Jews have a reputation of being smart. Indeed, if you look at the list of Nobel Prize laureates, you will notice that Jewish sounding names are far more common than their share of the world’s population. There is also the famous wisdom of King Solomon, who was regarded as the wisest of men. However, if you examine the chronicles of the Jewish people and our conduct as a nation, you will find that we march from folly to folly, and never seem to learn, as if our wisdom has remained with King Solomon, and all we have is talent for math, science, and finances.
On Sunday, former president Donald Trump criticized American Jewry for their attitude toward Israel. He wrote that they must “get their act together” and show more appreciation for the state of Israel “before it is too late.”
Trump did not specify what he meant by “too late,” but Jewish history makes it very clear what that might be, although I cannot be certain that this is what Trump meant. Jewish history proves one thing, and if we were wiser, we would learn from it: When we are together, united as one, we thrive. When we are divided, we suffer. Accordingly, “getting our act together” means restoring our shattered unity and transcending the alienation between us.
Our history confirms that Jews are a nation on a mission to correct the world; this is why our motto is Tikkun Olam (correction of the world). We did not choose it; it was imposed on us.
However, we were chosen for a reason: We did what no one else has done before we established our nationhood, or since. The Jewish nation emerged from an eclectic mixture of strangers from foreign tribes and nations who had one thing in common: the conviction that living in unity and solidarity is the only viable way for humanity to exist. This is why we placed love of others above all other values.
Because unity of all people is indeed the most sublime value, we were tasked with spreading it. Since there were times when we achieved it, such as at the foot of Mt. Sinai and at other rare occasions and periods in our history, we were also tasked with setting an example, with being a model nation, a “light to the nations.”
In time, however, we have abandoned our mission and discarded our core values. Instead of being a light to the nations, we have become a darkness to the nations, setting a model of division, or as our sages called it sinaat hinam (unfounded hatred, hatred for no reason).
I respect Donald Trump and I respect his words because he respects our unity. His gut feeling that Jews should stick together does not stem from antisemitism; nor are they an attempt to play into antisemitic tropes, as some of his critics argue. Rather, his words stem from a conviction that this is the way Jews should treat one another, that Jewish unity is good for the Jews and good for the world.
He is absolutely right. Our insistence on distinguishing between American Jewry and the State of Israel works against us. Rather than mitigate antisemitism in America, this division is the very reason that antisemitism is growing.
Regardless of Israel’s actions or of the actions of American Jewry, the very fact that Jews are divided among themselves fuels the world’s anger against them because it is the opposite example of the one they should give.
At the moment, the chasm between American Jewry and Israel seems wider than the ocean that lies between us. The two communities are like two continents moving farther and farther apart. Unless we get our act together, just as Trump said, and pull together as one nation, above the alienation and hatred between us, a modern Hitler of some sort will rise and do to us what our detractors have done to us throughout our millennia of Jewish folly.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds a rally ahead of the midterm elections, in Mesa, Arizona, U.S., October 9, 2022. REUTERS/Brian Snyder