Trump's Campaign Had Anti-Semitic Overtones, But Let's Be Optimistic

Donald Trump
President-elect Donald Trump speaks at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1. Ty Wright/Getty

As Julius Caesar once said: "It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience." Today, we all make decisions quickly, snap judgements in the heat of the moment based on our biases and instincts, and not necessarily on the full facts. Waiting, giving ourselves that chance to assess a new reality, is as difficult as ever.

We have witnessed one of the bloodiest elections in living memory. Many things were said in the heat of battle, many inappropriate, some shocking, others outrageous. President-elect Donald Trump and his team must be held to account for some of his comments, but we also owe it to our country to take our time and see future actions before rushing to judgement.

Within days, we have already seen President-elect Trump change his mind from some of his most hardline proposals. The idea that he would look to prosecute Hillary Clinton seemed far-fetched at the time and so it has proven. There have also been re-assessments when it comes to policy areas such as Obamacare, NATO and others. It may be hard, but it is in all of our interests to give Donald Trump a chance before writing him off, along with his administration and by extension our democracy.

However, we can't duck the fact that Jews in the U.S. are wary of the President-elect. A wave of anti-Semitism has seeped into the public consciousness and has infiltrated both sides of the political debate. Whilst this type of abuse is common across parts of Europe, we have been privileged to live in a society where Jewish people haven't just been accepted but have also been embraced. But, this election shows that people are rejecting mainstream political ideas. The rise in anti-Semitic incidents cannot be treated as a coincidence and must be taken seriously.

We all know that there are significant challenges posed by Trump's election to the Jewish community. His pre-election commercial, which referred to "those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interest," had worrying anti-Semitic overtones. This was present during the campaign and became more intense in the last few weeks. Further concerns have been raised about the President-elect's appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist. But we would be wrong to jump to conclusions, and the administration's actions over the next few months will give us a clear idea as to how they intend to behave in office.

That is not just a Republican problem, Democratic Representative Keith Ellison, who is widely considered a frontrunner to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee, formerly defended Minister Louis Farrakhan, a spokesman for the religious group Nation of Islam which espouses anti-Semitism. As the public look for change, fringe voices are going to become part of the mainstream.

The early signs are that the President-elect will tackle the problem. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has already leapt to Trump's defence and pointed to 25 occasions where he has denounced the KKK. We need to be prepared, if Trump's administration, or any political leader, does not take steps to quash anti-Semitism, we need to call them out and hold them to account.

Our society has seen waves of immigrants from all over the world, living together, side by side, with people of other backgrounds and faith. I fully expect President-elect Trump as a New Yorker to not only realize this, but to embrace it. He has lived in the most diverse city on earth all of his life. He has become a part of its culture and is aware of how our society works. I could not imagine that he would not want to take that inclusivity forward and ensure it is part of his administration.

Trump's pre-election promises about Israel signify that he will take a very different approach to the country than the current Obama administration. He has promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and seems set on creating stronger ties with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. When I met with the Israeli leader last week, we recognized both countries are at the forefront of innovation and technology.

An ever closer bond between the two countries will be beneficial to both parties. On Iran, Trump has made it clear that he is willing to challenge the nuclear agreement that is currently a direct threat to both the USA and Israel. While we cannot ignore domestic issues, making progress in the Middle East could set a positive tone for Trump's relationship with the Jewish community.

We cannot be complacent. There are worrying signs. However, we should judge our new president on his actions in Office and not on the tone of his campaign. The jury is still out as to what his long-term relationship with the Jewish community will be, but I choose to look forward with optimism rather than knee-jerk criticism.

Jack Rosen is the President of the American Jewish Congress