(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The stunning and unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the American election on Tuesday has evinced an outpouring of commentary, prognostication, recrimination and fiery debate.
To add to this array of opinions, The Jerusalem Post sought a rabbinical perspective on this most divisive of elections.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat and head of the Ohr Torah Stone network of educational and social institutions, said he believes Trump’s election would be “good for America and good for Israel.”
Riskin said although he would not “hold Trump up as a paragon of virtue or a model for my children,” he does not believe that the president-elect’s personal behavior and campaign rhetoric would necessarily make him a bad leader.
“Many people, including myself, are repelled by his vocabulary and talk about women, but former president Bill Clinton was far more publicly promiscuous, and somehow the American public accepted him,” said Riskin.
The rabbi also was strongly critical of defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s own public controversies, such as her use of a private email server and the donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation.
Riskin said the Obama administration’s foreign-policy record, which he said Hillary Clinton had played a leading role in as secretary of state from 2008-2012, was especially poor.
He singled out the Iran nuclear agreement as having enabled a “tyrannical nation to develop nuclear energy for warfare at the same time the ayatollah was screaming death to the Jews and death to America.
“For me, Israel is critically important, and President Obama has been a terrible disappointment and was not at all kind to Israel.”
However, Rabbi Doniel Hartman, head of the Shalom Hartman Institute, a pluralist educational organization, expressed concern over the direction in which Trump may take the US, in particular the rights and place of minorities in the country.
“Democracy has spoken,” he said. “The fundamental question is what kind of democracy will America now be. As we know from similar struggles in Israel, democracy is not simply the rule of the majority but the rule of a majority, which preserves the inalienable rights of all.
“One of the great tests we face now as American citizens and as a religious community is that if the America that Trump spoke about is the America he tries to create, then we must be a powerful oppositional force, a force that always stands with the stranger, because we were strangers in the Land of Egypt.”
Hartman said “fear and anger” on issues such as immigration “have the power to blind people from their moral responsibilities and their conscious and diminish the claim that the other has upon you in terms of the moral responsibility of ‘that which is hateful to you do not do to your fellow.’” Hartman was also critical of those who welcome Trump’s election on the basis that he may have a favorable attitude to Israel, saying that such a stance neglects the Jewish people’s responsibility to the wider world.
“Our tradition has always stood for the idea that a Jew is both concerned with their right to be and their responsibility to be a holy people, and so the issue is not merely if Trump is good or not for Israel but if a Trump presidency is good or not for the world,” he said. “As Jews it is our sacred responsibility that both concerns, not just the first, guide our actions and behavior in the years to come.”
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, dean of the Orot Shaul yeshiva in Ra’anana, said he believes there could be significant changes in a Trump presidency from the president-elect’s campaign, in which he “appeared good for Israel but racist and dangerous.”
“As a president, I think both things will change,” Cherlow said. “I’m not sure he’ll be best for Israel; he might try and forcefully solve the political conflict with Palestinians, and I assume he won’t fulfill some of his promises.
“On the other hand, I hope he’ll be a president for all Americans and will not build his policies on discrimination or on trying to tear American society apart. I’m concerned not just for Israel, but in what direction he will lead the world. I think more sensitive and complex thinking is necessary to deal with the world’s issues at the moment.”
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