as only someone who loves it can.

Whether or not “The Wire’s” Baltimore is accurate, we live in David Simon’s Baltimore. He’s more a presence than John Waters ever was. To find a Baltimore colossus his size, go back a century to H. L. Mencken. I doubt either self-identified as “progressive,” but both were taken up by their day’s progressives, and gave their biggest fans vituperation in return. Mencken was even more an idol to early 20th-century progressives than Simon is to early 21st. A century ago, progressives looked at urban decay and blamed the democratic machine. Today’s progressives look at urban decay and blame the capitalist machine. Neither Simon or Mencken were 100 percent against the systems they blamed, but both would probably light a match if they could have. Will Simon seem any more a giant in 2117 than Mencken is now? I’m skeptical, but who knows? Maybe today’s progressives get it right where yesterday’s were wrong, but doesn’t it say something that opinions of David Simon’s shows are tied to political confirmation bias?

Like Mencken, Simon’s more complicated than his hatreds. Within its constricting framework, it’s a miracle that “The Wire” is as good as it is. “Treme” is better still — even if I’m the only one who thinks so. Maybe New Orleans deserves more dignity than Baltimore, but even with Simon’s preachiness, the characters of “Treme” seem much freer to be themselves. Better still is a speech Simon gave about the “Two Americas” at a festival in Sydney, Australia, which, aside from the subtitle “My Country is a Horror Show,” is actually quite nuanced. You can find it on The Guardian’s webpage.

But the most nuanced production my non-expert eye ever saw from him was, of all things, the immigration rally he staged at Beth Am this week. I wouldn’t have gone were I not a Beth Am member, but were I there for any other reason, I’d be blowing trumpets about what I saw, because this event was what advocacy should always be and never is. Just a dash of the usual personal stories and cheerleading, and in their place, education on the problems’ history, instruction on conceptual thinking, technical advise on how to fight adversity and demanding money.

Perhaps all this time, Simon was just being an activist of genius. Maybe “The Wire” and “Treme” and “The Corner” were all a little lacking as popular art because they’re meant as gigantic works of didactic advocacy, and if they take on the qualities of art, it’s because he’s just that good an advocate for what he believes. If they are, then 59 more events like what he put on at Beth Am could be his masterpiece.

Evan Tucker is North Baltimore-based writer and composer. He is the violinist and lead singer of the Yiddish rock band Schmear Campaign and has a monthly podcast, “Tales from the Old New Land,” which is a Jewish version of A Prairie Home Companion. Listen at podomatic.com/podcasts/oldnewland.

Nothing Diplomatic about an Ambassador Friedman

The presidency of Donald Trump has opened with some alarming blunders. The administration released a sweeping immigration and refugee ban that was halted by numerous federal courts, most definitively the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And the president made the fateful decision not to divest personally from his global business empire, a stubborn judgment that puts him sharply at odds with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prevents collection of payments from foreign governments.

But the impulsive new president has launched yet another ill-conceived commitment that is likely to come back to haunt him. He has nominated his personal bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, as U.S. ambassador to Israel. A columnist for a rightwing newspaper in Israel and activist for a West Bank settlement, Friedman’s relentless denunciation of Democrats and liberal Jews mark him as a polemicist unfit to represent the American people as an ambassador anywhere, above all to Israel where he is a partisan actor in the conflicts of the day.

The posting to Israel calls for a skilled, prudent, tactful and accomplished diplomat. We have been blessed in the past with excellent ambassadors to Israel, both political appointees and career foreign service officers. Today, with prospects for the two-state solution dangerously slipping away, we need to send to Israel the very best diplomat that America has to offer.

