As the 2016 US presidential election campaigns have gotten increasingly grisly, talk of Americans seeking to flee a potential Trump reign to Canada has become commonplace.
But for US Jews, the Law of Return, which allows every Jew to live in Israel, presents an alternative place of refuge.
On the eve of the US election results, The Jerusalem Post
sought to determine whether a Trump victory could be a trigger for aliya or is just election rhetoric.
“I don’t think I can live through four years of Trump’s America, the mainstreaming of racism and bigotry,” says Nicholas Niedermeier, 22, from Cincinnati, Ohio. Niedermeier has always considered aliya, but says a Trump victory would give him the push he needs.
“One reason I haven’t made aliya yet is because of the political discourse in Israel, and if Trump wins it will make it a lot easier to move,” he tells the Post.
A recent graduate, Niedermeier notes that he is at a point in his life where the transition would be relatively smooth, and a couple of his friends may join him for similar reasons.
He says that while “antisemitism isn’t a huge part of the American consciousness,” with elements such as Alt-Right taking a part in election campaigning, “antisemitism has come out of the woodwork creating an atmosphere reminiscent of countries such as France,” where antisemitism has been a prominent issue.
“It’s scary,” he remarks, though he notes that he hasn’t felt physically threatened but has been subject to online antisemitism. He observed, however, that much of the antisemitism has emanated from the far-left.
Sarah Cohen (not her real name) has no desire to make aliya. But if the Republicans are victorious on Wednesday, she will make no hesitation in picking up the phone to Nefesh B’Nefesh and packing her bags with her husband and children.
“I would be gone by January,” she declares. “I don’t know if we would necessarily make aliya permanently, but at least until he was out of office or at least until I could see it was safe to be here.”
Cohen states that while Trump himself is not necessarily antisemitic, he lacks “the moral courage to stand up to a base of supporters who say blatantly antisemitic things. He seems willing to look away and I don’t see that stopping when he becomes president.”
According to Cohen, it’s clear that Trump has a “Jew problem.”
“There were a dozen incidences... he hides behind the fact that his daughter converted, but it’s completely possible to love specific Jews and not the Jewish people as a whole and I think that’s where he is.”
Brett Goldman, 31, an analyst from Philadelphia, says a Trump victory will be a “serious factor in his plans for the next six months.” Goldman was out knocking on doors campaigning for Hillary when he spoke to the Post
“I know a lot of people who are seriously considering making aliya and having a foot out the door, because we have seen this before,” he says, making reference to Nazi Germany.
Echoing Cohen, Goldman says the threat does not just come from Trump himself, but from “the muck he has kicked up from society – he’s brought out racists and anti-Semites.”
“The Alt-Right and these elements that are really scary see him as the guy who will take their views from the lunatic fringe into the mainstream,” stated Goldman. “I don’t know how we’d recover. The good thing for us is that we have the state of Israel.”
Rob Drowos, 29, already has one foot out the door and will make aliya no matter what the outcome of the election, a decision which was influenced by the campaign. Drowos has imagined making aliya since going on a Birthright trip a decade ago and making several visits to Israel since. Drowos works with youth in Baltimore.
“Even my elementary-age children pick up on [Trump’s] rhetoric, especially regarding people of color,” he says. “It is heartbreaking to see the shock on their faces. Hard to believe how mainstream this speech has become.”
The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Drowos says it pains him “to see what the Trump campaign has wrought in terms of public discourse. Aside from the campaign’s antisemitism, there is clearly a promotion of white nationalism.”
Drowos acknowledges that Israel’s right-wing government may also not be in line with his views, but reasons that “if those concerns exist in both countries, I'd probably lean towards the place where I can live comfortably as a Jew, among Jews.”