The Trump Opportunity Bubble

At every time of adversity, enterprising people have found ways to turn catastrophe to their own advantage. Every war, every conflict produced its profiteers – some legally, some not so. The tragicomedy of the presidential campaign offers us opportunities for profit which we should not squander.

We will not be talking about election choices, or what you think of the candidates. And the profits we should be looking at are not monetary. They concern relationships between groups, particularly minority groups, of which Jews happen to be one. Ironically, we are at a magical point in time. We can build bridges and alliances that we would not have thought of a year ago. In so doing, we can heal some of the ugly wounds opened up by this campaign, and also win friends for the Jewish State.

While many mourn the coarseness, crudeness, and sheer hatred that has surfaced in this country, some people are frightened by it. They have good reason to. Rhetoric that would not have been tolerated by radio hosts and news site moderators years ago is now openly and notoriously broadcast. Minority groups understand that on a societal level, the dots between hate speech, contempt for the “other,” hidden discrimination, and acts of violence easily and almost inevitably get connected. It is likely that our societal backsliding will persist well after the election is a distant memory. The demons that have been released will not quickly vanish.

I will not even venture a guess as to whether people have learned to hate more in recent times, or whether PC suppression of what people have long felt has finally backfired, allowing pent-up anger and frustration to spill out. It does not really matter. Whether Americans had actually learned to be more accepting of difference, or they only played at it, life became somewhat easier for minorities. Some of that blessing has disappeared.

Jews either do or should know that for the most part, haters do not really restrict themselves to one target. Those who hate one group diversify in time. Many decades ago – before the experience of virtually all our writers and readers – many Jews got that. For a while, an alliance was forged between African-Americans and Jews. It unraveled, terribly. Blacks felt that Jews were paternalistic; Jews were hurt by what they thought was black ingratitude. They were probably both right.

This has changed. The ugliness around us levels the playing field for all minorities – including Jews – who feel threatened by the ill winds stirring around us. In this, there is opportunity for us to reach out to groups that were previously not very accessible. Black Americans will be less likely to see overtures by Jews as a combination of white privilege and noblesse oblige, because they will recognize that both our communities now occupy the same leaky boat. We’re in this together, on an equal footing.

A year ago, it was almost unthinkable to propose working with Hispanic groups without offering – up front – assurances of being on the same side on immigration issues. Immigration was to many Hispanics what support of Israel is to mainstream Jews – a sine qua non of any relationship. That may have changed. They have a new major headache on their minds. They face more open and overt hostility. So do Jews. We have what to talk about together.

Now is an opportune time to build new bridges and relationships. Some of the work will be done by Jewish organizations. The larger part of the opportunity, however, will be available to us as individuals. Few of us relish the idea of being “cold call” operators. We don’t like the rejection – even from strangers – that is often the fruit of such labors. We would rather engage in conversation with those we know, or at least those we think likely to accept our greetings warmly.

That is exactly where we are. An inquiry to a stranger or member of a different socio-economic group about how the other is feeling might have been artificial a year ago; it is not today. We can and should approach members of minority groups and ask them what they think about the mood of the times. Do they feel threatened? Are they angry? Hurt? We can offer genuine empathy because we know what it is like – and share the same fears. These are no longer memories of the past, but present realities. We can share our vulnerabilities. The commonality is not ersatz, forced, or strained. It is real. In the process, we can share what it is like to watch our brethren in Israel randomly attacked by a surrounding population that has been fully indoctrinated into murderous hatred of Jews. For the first time in memory, members of other groups might be able to understand why Jews need a place of refuge, and a country to call our own.

Although many of us see storm clouds gathering, we should notice as well the silver lining that accompanies them.

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12 Responses

  1. dave says:

    Your headline indicates that this is a “Trump” issue, whereas Hillary and her party have been playing the politics of divisiveness for decades. Both sides are trying to feed off of the same kinds of sentiments while offering little in the way of real leadership.