But David Friedman is no diplomat, no statesman and no conciliator. He is a firebrand activist openly contemptuous of the two-state solution, which has been an official American policy commitment for decades. Friedman has called former President Barack Obama, who swept the Jewish vote in back-to-back presidential elections, a “blatant anti-Semite.” He has called presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the choice of 71 percent of Jewish Americans, “no friend to Israel.” As Daniel Kurtzer, who served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005, says of Friedman: “He has made clear that he will appeal to a small minority of Israeli — and American — extremists, ignoring the majority of Israelis who continue to seek peace.” The New York Times describes Friedman’s views as “far to the right” of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Because he has vilified Palestinians, Muslims, liberal Jews, Democrats, Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, Friedman is a terrible selection for ambassador to Israel. He has opined so passionately on so many Middle East issues — like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which he has loudly championed, and the two-state solution, which he ridicules — that he has essentially boxed Trump in on all of the main problems to be negotiated there. If it is true that Trump, a self-proclaimed master negotiator, wants to broker the “ultimate deal” in the Mideast, an Ambassador Friedman would impede the process because he long ago swept all the president’s bargaining chips off the table.

Meantime, Friedman’s selection is a wrecking ball in American politics and specifically the Jewish community, which needs reconciliation and dialogue, not more division and polarization. Friedman calls leading Democrats anti-Semites simply for taking public policy positions he disagrees with. For example, whatever one thinks of the Iran nuclear agreement, surely we can all acknowledge that there are decent people of good will on both sides of the issue, all of them seeking what they think is best for America, for Israel and for world peace and security. By accusing Obama and Kerry of “blatant anti-Semitism” for negotiating the Iran agreement, Friedman tells a preposterous and defamatory lie that distorts the meaning of anti-Semitism.

While lobbing the charge of anti-Semitism at leading officials who disagree with his foreign policy commitments, Friedman elaborately defended the Trump campaign’s infamous closing TV ad in November 2016 against criticism from the Anti-Defamation League that it trafficked in classic anti-Jewish stereotypes. This was the darkly ominous commercial which pictured billionaire philanthropist George Soros, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein on the screen as Donald Trump warned that “the establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.”

Defending the ad as mere “fake anti-Semitism,” as opposed to the “real anti-Semitism” of Hamas and “the Palestinians,” Friedman said that the ad’s critics, like ADL and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, had lost “all credibility” and “sound like morons.” He then tried to displace attention from the makers of the ad by denigrating the people featured in it, questioning their Jewishness in the most arrogant and presumptuous way: “I doubt people even know that Janet Yellen is Jewish. She’s never done anything in her life to identify as a Jew. Other than the fact she happens to be born of a Jewish mother, she has done nothing to be Jewish.”

Of George Soros, a refugee from Nazism who has dedicated much of his life and fortune to defending liberal democracy, Jewish causes and the “open society,” Friedman wrote that “most people don’t even know that he’s Jewish. He doesn’t have a Jewish name. He’s done nothing to positively identify with the Jewish community at any point in his life. George Soros has done more to vilify the State of Israel and to fund anti-Israel propaganda machines than almost any individual on the face of the earth. The idea that by criticizing George Soros I am anti-Semitic, or I am indicating anti-Semitic tendencies, when George Soros is himself one of the great enemies of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, turns the world on its head.”

Friedman believes that “less than half of American Jewry” is pro-Israel because apparently you can’t be pro-Israel in his book if you favor a real two-state solution, which 78 percent of American Jews do. Friedman caused a storm of protest when he likened supporters of J Street — which calls itself the “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans” — to “kapos” in Nazi concentration camps who helped send fellow Jews to their deaths.

Friedman redoubled his criticism of liberal Jews and even upped the ante with this expansion of his critique: “Are J Street supporters really as bad as kapos?” he wrote. “The answer, actually, is no. They are far worse than kapos — Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas — it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”

In 2017, the world is aflame with political extremism, religious fanaticism, rising anti-Semitism and racism, and authoritarian attacks on freedom and human rights. Now is a moment that calls for maximum prudence and diplomacy in office, cultural bridge-building and creative political action to break the brutal logic of hatred and war. The confirmation of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel would be bad news not only for Israel and the Palestinians, but for solidarity and civility in the American Jewish community.

