Donald Trump’s stunning victory in last week’s presidential election has stirred strong reactions from both those distressed and those enthused by the Republican candidate’s improbable win. And those reactions have struck on many issues that divide Jewish people the most.
Individuals and organizations that advocate for Jewish social welfare programs, the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are worried about how Trump will handle those initiatives after he takes office. Many of Trump’s campaign promises have made both Democrats and Republicans feel uneasy.
The concerns are domestic too, arising from increasing anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric that has been linked with the Trump campaign throughout an extremely divisive election season.
“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a prepared statement. “We must not let this troubling trend of hate define our society, which means that the onus is on our community leaders, religious clergy, elected officials and others to remain vigilant [and] report incidents when they surface.”
Jewish Republicans, though largely split on the president-elect, see an opportunity for Trump to build a strong pact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While the United States and Israel are longtime allies, relations were considered, at times, strained between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu because of their contrasting views on certain world issues.
Among the many promises Trump made in his campaign, he vowed to move the U.S. embassy from the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.
Some organizations look forward to bipartisan cooperation on Israel.
“Despite their deep differences on a range of issues, both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates notably shared a common commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee wrote in a prepared statement. “Strong bipartisan support for the Jewish state is also reflected overwhelmingly in the incoming Congress. We look forward to working with the new Congress on key legislative initiatives to strengthen the relationship between our two democracies.”
For many, such as Jewish Pikesville resident Ruth Goetz, policy on Israel was one of the main focal points of the race.
Goetz, who sits on the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said with great certainty that Trump would do more for the Holy Land than any other president since Israel’s birth in 1948. She believes Trump will make good on his promise to eradicate ISIS, a shared common enemy of the United States and Israel, and potentially help Israel create an opportunity to abandon its commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“What I’ve seen from Trump, I think he is the most pro-Israel I have ever seen from a presidential administration,” Goetz said. “I’m looking forward to — and it’s nice to see — the capital of Israel [Jerusalem] is going to be acknowledged.”
Trump’s election ignited protests in Baltimore and several other major cities around the country. On Nov. 10, two days after Trump’s closely contested win, police said that an estimated 600 dismayed Baltimore residents took to the streets to show their displeasure of a Trump presidency.
Abby Becker, a Jewish protester, proudly marched from the Washington Monument to McKeldin Square, where demonstrators chanted “Not my president” and “2-4-6-8, no to Trump and no to hate.”
Becker, 28, a nonprofit employee and musician who resides in Baltimore, said she was “devastated but not surprised” when she learned Trump had been elected and added that she refuses to accept the result.
When asked if she would acknowledge Trump as president after he is inaugurated on Jan. 21, Becker paused, saying: “That’s a tough one. [Trump] does not speak for me. He does not represent what I think or believe about my country, and it’s my job to make that very clear to the rest of the world that’s looking to us.”
She added: “Trump is a manifestation of so much of the darkness that’s part of our country: super capitalism, racism, egocentrism, white supremacy, corporate citizenship, the incarceration state, militarism and so much more. He’s fearful of people who are different from him.”
There were also walkouts in the past week at some universities around the state, including Towson University and the University of Maryland, College Park, during which students, staff and faculty expressed their dismay about Trump.
“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery.”
— Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League
Many, such as Becker, had hoped at the very least that Trump would surround himself with a team of seasoned advisers and decision-makers.
His recent appointment of his campaign’s controversial CEO, Steve Bannon, as chief strategist and senior counsel has led to more criticism for Trump. Civil rights leaders, Democrats and some Republicans have said that Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website that has featured alt-right views, will bring an anti-Semitic, nationalist and racist point of view to the position.
In addition to Breitbart content, critics have cited that Bannon himself has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.
“At the end of the day, there was going to be extreme opposition to either [Trump or Clinton] being elected. I just hope that America can overcome the extreme divide and make this country a better place for all people.”
— David Kashan, 25, a third-year Jewish medical student from Owings Mills
Aaron Levin, chair of J Street Baltimore, said Trump’s attitude and language directed toward all minority groups should put everyone on alert.