    I appreciate your searching for a silver lining, and perhaps you are correct that now is the time for alliance building.

    But the vacuum of real leadership on both sides of the political aisle is rapidly coming home to roost. We are faced with a choice of corruption, narcissism, ruthlessness, greed and dishonesty. From both candidates. We live in a time of collapsing morality and increasing godlessness.

    So as Jews, I agree with you that it is a time for bridge building.

    As Torah Jews, it is a time to increase our connection to Hashem and improve our Tefilla, because ein lanu al mi lehisha’ain elah al Avinu Shebashomayim.


  2. Arthur says:

    What is an “opportunity bubble”?  I am having trouble making sense out of that metaphor.

    Why is something about this point in time “magical”?

    How does your thesis address the fact that millions of the people claiming to be hurt and estranged by society (and the only group with declining life expectancies) today are white males?

    How does your thesis account for the current ethos of “intersectionality” that unites in purpose Hispanics and blacks with (a) staunchly anti-Israel (and frequently anti-semitic) Moslems and BDSers and (b) the LGBT movement, which are committed to the exact opposite of your (our) respective political, social and religious objectives?

    In what way does your strategy differ than that which, as you acknowledged, proved unsuccessful during the civil rights era?  Or, why would Blacks now think Jews are in the same boat as them when they didn’t feel that way at a time the Jewish community was less wealthy, less assimilated and still subjected to exclusion by towns, beaches, clubs and employers?  In the U.S., will many blacks perceive that Jews are just as subject to being shot or beaten by police?  Or are you looking at this internationally and suggesting it’s apt to equate badly trained U.S. law enforcement with Palestinian terrorists?

    Why is Trump your headline, especially if this isn’t supposed to be about candidates?

    I could go on but I hope this is enough to express my deep disappointment at this post.

  3. DF says:

    I am thoroughly amazed at this post. Racial tensions are coming to a head, and Rabbi Adlerstein advises Jews to focus on what? To go back to the Blacks ( never mind how badly that already failed?) To make common cause with the Hispanics? Does the Rabbi not realize this is EXACTLY the problem that led us here in the first place?

    As I write this Friday morning,  people all over the country are absolutely furious. Nothing else is being discussed, except that while innocent police have been shot in cold blood, this country’s president waxes on about “racial disparity.” The head of our city’s police union said that every time a politician speaks like this about race, another policeman is hurt. People are absolutely fed up. Fifty years plus of being subjected to nonstop grievance mongering and “affirmative action” – nothing but discrimination by another name – will do that. Fifty year plus of white men being essentially told they are worthless. How did anyone ever think this madness would be good for the country?

    Rabi Adlerstein is right that we have here an “opportunity bubble” but for exactly the opposite reason he advises. We Jews have a chance here to get up and acknowledge that the identity politics of the 1960s have been an utter failure. We have a chance to get up and show the country that we, as a minority ourselves, no longer wish to be part of the “minority” grievance culture that has brought our country to the brink of civil war. We want to be part of a new culture, that focuses on our common united identity as Americans. That’s the real opportunity here. I hope to God we take advantage of it.

    • Arthur says:

      I didn’t realize we were on the brink of civil war.

      Identity politics have been extremely corrosive.  But think about how an emphasis on a united identity as Americans will play out for those (e.g, us) who reject its educational system, the very foundation of its culture, as well as most of its popular entertainment, its new sexual policies, its fashion, etc. etc.

      • David Z says:

        We won’t know if we’re on the brink until we look back as old men.  But what we are rejecting, the educational system, the popular entertainments, the sexual policies, are exactly what the “Americans” reject, that is exactly why people were angry enough to vote Trump in.  And if you reject the “foundation of its culture”–which is liberty under G-d–you should probably have left the country as soon as you were able.

      • Arthur says:

        “[F]oundation of its culture” was a characterization of the school system, not “liberty under G-d”, whatever that is supposed to mean.  Excuse my inadequate punctuation.