Jamie Raskin represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, where he serves as vice-ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and sits on the Oversight and Government Reform and the House Administration committees.

At The Associated, Inclusion Is a Top Priority

In the nearly 10 years since February was designated Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), The Associated has made progress in raising awareness and fostering inclusion of people with disabilities.

In order for individuals with special needs to flourish, we must continuously learn about best practices and adapt our services accordingly.

This month, the JCC staff will participate in training to ensure that programs and services are even more inclusive. This training is built around current research that states that self-sufficiency and self-esteem come from full participation in mainstream society.

Nowhere is this more important than in our workplaces, where it’s critical we incorporate best practices. In the past, there was the belief that those with special needs thrived when working in environments with their peers. Today, we understand that meaningful employment is often achieved in a fully integrated workplace.

Jewish Community Services (JCS) is embracing this paradigm. Its career center has dedicated professionals who assist individuals with special needs. Not only does JCS work closely with Baltimore employers by identifying jobs and matching skills, it trains employees with special needs about workplace culture and self-advocacy. After a job placement is made, JCS professionals assist both the employee and employer in this transition.

From an educational standpoint, SHEMESH provides support for Jewish children with learning differences to reach their full intellectual, academic, emotional and social potential in a Jewish setting. The Macks Center for Jewish Education offers children with special needs and their families free educational advocacy services in public schools, including preparation for Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings.

The Baltimore Jewish Abilities Alliance (BJAA) website, launched in 2009, is a comprehensive tool that provides resources to individuals with special needs and their families. It showcases a full cadre of services, including local, state and federal resources.

JDAIM is a wonderful opportunity for our community to dialogue around our special needs efforts. Yet it should be a springboard for our efforts year-round to ensure that our entire community can fully participate in a quality Jewish life. As The Associated’s Caring Commission continues its work this spring, we will assess inclusive practices within our system and how to serve people with disabilities and their families.

Lynn B. Sassin and Howard Feldman are co-chairs of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Caring Commission.

People of the Book Donald Trump: Goy

It feels like Donald Trump’s been president for almost three years, not three weeks, and even now that he’s committed so many executive orders — which are really decrees — it’s absurd to consider the effects of a Trump Presidency when they’re yet so unknown.

But there’s a biblical three-score and 10 to consider of the life he’s already lived. Never has there been a president whose live is so public and documented. There’s so many facets to consider of Trump, but in the JT, only one matters.

A commentator on Fox News’s website wrote that if Bill Clinton was the first black president, Donald Trump’s the first Jewish president. Queasy as you might feel, it’s hard not to see why people think that. Endless hard work? Check. Speaking his mind regardless of consequence? Check.  New York real estate? Check. Winter house in Florida? Check. Children in his business? Check. Daughter gone frum? Check.

No president’s ever seemed 18 percent as Jewish as Trump. Yet his values are as goyish as early American furniture. But they’re not goyish in the way we good-naturedly rib our non-Jewish friends; they’re goyish in the term’s original meaning — a biblical epithet, a curse, hurled upon barbarous heathens who oppress the righteous without mercy.

The Trumps made their fortune not in Manhattan but in Queens. Long before racial resentment dominated the thinking of Iowans who’d barely met a black person, Donald Trump was found guilty in civil court of refusing to lease housing to African-Americans with “such frequency…” The history of refusing to pay contractors for services rendered to the Trump organization is voluminous and legendary — when contractors sue, they settle for cents on dollars promised. New York City auditors found his properties missing basic financial records.

Even in eighth grade Bible class at Schechter, Dr. Shualy would drill Talmudic passages about ethical business practice into our heads. As adults, why he did it is no mystery. If Jewish businessmen conducted business like our president, their names would be exemplars of everything loathsome about us. They would be disgraces to Jews everywhere, and the president’s association with us is exactly that.

I don’t need to tell you about Trump, you all lived through 2016, most of you lived through 30 years with this waste of space on your television. But I do think there is one point worth making.