“Obviously, I think there are a lot of disturbing things we have seen from Trump so far,” Levin said. “People from all different minority backgrounds, I think, have every reason to be fearful.”
While Baltimore hasn’t been rife with anti-Semitic incidents, a swastika with the words “white power” popped up on an Interstate 83 exit ramp, prompting residents to report the graffiti to the Anti-Defamation League.
Mount Washington resident Tara Marbach noticed the swastika on Nov. 12 on a metal panel on the exit ramp for East Northern Parkway off of I-83 South.
“For me, it’s frustrating,” Marbach said. “I’m not Jewish, I’m a white girl. It doesn’t scare me for me, but it breaks my heart because I know that it hurts so many people. It’s just frustrating that this is happening right now in our country.”
An image Marbach took circulated on a listserv for Mount Washington residents, which prompted sculptor and builder Marc Braun, a former Mount Washington resident who maintains clients in the area, to cover up the graffiti with spray paint.
While covering up the graffiti, which he said was written in magic marker, Braun learned from a black homeless man that a white homeless man had drawn the swastika because he was mad that the guy had taken his panhandling spot.
Braun, who grew up in Prince George’s County and became a bar mitzvah at Baltimore synagogue Shaarei Tfiloh, said spray-painting over the swastika was a “gut reaction.”
“I don’t say hide it, I say take a picture of it, report it, document it, but don’t let it hang around to terrorize everyone else, because it’s terrorism in my mind,” he said. “I went to Hebrew school. I got it drilled into me that concentration camps were real. … The reality of the Holocaust is still there; it’s not going away. The white supremacists and the Holocaust deniers, that’s all happening, and it’s getting stronger.”
He also called Bannon’s appointment “scary.” “Now we have the white nationalists and the KKK people getting a seat at the table,” he said. “That’s scary.”
In response to such incidents, the Baltimore Jewish Council is monitoring the recent spike in hate crimes around the state and country. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh took it a step further on Monday, according to The Baltimore Sun, encouraging victims of racial and religious hate speech to report the incidents.
“Toward the end of [Trump’s] campaign, there was unfortunately a lot of rhetoric, particularly in campaign commercials, that certainly suggested anti-Semitic tones,” Howard Libit, executive director of the BJC, told the JT. “I think all of us in the community are hopeful that that does not continue into the president-elect’s administration and that [Trump] seeks to continue to build on the tolerance and diversity our nation is founded on.”
Trump, who received 35 percent of the vote in Maryland, also has changed the outlook of some staunch supporters, such as 37-year-old Towson lawyer Phil Kaplan, who is Jewish. He long felt dismissed by the political system but truly feels Trump has given a voice back to the people.
Kaplan, a Republican, called on all Americans, regardless of political affiliations or ties, to back Trump and give the president-elect a chance to prove himself as the nation’s commander-in-chief.
“Not everyone may see things eye to eye,” Kaplan said. “The election clearly got ugly, but at this point, rather than dismissing all the people who voted Trump into office, we should all try to work together. We’re all in the same boat, because most of us are all ordinary human beings who are just trying to make it through.”
As much as Kaplan said he disliked Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, he praised her for the way in which she handled herself after delivering her concession speech.
“I think she was very classy by the manner she handled everything,” Kaplan said. “If she wants to see everyone come together, I think her followers and supporters should get on board with that, considering the message is coming from the head of the Democratic Party.”
There are some who could not find significant policies that promised real change of any kind for the better but who were open to throw their support behind either Trump or Clinton.
David Kashan, 25, a third-year Jewish medical student from Owings Mills, said that while he found neither Clinton nor Trump particularly appealing before the election, he is content with Trump.
Kashan believes a lot of the anger he has witnessed directed at Trump supporters through social media and in person is misdirected. He said labeling Republicans as racists, sexists, misogynists, among other name-calling, only adds to the discord that is occurring around the nation.
“Trump has major flaws, but who is to say that he can’t do some good in office? It is a shame to see people on social media rooting for his demise,” Kashan said. “At the end of the day, there was going to be extreme opposition to either [Trump or Clinton] being elected. I just hope that America can overcome the extreme divivde and make this country a better place for all people.”
Marc Shapiro contributed to this report.