”A couple of weeks ago, an unprecedented event took place: 400 wealthy Orthodox Jewish philanthropists met with the president of the United States, Donald Trump. At the event, lavish praise was heaped upon him, including opening remarks from Rabbi YY Jacobson, and the “Bircat Hanasi” (Blessing upon a Ruler) was recited by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman. The event raised millions of dollars for Trump’s re-election campaign and was featured in numerous yeshiva publications. Mishpacha Magazine, one of the most prominent magazines in the ultra-Orthodox world did a full feature article on the event, with the title “America’s first Heimishe President.”
Supporting Trump among the Orthodox is not a new phenomenon. According to one survey, 54% of the Orthodox voted for him in 2016, and many say they will vote for him again. Although he was largely looked at with disdain by the Modern Orthodox, the overwhelming majority of the ultra-Orthodox voted for him and continue to support him.
What are we to make of this trend? Many see it purely in terms of how he has treated Israel. Many are quick to point out that Trump has managed to succeed in a pro-Israel policy in ways that has gone far beyond any of his predecessors, including cutting of funding to the Palestinians (which has been known to go at least in part to fund terror in the past), his moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem, his tearing up of the Iran Deal, and stating that the Golan Heights is rightfully part of Israel.
I respectfully disagree with this approach for many reasons. Firstly, one must always remember that Trump was paid a lot of money in campaign donations to make these pro-Israel policies. He was paid at least $65 million by Sheldon Adelson alone, the largest single donation of the 2016 election cycle, with the understanding that these pro-Israel policies would be put in place. (Nothing against Sheldon Adelson, of course, what I think he did was quite admirable, it just shows that Trump’s pro-Israel policies may not be for the purest of reasons that some seem to think.) If one thinks money does not factor into play in Trump’s mind, one only needs to look at his other decisions as president to see how easily he is swayed by money in addition to fame and power. He had once made statements against gun violence and in support of stricter gun laws in the years before he ran for president. After the NRA donated $31 million to his campaign, his views shifted dramatically, and he suddenly became a champion of the Second Amendment and refused to even enact universal background checks after numerous mass shootings. An amoral person with no ethical compass will always sell himself out to the highest bidder, regardless of what the position may be.
In addition, many seem quick to overlook Trump’s decision regarding withdrawing US troops from Syria, which according to Israel’s own defense minister and generals is very dangerous for Israel, as it gives Iran a chance to build a proxy base in Syria, as well as strengthen ISIS and Assad in the region. Why did he do this, when many of his own supporters in the GOP warned him that withdrawing from Syria was a dangerous move? The answer was obvious: Trump has many long standing business ties with Turkey and Russia, both of whom wanted the US troops to leave. And suddenly he left Israel out to dry, as money meant more to him than the safety of the Jewish state.
But it goes much beyond this. Rabbi YY Jacobson, in defense of his remarks at the event, said that despite Trump’s many deep-seated flaws, it is important to show gratitude for what Trump has done for Israel. But was that the entire truth? The event was billed as a fundraiser, not a recognition or awards ceremony. It was an event to help him get re-elected.”