I’m sure there are many JT readers who find the ubiqutous Trump-Hitler comparisons outrageous in the extreme. Any Jew should be sympathetic to you. Every progressive who ever told a Jew that invoking the Shoah automatically invalidates any defense of Israel now compares Trump to Hitler when the president’s policies barely yet killed a single person. Trump was compared to Hitler when he was just a primary candidate.

I agree, Hitler comparisons are outrageous, but Hitler’s the one name Trump’s called that doesn’t bother him. The candidate bothered by every insult never answers it. Louis CK called him Hitler, and Trump didn’t complain on Twitter, he asked a rally the next day “Who here likes me?” and told everybody to raise out their right arms to show they do. As of June, Trump retweeted white supremacists 75 times, then deleted it every time as though it were a mistake. At one point, Trump falsely claimed that he had the support of 88 generals — Farvertz noted that 88 is white supremacist code for Heil Hitler. Ivana Trump once said her ex-husband would sleep with a book of Hitler speeches by his bed. In his inaugural speech, Trump invoked the phrase “America First” at his inauguration, which every American History buff knows was the slogan of fascist fellow travelers. Perhaps the most famous quote from The Art of the Deal is “You tell people a lie three times, they will believe anything.” That’s almost a direct reference to Goebbels’s famous dictum: “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie repeated a thousand times becomes truth.”

In terms of the oppression perpetrated, it’s absurd to call Donald Trump Hitler, and would be for a long time yet. It’s just as absurd to consider him a dictator, or compare him even to your average 19th century monarch. As of yet, he is no Hitler. Rather, he is an incarnation of Satan who’s taken it upon himself to bring the worst of trials upon the United States, which has until now known little but blessings from God just as Iyov did. And as Iyov did, whatever our trials, we will bear them in the hope that one day He will restore His favor to us. Naked came we out of our mothers’ wombs, and naked shall we return thither: Hashem gave to America, and Hashem took away from America. Blessed be His name forever and ever.

Oy Vey, Donald!

Full disclosure requires that I admit to voting for Donald Trump and fully supporting him as president of the United States. Of course, my friends here in New York, especially the Jewish ones, thought I was absolutely meshugah for coming out of the conservative closet. However, I saw an extremely successful businessman who, I believed, could take a much-needed new approach to government.

A Jewish Holocaust survivor mother raised me to be an independent thinker, and not necessarily follow all of those Democrat Jewish sheep — which is why I will never be one of those leftist progressive zombies, for whom our previous president could do no wrong. When President Trump makes a serious error, he should be called out on it. Trump’s first week in office was a positive reinvention of the presidency. From pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact to penalizing companies for moving manufacturing out of the country, he is fulfilling his campaign promises to the millions of Americans who voted for him.

But it was International Holocaust Remembrance Day that brought Trump his first major mistake, and it was a serious one. The White House issued a 117-word statement that included, “It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

There was no mention of Jews and no mention of anti-Semitism. Can you envision anyone on International Slavery Day at the United Nations not mentioning the pain and torture that blacks lived through in history? Imagine working on a news release in the Oval Office that contained an emphasis on concepts like “in the interest of inclusiveness, we would like to mention all of the various groups that were slaves throughout the centuries. No, blacks own the term “slavery,” just like Jews own the term “Holocaust.” Remember, it is not called “a holocaust,” it is called “the Holocaust,” because it was the greatest evil done to one people in history.

Trump’s misrepresentation of the Holocaust as being a kumbaya moment for all sufferers of history is a moral error of grave proportions. He has paid too much attention to the American left, which has imbibed the Bernie Sanders approach of inclusiveness for all, thus rewriting history. Amazing that the person who much of Middle America elected to stop this leftist virus has himself gotten infected.

Irwin N. Graulich is a motivational speaker and columnist on ethics, morality, Judaism, religion and politics. He is president of Bloch Graulich Whelan Inc., a marketing, communications and branding company in New York City.

