Jews, Trump And Religious Liberty
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Letters to the editor

Jews, Trump And Religious Liberty

The Aug. 24 issue’s Between The Lines column by Gary Rosenblatt, “Summer Of Discontent,” stated that “American Jews have voted strongly Democratic for almost a century, and President Trump’s efforts to undermine or undo some of the foundational elements of U.S. society — the judiciary, the press, environmental standards, etc. — have only solidified that trend. The only major exception has been the administration’s exemplary support for Israel … .” I would argue that the president’s record on judicial appointments and nominations is another exception to Jews voting Democratic — not a reason for it.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh both have sterling records in vigorously defending religious liberties. Attempts by secularist and atheist organizations, local councils and commissions to infringe on Jewish practices and rituals have increased in recent years. Ordinances and regulations banning [controversial forms of] brit milah (ritual circumcision), shechita (ritual slaughter), eruvs and separate hours for men and women at public pools have been proposed in municipalities across the country. Conservative-leaning judges of the type appointed by the president have been successful in pushing back efforts to infringe on religious practices.

Consequently, Jews interested in protecting the rights of fellow Jews to observe Jewish laws should support the president’s judicial appointments, not oppose them on the grounds that they “undermine … foundational elements of U.S. society,” as The Jewish Week put it. 

Jerry Stern

Merion Station, Pa.

In “Summer Of Discontent,” Gary Rosenblatt’s Aug. 24 column, Mr. Rosenblatt unintentionally gets to the heart of the issue when he writes that, “The one major exception [to President Trump’s perceived undermining of American principles] has been the administration’s exemplary support of Israel, a major factor for the Orthodox community and a minority of other Jews who place Israel at or near the top of the list when casting their votes.”

That is, the majority of American Jews do not “place Israel at or near the top of the[ir] list” of critical issues. It should not be a surprise, then, that “Israelis don’t appreciate diaspora Jewry weighing in on matters of national security” and that Israelis “wonder why non-Orthodox American Jews care so much about prayer at the Kotel when[,]” as Mr. Rosenblatt writes, the majority don’t really care much about Israel.

Finally, the conclusion of the article reveals the ginned-up nature of the nation-state law “controversy” as Stuart Eizenstat concedes that the law is more symbolic than substantive; Mr. Rosenblatt admits that the Basic Law already contains the language he wants; and Mr. Eizenstat concludes that “Israel remains a very viable democracy.”

Jay Saltzman

Woodmere, L.I.

Editor’s Note: On Mr. Saltzman’s last point, Israel’s Declaration of Independence contains language of “freedom, justice and peace …” etc. The new Basic Law does not; that is what I expressed regret about.

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