I tend to be the opposite of an anti-Semite. I love Jews. I briefly dated a Jewish girl in high school. My first close relationship with one of those iconic New York Jews was my college roommate, a guy who was among my dearest friends until his much-to-early passing. I maintain a wonderful relationship with his brother – another New York Jewish Democrat who currently resides in Maine. Then there is a dear lady friend here in Florida – yet another New York Jewish Democrat.
When I wanted to leave the confining culture of a sales job with the telephone company for a job in public relations, i was given the chance in two successive jobs with agencies run by Jewish businessmen.
For a time here in Florida, I participated in a weekly discussion group in which I was virtually the only gentile. Most of them were New York liberal Democrat Jews — although I did have a couple of conservative allies. It was two hours a great discussion followed by lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. I regularly speak before a Jewish women’s group.
If you like a sense of humor as much as I do, you have to love all those great Jewish comedians – the old timers like Jack Benny, George Burns, Victor Borge and Rodney Dangerfield, and the more contemporary performers like Sacha Baron Cohen, the team of Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld, and Jerry Seinfeld. And the list goes on … and on … and on.
Jews are among the most generous people in the world. When I ran the City Club of Chicago, I made it a practice to honor a Jewish business leader as “Man (or Woman) of the Year” every other year. In those years, I never worried about ticket sales or contributions. Pragmatically, I would have liked to honor a Jewish leader every year, but the City Club was a broad-based community organization and my strategy might have been too obvious.
I also liked their attitude about fundraising. No pretense. In one case, I was in the office of my dinner chairman when another top Jewish leader was invited in to be told he would be the Israel Bond Man-of-the-Year. The gentleman was on the verge of weeping. “I do not deserve such an honor.” At which time our host said, “Of course you don’t. We’re doing it for the money and I assume you will kick it off with a big donation.”
On another occasion, I was in the office of yet another prominent Jewish business leader to invite him to be the City Club Man-of-the-Year awardee. “Larry, I need another award like I need a hole in the head,” he said pointing to a wall covered in plaques and certificates My heart sank, but then he continued “ … but if you need the money, I’ll do it.”
Since my entire life has been filled with positive relationships with Jews, I have never understood the anti-Semitic animosity. The mass killing at the Tree of Life Temple saddened me deeply. Those were people like my beloved college roommate and his brother. That hot girl in high school. And the man who gave me my first breaks in the public communication business. Religious violence of any kind never made any sense to me.
Conversely, I have never understood why so many Jews are liberal Democrats. Is it because they have historically been more concentrated in the major cities run by Democrat machines? That does not seem to be a sufficient explanation.
The Democratic Party has not been kind to Jews for a long time – and especially not now. Franklin Roosevelt was not only a racist, but an anti-Semite. In one of the most inhumane acts of anti-Semitism, FDR turned back a shipload of Jewish refugees escaping the horrors of Nazi Germany.
In terms of presidential support for Israel, Republicans stand out – specifically Ronald Reagan, the Bush duo and Donald Trump. The most unfriendly president was Barack Obama, who weakened America’s support for Israel in a number of ways. His pro-Arab policies – especially in terms of the Shiites – were obvious and troublesome. He entered into an Iran Deal that was dangerous to the future of Israel and strongly opposed by Israeli President Netanyahu, most Americans and most members of Congress – and the vast majority of Jewish-Americans.
While Jews have been strong on the general issue of civil rights, there has been an undercurrent of anti-Semitism within certain factions of black leadership. This was evident to me during my days of political and civic involvement in Chicago.
The Kenwood region of Chicago – in which Obama had served as a community organizer – was rife with anti-Israel black sentiment. In addition to Obama, Kenwood was the home and headquarters of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan – whose open hostility to Jews was legendary. He refers to Jews as Satans. “You should learn to call them [Jews] by their real name, ‘Satan.’ You’re coming face to face with Satan, the Arch Deceiver, the enemy of God, and the enemy of the righteous.” Farrakhan and his followers are virtually all Democrats.
A number of the Kenwood community’s black leaders were not only pro-Arab, but they traveled to the Middle East under the sponsorship of such terrorist despots as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi – and spread anti-Israel propaganda in the community.
While Republicans consistently condemned Farrakhan, Democrats were less willing to do so. In fact, many Democrats were not even secretive about their close relationship with Farrakhan. Farrakhan’s acceptance by Democrat leaders is found in photographs of the anti-Semitic leader with Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and even President Bill Clinton. is seen in a smiling and friendly pose with the anti-Semitic leader.
Minnesota Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison confirmed that he had once worked with Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam for a year and a half. Ellison later publicly disavowed Farrakhan’s hateful rhetoric, but he did not end his association with him. Ellison was a table partner of Farrakhan at a private dinner following the first UN speech by the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. At a later date, Farrakhan reported on a meeting in his hotel suite with Ellison and fellow black Muslim Democrat Congressman Andre Carson, of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Despite his association with Farrakhan, the Democratic National Committee made Ellison their “co-chairman” after his defeat for the top post by Tom Perez – another progressive Democrat of dubious support for America’s most critical ally in the Middle East. Since then, Democrats have elected Ellison as the Attorney General of Minnesota in the face of spousal abuse charges.
His accuser, with more evidence than Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, was NOT believed by the top leaders of the #MeToo Movement – which include anti-Semitic activists Linda Sarsour – who the Times of Israel describes as an anti-Semitic terrorist — and Tamika Mallory – a member of the Nation of Islam and outspoken defender of Farrakhan.
Replacing Ellison in Congress is Democrat Ilhan Omar, one of two Muslim women to share the title of the first women of their background to be elected to Congress. The other being Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan. During a campaign appearance at a Jewish temple, Omar promised to be even-handed in dealing with Israel-Palestine issues and her opposition to DBS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel. Following her election, she reversed her position with stated support for BDS.
Tlaib received the endorsement and funding from the progressive Jewish J Street Political Action Committee. That endorsement requires a candidate to support the continued military and financial support for Israel. Following her election, Tlaib suggested that J Street had misunderstood her position and she does support those who push for BDS.
The growing anti-Israel coalition in Congress is not just composed of a couple of Muslim legislators. New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes is as strident in her anti-Israel positions as any in Congress. The anti-Israel caucus within the Democrat congressional ranks is still a relatively small coalition but has grown in numbers and influence in recent years.
There is a difference in how the two parties treat anti-Semitic interlopers. The GOP condemns people like David Duke – who jumped back and forth between the two parties. The Democrats recruit, embrace and promote anti-Israel and anti-Semitic candidates and welcome them in Congress as the new face of their Party.
One can try to defend Jewish support of the Democratic Party, but it is irrefutable that Democrats are less supportive of Israel and Jewish interests than they were in the past, and there will be more anti-Jewish sentiment on the Democrat side of the aisle in the new Congress than there is today – and that has been a trend for many years. Even the New York Times – a media bible for many Jewish Democrats – lead off an article with the headline, “A New Wave of Democrats Tests the Party’s Blanket Support for Israel.”
Those are just a few of the reasons why I am confused over the support the Democratic Party receives from so many Jews, including some of my dearest friends.
So, there ‘tis.