Being Zayde A Two-Way Street

Vito Simone (Provided)

Vito Simone (Provided)

Yes, we certainly all do have opinions about nearly everything, don’t we? We may or may not express them, but the choices we make and our reactions to others are all expressions of “our opinion.” But what is an “opinion”?

Miriam Webster says, “1. A view, judgement or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter, or 2. Belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge.” Of course, there are legal definitions about “expert opinions” typically offered by doctors or lawyers, but let’s focus on Miriam’s first two definitions.

In today’s times, we are bombarded with so many opinions about everything under the sun. Those opinions do not have to be based in fact, rather they are “formed in the mind.” So, it begs the questions: What good are they? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is there even a right and wrong?

It is too easy to get lost in opinions in these times of such polarization when we try to address monumental decisions that affect so many. We should be expecting our leaders (on both sides of the issues) to show us real alternatives, to discuss the merits of varying opinions so that “we, the people” can better understand and not get caught up in ideology or in the us-versus-them mentality. Societal problems will not get better because of this thinking and behavior.

I want my opinions to matter and to be respected, don’t you? I cannot expect that to happen without seeking out and respecting the opinions of others, without thinking and testing my ideas in discussion with others. It is a two-way street of ideas and attitudes.

Watching our elected leaders, appointed leaders and the media manipulate the opinions of others has been detrimental to getting things done. We should demand that our leaders on all sides of the issues show respect and careful thought about the many important issues of our day. They should consider the real opportunity we have, and that is the opportunity to bring people together, to bring prosperity to all who strive for a better life and to show the world what a magnificent thing it is to be an American.

My opinion is that America is one of the great successful cultural and societal experiments the world has ever seen. Let’s show some pride and respect in that and demand all our citizens and those who wish to be citizens to embrace that and participate in it, for our children’s sake. Being a zayde has made me look at the world through a different lens that I would encourage everyone to at least consider. After all, our future depends on it.

Vito Simone is a Pikesville resident and member of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah.

Three Important Things about Inclusion

I am a college student in the Washington, D.C., area and throughout the years have thought extensively about inclusion and disabilities. When I was 4, my family learned that I was on the autism spectrum; and I’ve attended a variety of special education programs, such as the Sulam program housed at the Torah School of Greater Washington and Berman Hebrew Academy. (I studied at the program housed at the Berman Hebrew Academy for high school from 2008 to 2012.) I regularly advocate for the full inclusion of individuals who have special needs.

Although there are many important lessons about inclusion, I will be focusing on three that are especially important.

Inclusion truly means that one treats all people in a way that is respectful and kind; it means that a person who has special needs is regarded as a person who, like other individuals, has unique gifts and talents in addition to experiencing certain difficulties. Those difficulties can require extra help, and many people, regardless of whether one has special needs, need extra assistance in different ways.

When people encourage me, help me to address difficulties and even offer constructive criticism in a way that preserves my dignity and is respectful and kind, I do not feel judged. For instance, in high school, several friends who noticed that I struggled with reading Hebrew not only offered to help me improve my Hebrew reading skills, but they did so with extraordinary kindness and sensitivity.

Additionally, listening is an essential aspect of inclusion and communicates that one is genuinely interested in others’ ideas and opinions. Conveying that interest and respect is a critical way of helping people to feel included.

Another element of inclusion is helping one to find opportunities to continue developing his or her talents and gifts. Because connections with others are increased, opportunities to use gifts and talents are an important way in which people can feel fully included.

Although continued improvement is always important, the Jewish community has made incredible progress regarding inclusion. Sulam and the connections nurtured through it are examples of that. People must bear in mind that even though individuals who have special needs might at times need extra assistance, it is critical to do your very best to be inclusive of all individuals, regardless of whether one has special needs. That knowledge will be one of the biggest steps to continuing to achieve the goal of inclusion.

Nathan Weissler, 24, lives in Chevy Chase, Md.