        I hope you are able to distinguish between those committed to the yeshiva system and typical Trump supporters (or our perception of who is a typical Trump supporter).  Just because two things have certain aspects in common doesn’t make them the same or even nearly so.

    • Shua Cohen says:

      >”We want to be part of a new culture that focuses on our common united identity as Americans. That’s the real opportunity here. I hope to God we take advantage of it.”

      >> Huh? An “opportunity” presented by Hashem to further deepen American Jewish attachment to chutz l’Aretz? Really? How sickeningly misguided. Bnei Torah rejecting Eretz Yisrael and clinging desperately instead to life in chutz l’Aretz is the tragedy of this generation. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l stated the pathetically obvious: “Just open up a Chumash and read and you will see that Ratzon Hashem is that Jews should live in Eretz Yisrael” (as reported by Rabbi Sholom Gold, shlita). The yeshivish velt spouts constantly its loyalty to “da’as Torah”…except, of course, when da’as Torah causes severe cognitive dissonance.

      Aspiring to a common united identity as Americans is a sickness which will, Rachmana Litzlan, bring serious repercussions to the diaspora-loving Torah Jews of this generation. This sentiment, too, comes from Da’as Torah. As the venerable Rav of Jerusalem, Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l, wrote: “Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisrael and doesn’t, will have to account for his FAILURE in Ha’olam Haba.” [Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149] All of the piled-up excuses and rationalizations — political, social, financial, and worst of all, warped theology (suddenly EVERYONE is Satmar) — are all tiflus and will not hold sway in the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah.

      • Raymond says:

        I agree with everything that DF said above.  I also happen to agree with everything that Shua Cohen said above.  And to those who point out to me that they both can’t be right, to such a person I say, “You’re right, too!”

  4. Bob Miller says:

    We can start by looking at the career and actions of our Divider/Inciter-in-Chief.   He reached the highest office promising healing but set out methodically to bring about the opposite.   The public clamor for a restoration of national security at home and abroad has been greatly accelerated by his reign of lawlessness and unconcern or disdain for fellow citizens.

  5. lacosta says:

    from what i read on the left/palestine etc type sites, the issue for the under 30 crowd [including non-O jews] will be PC and palestine/colonialism.  it will be very hard to form bridges when issues such as Palestine and Gay Marriage are incompatible with O life.          the specter of six or seven leftist high court judges ruling on the legality of shechita and milah [in both cases the victim can’t give consent] and refusal to perform gay weddings  is ominous… and the US voter would rather have a known quantity in a habitual liar than a wild card nut…..

    [YA Don’t write off the millennials just yet – especially the tens of millions of evangelicals, who still have a residual connection to ideas of authority and the absolute. ]

    • lacosta says:

      rya—   what evidence is there that the children of the Falwell generation are not going wildly OTD? at least as far as PC and social [Palestine] issues are concerned. my understanding, maybe incorrect ,is the children of the Moral Majority are about as left as the secular street;  and the idea of  replacement theology , at least as far as Palestine is concerned, is coming back in vogue—and that an apartheid state in Israel isn’t good for Xtians….

      [YA – The situation is actually worse than you suggest – but not hopeless. A growing number of millennial evangelicals, for a variety of reasons, do not show the same regard for Scripture that their parents did. In my experience, taking Scripture seriously (which includes the parts we share, along with the parts we of course reject) is a major factor in predicting whether Christians identify with Israel or not. It also determines whether they can accept the notion of “givens” and absolutes. Evangelical leaders know that they have a problem – that a generation of young people who will reduce their Scripture to a vague notion of social justice and What Would Jesus Do bumper stickers will not stay meaningfully connected. Some of them are working on solutions. Stay tuned.]

  6. David Z says:

    Pastor Chad Vegas of Bakersfield has called on Christians to finally leave the public schools.  He is the kind of person we should be building bridges to.

    The Left is much more dangerous and antisemitic than Trumpkins.


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