Rabbi writes about 'Trump Family Circus'

The Australian Jewish News published an article on 28 July written by Rabbi Gary Robuck, senior rabbi of North Shore Temple Emanuel, about Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention, recently held in Rabbi Robuck's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

The Australian Jewish News published an article on 28 July written by Rabbi Gary Robuck, senior rabbi of North Shore Temple Emanuel, about Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention, recently held in Rabbi Robuck's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

The last several weeks were spent on pins and needles. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, I worried about my hometown. Still recovering from years of economic misery, having too often been the butt of ridicule, Cleveland was to play host to the Trump Family Circus. Police were on alert as delegates, protestors, news organisations and the simply curious came to observe the spectacle of the ringmaster and his minions.

Happily, the convention passed without much incident. The city was praised for its preparedness, its warmth and hospitality. Yet, while the circus may have left town, people of conscience everywhere are still concerned: could this man, a carny-hustler and long-time snake-oil salesman, actually win the Presidency? I want you, my many Australian friends to know without a doubt: “it ain’t gonna happen”.

I have every certainty that this vile, fear-mongering, lying, miserly, bigoted, misogynistic man will never become President. How could he? He is fundamentally, self-contradictory. His populist rhetoric emboldens white supremacists and authoritarian types yet he claims he is a unifier who will speak for all Americans; he insults the war record of Senator John McCain, a man who has given his entire adult life to the service of his country, who spent much of the Vietnam war in a N. Vietnamese prison, yet purports to be a champion of Army veterans; he blames America’s complex problems on people with brown or black or yellow skin, yet offers only bloated hyperbole and no realistic solutions to them; he claims to be the master of the “deal” yet he has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy four times (politifact.com); he disdains the protections found in the Constitution protecting the exercise of a free press while basking in their attentions; he watches as the country implodes in a hail of gunfire yet demands that no restrictions be placed on the sale of guns; he appeals to people’s fears and not their better judgment; he inherited his wealth yet would have others believe that he is a character in a Horatio Alger story: a common man who has risen from rags to riches. PLEASE…!

In reality, Trump can be compared to a descendent of Balaam, a false prophet. Rabbi Reuven Hammer once characterized such figures as possessing, “a grudging spirit, an arrogant soul and an insatiable appetite;” one, as he puts it, “turns on his self (alone)”. The Prophet Jeremiah once warned us about men like the utterly inauthentic Trump: “So says the Eternal One, the Lord of hosts: Pay no heed to the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you, they lead you unto vanity; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord…” (Jeremiah 23:16-17) 

Trump‘s candidacy, his 11th hour Christian evangelism, his sudden, selfless awakening to the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged, will and must assuredly be, denied. Only now, as the conventions close, will the attention of Americans be fully trained on this sham and Trump ultimately be shown to be, as Shakespeare put it: “A walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

With Trump, like the other demagogues before him, “rabble-rousers who gain power by appealing to the passions, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower socioeconomic classes while breaking established rules of political conduct,” (wikipedia) the other is always secondary. And maybe, as a Jew, it is this that disturbs me most about Trump. Our people are taught to love the stranger and to care for the vulnerable. In Australia, in South Africa and in the US, Jews have advocated on behalf of people of colour and indigenous people. We have consistently resisted tyranny, worked for tikkun olam, acted to create better, fairer, working conditions for the immigrant-labourer. We do this because we are people that know better than most what can happen when humanity denies its basic interrelatedness.

Donald Trump’s interest is Donald Trump. For him, power is a zero-sum game. He sees only the utility in others. We, however, see in the other, the Divine image. Trump I believe, does not desire to do God’s will, or to honour America’s Constitution, but to bend the will of everyone else to his. 

So, I hope and pray and entirely expect, that supporters of Trump will awaken from their thrall, see past his feigned humility, his professions of generosity and his “concern” for the working class and turn to the “better angels of their nature” – a posture far more fitting for the party of Lincoln.

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