Why do we tremble, what do we fear?
Racist graffiti found at a Minnesota high school, November 11, 2016 (YouTube) 

I recall my father reassuring his six-year-old son soon after the Holocaust that unlike European Jewry, that we will have advance warning. He believed that the first target of a turn towards racial cleansing in the United States would be the “schwartzes.” America’s blacks would be the Jew’s “canary in the mine.”

Whether or not I found that convincing as a child I have long since understood that the Shoah was unexceptional against the backdrop of two thousand years of marginal Jewish survival in the Diaspora. Regardless whether it is American Muslims, Afro-Americans or whatever the composition of the racist-nativist list for future elimination, the Jews will certainly be on that list.

In his 2014 Rosh Hashana greeting to an audience of Jews in government and the media Vice President Joe Biden was prescient in warning, “You understand in your bones that no matter how… deeply involved you are in the United States… there is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.” As do Jews in the United States today, so did Jews in Germany before 1938 describe that county “exceptional.” It may have taken this election to convince those among us who failed to accept the vice presidents warning that the Diaspora was, is and will remain dangerous for Jews, including us here in America.

We cannot know the heart of Donald Trump regarding Jews. Certainly his feelings towards Israel appear to reflect the positive sentiment of a large segment of his evangelical base. But regarding Jews in the United States the Trump campaign has proven a magnet for Christian Identity and white supremacist groups from the Ku Klux Klan to the American Nazi Party. Trump chose as campaign manager Stephen Bannon, CEO of Brightbart News. Brightbart has taken on the role of media outlet for racist and nativist groups in the United States. And Bannon’s name was today floated as Trump’s choice for White House chief of staff, doorkeeper to the president in the White House. (Instead Trump named Bannon “chief strategist and senior counselor to the president”).

While the Jews “canary in the mine” may not yet have died, clearly the atmosphere in the mine is increasingly toxic.
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