(RNS) – J.J. Gross doesn’t talk about President Trump with his daughter Nora, who unfriended her dad on Facebook before the presidential election.
“At first I just unfollowed him, so that I didn’t need to be exposed to the awful hate speech he posted on his page,” said the New York massage therapist.
Her father, a semi-retired creative director who lives in Jerusalem, takes a different view of family Facebook dynamics: “She cut me off from her Facebook, lest I post an opinion of which the PC Gestapo would disapprove,” he said, adding that he and his daughter are still “very close, always in contact, and love one another deeply.”
The father-daughter clash mirrors those within many other Jewish families over Trump, whose presidency is also testing many a Jewish friendship. And in the nation at large, where opponents of Trump significantly outnumber his supporters, calls from Jews to other Jews to renounce the president have heightened tensions in synagogues, in the Jewish press and the wider Jewish world.
In past weeks – in the wake of Trump comments about white supremacy widely condemned as too late and too soft – disagreements among Jews about the president played out on a very public stage.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who is Jewish, struggled with his allegiance to the Trump administration as his wife asked him to break with it. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is also Jewish, defended Trump and wrote that it would be wrong to heed calls for him to abandon the president.
To many American Jews – who as a group lean heavily Democratic – the president’s comments and policies have betrayed his own personal bigotries. They were looking for him to express outrage after a woman protesting racism and anti-Semitism died in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 – but instead saw him draw what appeared to be a moral equivalence between white supremacists and those who marched against them.
Like his non-Jewish supporters, Jews who support Trump consider him an antidote to the regulation and bureaucracy they see throttling the economy. These American Jews, who tend to be more strict in their religious practice, also appreciate Trump’s oft-repeated declarations of love for Israel.
This lopsided division between more liberal and more conservative Jews, who together make up about 4 percent of the electorate, is no new thing. Hillary Clinton secured 71 percent of the Jewish vote – the highest proportion of any faith group – and Trump won 24 percent, the lowest.
But with Trump in the Oval Office, the tone of the political discussion today seems particularly intense within the Jewish community.
In a recent open letter, the prominent literary couple Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman wrote, “Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism.”
And headlines in one of the nation’s prominent Jewish news outlets, since the election have included “Is Trump An Anti-Semite? Ask David Duke, He Should Know” and “My Fellow Jews: Admit You Were Wrong About Trump.”