Jewish Baltimore reacts to presidential election

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President-elect Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden (David Lienemann/public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

By Ron Kampeas | JTA and Jesse Berman

Former Vice President Joe Biden has achieved the rare ousting of an incumbent president, Donald Trump, and stands to dramatically shift U.S. policy in a number of areas, including a robust confrontation with the flourishing of bigotry in the United States and the repairing of U.S. ties with European and Asian allies.


The outcome was called Nov. 7, the fifth day of counting in five states where the outcome was close: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, where Biden is leading, and North Carolina, where Trump is leading. Outlets calling the election for Biden included NBC, CNN, the Washington Post and The Associated Press. Trump has made claims of voter fraud without evidence and, as of press time, has not conceded, while other Republicans said the declaration was premature.

Biden’s election makes some Jewish history: Doug Emhoff, husband to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will be the first male and the first Jew in a spousal supporting role for a vice president.

Biden launched his campaign in April 2019 saying he was spurred to run — an option he forewent in 2016 — because of what he said was Trump’s encouragement of bigotry and anti-Semitism. Biden singled out Trump’s equivocations after the deadly neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in 2017.

One of his likeliest foreign policy shifts will be to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, which relieved sanctions on Iran in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear program.

Trump exited the deal in 2018, although the United States’ European partners did not, a major point of contention in the western alliance.

Biden otherwise will likely leave much of Trump’s Israel-related policy intact: He has said he will not move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, and has praised the normalization accords Trump brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Bahrain. Biden and Harris have pledged to restore U.S. funding to the Palestinians cut by the Trump administration and the focus on achieving a two-state solution.

Last weekend, the world saw some very strong, emotional reactions to the news that Joe Biden would become the 46th president of the United States. This included in Baltimore, where local Jewish leaders responded to the news.

Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said that he was “pleased to see an election with record-breaking numbers of people who were engaged and who voted. And am looking forward to the challenge of trying to work to bring people back together.”

Libit was reassured by what he called Biden’s longstanding ties with the national Jewish community and his record of support for Israel. He hoped that the Biden administration would work to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, which he said has “survived and thrived in both Democratic and Republican administrations.” Libit also hoped that a Biden White House would unveil successful strategies regarding both the pandemic and the economic difficulties that have overtaken the country. He also hoped to see the new administration effectively deal with the surge in hatred and anti-Semitism, and to prioritize the protection of the community.

Rianna Lloyd, a Baltimore community organizer for Jews United for Justice, also addressed the election in a statement.

As “a grassroots organization, JUFJ works to further social, racial and economic justice in our region,” she said. “The recent election shows that millions of people across the country — and thousands right here in Baltimore — want to do that work. In the spirit of tzedek, tzedek, tirdof, we’re eager to keep fighting for our communities in Baltimore and across the state, in the pursuit of justice!”

Dr. Gary Applebaum, a resident of Pasadena with ties to the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that it’s “remarkable that despite a pandemic and unprecedented media and big tech opposition for his entire term in office President Trump received seven million more votes in this election than in 2016. And many of these votes came from a dramatic increase in minority voters as well as the highest percentage of Jews voting for a Republican since Ronald Reagan.

“These new voters moved to Trump because they are better off now than they were 4 years ago,” Applebaum continued. “I wish President Biden well, hopefully he’ll learn some lessons from the Trump successes,  not only in managing the economy but also Trumps innovative  approach to bringing peace to the Middle East.”

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh Congregation expressed feeling “thrilled with the results. … I never felt that Donald Trump was fit to be president.” Wohlberg hoped that, in Biden, the country would receive “a president that speaks to the United States of America, not just to his base.”

Late Friday night, Biden spoke in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., anticipating a win, but not outright calling it. It was an impassioned appeal for unity after one of the most divisive elections in U.S. history.

“I will work as hard for those who voted against me as those who voted for me,” he said. “We don’t have any time to waste on partisan warfare.”

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