I have spent the last few weeks doing my utmost to offer hope, faith, and fortitude to my family, my readers, and my followers around the world as we confront a plague that has caused wretchedness and suffering and claimed the lives of untold innocents.
A rabbi should be allowed to do his job giving comfort to the people. That I should now have to divert my focus toward responding to a positively vile and libelous attack against me and the Jewish community by the notoriously Israel-hating Guardian is unfortunate but necessary.
A TV series based on Philip Roth’s novel, The Plot Against America, is now airing on HBO. The story is a disturbing one that imagines Charles Lindbergh defeating Franklin Roosevelt in the presidential election on the platform to keep America out of war. Antisemitism, in the fictional story, becomes accepted to the point where Jews see frightening parallels with the persecution of Jews in Germany.
Charles Bramesco, reviewing the series for the Guardian, decided to attack Republican Jews in general, and me in particular, as being a source of American antisemitism.
As religious Jewish communities around the world are being decimated by the coronavirus, Bramesco — who has openly and expressly accused President Donald Trump of being a Nazi — libelously accuses pro-Trump Jews of being pansies for the Hitler-like Trump, and for fascism.
Bramesco describes the Roth character of Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, played by the John Turturro, as a stereotypical court Jew who defends Lindbergh against allegations of antisemitism, prompted in part by his flirtations with Hitler, and is rewarded with a position in the administration. Even as persecution of Jews escalates, the rabbi continues to be an enabler of the president. “Bengelsdorf,” Bramesco writes, “typifies a lethal combination of confidence to the point of gullibility and an excessive fondness of power, which breed complicity in wrongdoing.”
Inexplicably, Mr. Bramesco then pivots to me and the object of his unfathomable loathing, Donald Trump. Apropos of nothing, he compares me to Bengelsdorf and Trump to Lindbergh. He also employs a little Yiddish, calling me a worldwide “shanda” (embarrassment), “cozying up to President Trump in the presumptive belief that he’ll be exempt from the hatred now being seeded.”
So Jews are responsible for the antisemitism that Trump is supposedly sewing in the United States. According to the Guardian, we Jews are culprits, and not victims, of that Jew-hatred.
A discerning reader might be tempted to dismiss Bramesco’s writings as the inane blathering of the lunatic fringe and Bramesco himself as filled with an all-consuming hate. But given that these appear in a publication claiming legitimacy, they are deeply damaging and demand a response.
Let me start with his comments about the president. Some people love Trump. Some people loathe Trump. That’s all part of living in a democracy. The same mixed feelings greeted Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton, who preceded him.
To compare Donald Trump, father of a Jewish daughter and grandfather to three Jewish grandchildren, to Lindbergh or — one step removed — to Hitler is disgusting, foul and an affront to the memory of the Holocaust.
I have had my areas of agreement with President Trump and I have my areas of disagreement. If there were racists who supported him, I’ve repeatedly condemned them as “disgusting, vile white supremacist nutjobs.” I strongly criticized the President’s campaign pledge to ban Muslim immigrants, which I labeled “a betrayal of both Jewish and American values.”
But on his unprecedented support for Israel and his strong efforts to combat antisemitism, I am unapologetically grateful. The same is true of my profound gratitude to the President for firing American missiles at the genocidal leader of Syria, the bloody Bashar Assad, for using poison gas against Muslim men, women, and children, something President Obama failed to do.
For Bramesco to equate a president widely regarded as the most pro-Israel in American history with a fictitious president who tells Jews to assimilate “or else”; and who appoints a vicious antisemite (Henry Ford) who manipulates America’s “neutrality” in favor of Nazi Germany, is vile.
As for me, the supposed worldwide embarrassment who cozies up to President Trump in hopes I’ll be spared the antisemitism he allegedly seeks to unleash, I’ll say this to Mr. Bramesco:
- I’m not embarrassed by the President pulling out of the Iran deal, which presented an existential threat to the Jewish State of Israel;
- I’m not embarrassed by the President moving the U.S. Embassy to its rightful place in the City of Jerusalem; and
- I’m not embarrassed by Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights or the strenuous efforts his Administration has made to promote Middle East peace and provide economic hope and opportunity to our Palestinian brothers and sisters, who live under the kleptocracy of Mahmoud Abbas and the murderous yoke of Hamas.
Sadly, Bramesco typifies the hate circulating in our currently polarized world. Consider his reaction to President-elect Trump’s Happy Hanukkah tweet of a photo of a menorah with all the candles lit: “1. Only the first candle and the shammes should be lit, you stupid motherf***** [he spelled out the word] 2. YOU ARE A LITERAL NAZI FIGUREHEAD HOW DARE YOU.”
1. Only the first candle and the shammes should be lit, you stupid motherfucker 2. YOU ARE A LITERAL NAZI FIGUREHEAD HOW DARE YOU https://t.co/wyXVDAuhDN
— Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse) December 24, 2016
Bramesco and the Guardian offer no explanation for their ad hominem attack on me and other Jews whose sin in their eyes is simple gratitude for moral actions Trump has taken like holding Iran accountable for its repeated promises to annihilate Israel.
It is particularly sad that in a time when we need to pull together and support and protect humanity from a deadly virus sweeping the world, the Guardian and Bramesco trade in such extreme hate.
I have spent my life promoting universal Jewish values, advocating for Holocaust memory and education, crusading for genocide awareness and fighting genocidal incitement, facilitating African-American-Jewish relations, supporting LGBTQ rights, and defending Israel. I’ve spent my career as a rabbi opposing dictatorships and authoritarian regimes while promoting the freedoms afforded by democracy and working to see they are available as a birthright to everyone on earth.
The unforgettable words of Joseph Welch to Joseph McCarthy apply equally to Bramesco and the editors at the Guardian.
“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of the World Values Network and the author of 33 books, including Judaism for Everyone.