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US Jews upset with Trump’s latest rhetoric say he doesn’t get to tell them how to be Jewish – Boulder Daily Camera

By PETER SMITH and TIFFANY STANLEY (Associated Press)

Since the start of his political career, Donald Trump has played on stereotypes about Jews and politics.

He told the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015 that “you want to control your politicians” and suggested the audience used money to exert control. In the White House, he said Jews who vote for Democrats are “very disloyal to Israel.”

Two years ago, the former president hosted two outspoken antisemites for dinner at his Florida residence.

And this week, Trump charged that Jewish Democrats were being disloyal to their faith and to Israel. That had many American Jews taking up positions behind now-familiar political lines. Trump opponents accused him of promoting antisemitic tropes while his defenders suggested he was making a fair political point in his own way.

Jonathan Sarna, American Jewish history professor at Brandeis University, said Trump is capitalizing on tensions within the Jewish community.

“For people who hate Donald Trump in the Jewish community, certainly this statement will reinforce their sense that they don’t want to have anything to do with him,” he said. “For people who like Donald Trump in the Jewish community, they probably nod in agreement.”

To many Jewish leaders in a demographic that has overwhelmingly identified as Democratic and supported President Joe Biden in 2020, Trump’s latest comments promoted harmful antisemitic stereotypes, painting Jews as having divided loyalties and that there’s only one right way to be Jewish religiously.

“That escalation of rhetoric is so dangerous, so divisive and so wrong,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest U.S. Jewish religious denomination. “This is a moment when Israel needs there to be more bipartisan support.”

But Matt Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the president’s comments must be heard in context of the Israel-Gaza war and Democratic criticisms of the state of Israel.

“What the president was saying in his own unique style was giving voice to things I get asked about multiple times a day,” Brooks said. “How can Jews remain Democrats in light of what is going on?” He contended the Democratic Party is “no longer the pro-Israel bastion it used to be.”

More than 31,800 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive that followed Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, in which militants killed some 1,200 people and took hostages. Much of northern Gaza has been leveled, and officials warned famine is imminent.

Trump’s comments followed a speech by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the country’s highest-ranking Jewish official. Schumer, a Democrat, last week sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s handling of the war in Gaza. Schumer called for new elections in Israel and warned the civilian toll was damaging Israel’s global standing.

“Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion,” Trump retorted Monday on a talk show. “They hate everything about Israel.”

A cascade of Jewish voices, from Schumer to the Anti-Defamation League to religious leaders, denounced Trump’s statement.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the Trump campaign doubled down, criticizing Schumer, congressional Democrats’ support of Palestinians and the Biden administration’s policies on Iran and on aid to Gaza.

“President Trump is right,” said Karoline Leavitt, national press secretary for the Trump campaign.

Jeffrey Hert, an antisemitism expert at the University of Maryland, disagrees with Schumer’s call for a ceasefire in Gaza, but believes most Democrats support Israel — and he said a second Biden term would be better for it than a second Trump one.

“If (Trump) loses the 2024 election, his comments prepare the way for blaming the Jews for his defeat,” Herf said. “The clear result would be to fan the flames of antisemitism and assert that, yet again, the Jews are guilty.”

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