In a recent Truth Social post, former President Donald J. Trump wished a happy Rosh Hashanah to the Jewish community as only a twice-impeached, repeatedly indicted former president can. After all, nothing says, “Have a good and sweet new year, Jews of America!” like threats, taunts, references to one’s testicles, communally divisive rhetoric and fairly clear overtures to antisemites.
Trump’s unseasonal greeting is addressed to “the liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel.” He is referring to the seven of every 10 Jewish Americans who didn’t vote for him in 2020. Likened to “sheep,” these stiff-necked Jews are warned to “make better choices going forward!” In an oddly biblical-sounding formulation, Trump alleges these Jews have backslid “because you believed false narratives.”
And we’re only 40 words into Trump’s salutation!
Under the cover of sarcasm, Trump is signaling to two audiences.
From there, the former president rehearses some accomplishments that the aforementioned sheep did not have the wisdom to appreciate. These include moving the American embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv (“No other president had the balls to do it”) and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria. Trump does not mention that these policies are much more popular among American evangelicals than they are among American Jews.
Nor does his missive refer to components of his rule that were not, by any criteria, good for the Jews. Most centrally, he omits the massive spike in antisemitic rhetoric and hate crimes that occurred while he was in office. Trump also does not mention his support for and from those who’ve endorsed antisemitic slanders and conspiracies, including the Proud Boys, the rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West), Nick Fuentes, Sebastian Gorka, Madison Cawthorn, Kyle Chapman, Mary Ann Mendoza, Gavin McInnes, David Duke, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Rick Wiles (who referred to the impeachments as a “Jew coup”), Steven Anderson, Wayne Allyn Root and more than we could possibly chronicle in this space. (I won’t even get into Trump’s embrace of Messianic Jews, or Christians who claim to be Jewish and believe that Jews who don’t accept Jesus Christ as the messiah are destined to be replaced.)
Which is why one doesn’t blink when the post closes by describing Trump as “Clearly one of the greatest Anti Semites of our time!” That’s not a typo. Is it meant to be ironic? Is it dead serious?
It’s both: Under the cover of sarcasm, Trump is signaling to two audiences. The first is that huge cohort of Judeophobes who emerged, as if out of a crack in the earth, during the Trump presidency. They, too, would not hesitate to hail the former president as the GOAT of antisemitism.
The second is the roughly 30 percent of American Jews who voted for Trump. They are usually ultra-Orthodox Jews, and/or supporters of Israel’s most extreme right-wing governments, or perhaps some more secular, though politically conservative, emigres from the former Soviet Union. Many derive great pleasure in publicly deriding non-MAGA Jews as imbecilic, illegitimate, self-hating and as not even being Jews.
To review then, Trump’s sign-off on his Truth Social post somehow aligns extreme Zionists and ultra-Orthodox Jews with antisemites. The strange bedfellowing is less strange than it might initially seem.
Analysts have pointed to increasing ties between officials in Israel’s hard-right government and the European far right groups. What vision do they share in common? A fondness for theocracies and ethno-states in which “others” are expelled or relegated by law to the status of second-class citizens.
As a parting jab, Trump’s message hashtags the group Jexit, whose mission is to get Jews to abandon their traditional loyalty to the Democratic Party (according to its founder, Michelle Lubin Terris, the Proud Boys have provided security for its events). Trump’s facetious claim to be one of the greatest antisemites of our time might actually be validated by his ability to achieve a previously unimaginable feat: to send some Jews running into the arms of people who loathe them.
Trump’s sign-off on his Truth Social post somehow aligns extreme Zionists and ultra-Orthodox Jews on the one side with antisemites on the other.
All of which is very strange — and troubling — for Judaism, especially during the High Holy Days. During this time of repentance, Jews traditionally ask one another for forgiveness for whatever sins they may have committed in the preceding year.
Leave it to Trump to exploit the Days of Awe as an opportunity to stoke and exacerbate — in the most un-Jewish way possible — tensions within the community.
Jacques Berlinerblau is a professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University. He has authored numerous books about the subject of secularism, including the recent “Secularism: The Basics” (Routledge). He has also written about American higher education in “Campus Confidential: How College Works, and Doesn’t, For Professors, Parents and Students” (Melville House). With Professor Terrence Johnson, he is a co-author of “Blacks and Jews in America: An Invitation to Dialogue” (Georgetown). His current research concentrates on the nexus between literature and comedy on the one side and cultural conflicts on the other.