VP Debate: The Jewish Moment

by Bob Schwartz

The most fascinating moment of the VP debate—aside from The Fly—was VP Pence defending Trump on charges that he refused to denounce and encouraged white supremacists and Neo-Nazis:

“President Trump has Jewish grandchildren. His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish.”

We haven’t heard much of this defense before. It is delicate. It sounds too much like “some of my best friends are…”, only more so.

Like Trump, this line is disabled in so many ways that it is hard to know where to begin.

Identifying or practicing as a Jew doesn’t mean you are not intolerant, bigoted or morally challenged. That is not a criticism of the tradition, just a fact of life. I’ve made clear in previous posts that a number of people involved in the administration’s most debased policies are Jewish, at least by affinity. I’ve directly asked where their rabbis are in all this, and a while ago, Stephen Miller’s past rabbi—the man who bar mitzvahed him—publicly took his former congregant to task.

If it’s true that being Jewish is no defense, then the associative principle of only having Jewish relatives is even weaker.

Then there is the question of Trump’s frequently claimed faith. He is obviously faithless, just yesterday bizarrely claiming that his getting the virus was “a blessing from God.” Besides this being a facet of his possible psychosis and Messiah complex, any time a religious tradition is used in supportive reference to Trump, you can be sure it is hypocritical.

Also, there is a thought that Trump himself is actually anti-Semitic. We know without question that his father was, and a number of the recent revelations about the president, including the book by his niece, confirm that Trump himself is. Which not only makes Pence’s defense strange, but raises even stranger questions about what Trump actually thinks about his Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.

A final twisted aspect, probably bafflingly intentional, is that Kamala Harris is not Jewish, but is married to a Jewish man and has Jewish stepchildren. See, she is just like Trump and can’t criticize him! Or something like that.

We would all be better off never having to again hear that line from Pence or any other Trump defenders. Those of us in the tradition would be better off, too, as would Judaism.