Viewpoint: Days of awe, days of action

Karen Rubin
Karen Rubin, Columnist

I am deeply suspicious of the timing of these bilateral treaties with Israel by Bahrain and UAE – welcome, certainly and doing much to reduce the isolation of Israel (while the U.S. increases its isolation as a pariah nation).

Like the promise that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available by Nov. 1 (two days before Election Day), the “breakthrough” in drug prices (not) and massive funding for Puerto Rico years after Hurricane Maria, the timing is suspect.

Indeed, there is a flurry of activity from the White House to bolster Trump for the election – the memo to reduce drug prices (not really), the promise to overhaul the entire health care system by Executive Order (oh really?), now the race to fill the “Liberal Lioness” Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.

The Abraham Accords (the Trump campaign announced an “eight-figure TV ad buy around them), while hailed by a self-congratulatory Trump as Nobel Peace Prize-worthy, was hardly a “peace agreement” – these countries were never in a hot war with Israel – but more of a commercial trade deal (Saudi Arabia already has extensive trade with Israel), and the purpose of the bilateral was to pave the way for Trump to sell arms to these countries (their common enemy is Iran) without Israel objecting.

Let’s be clear: Trump could care less about Jews, even though his most cherished child, Ivanka, converted when she married Jared Kushner.

Just as he could care less for the lives lost to his super-spreader campaign rallies or destroyed by ruined family finances, he only cares about his own political and personal fortunes.

So, Trump overtly supports and courts anti-Semites including White Supremacists, neo-Nazis, QAnon (their foundational conspiracy sounds exactly like Blood Libel), who have come from the shadows into the mainstream, because they support him.

The thrice-married serial sexual predator and adulterer who never attends church but holds up the Bible as he teargases protesters, courts Evangelists (why he picked Mike Pence as V.P. in the first place), who only support Israel because Israel protects the Christian Holy Sites and because gathering all the Jews in Israel is prerequisite for the Second Coming. They were thrilled at Trump moving the embassy to Jerusalem as a step toward the End Times.

Indeed, with all the crises that Trump is bringing to a head – a “herd mentality” approach to COVID-19 in which as many as six million would die after 220 million contract the disease, his brush off of the wildfires consuming the West (Blue States) and the climate catastrophe making the planet uninhabitable, and the protests for justice provoking violence – almost fits in with this End Times approach, especially when he casts himself as the “savior.”

It’s an odd tactic: to create the crisis, so, like he did by putting a moratorium on his own order to begin drilling in the ocean off Mar-a-Lago and the Florida coast, then take credit for averting the crisis he caused.

There have been record-high numbers of anti-Semitic attacks each year since Trump took office – in 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history.

2019 posted a record 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents including deadly attacks by gunmen at a Poway, California synagogue and a New Jersey kosher grocery store, and a fatal stabbing at a rabbi’s home in Rockland during a Hanukkah celebration, according to the Anti-Defamation League. It marked a 12 percent rise from 1,879 incidents in 2018, Reuters reported.

The concern over the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes is so great that Nassau County has announced increased police security during the High Holy Days.

Jewish tradition teaches that saving even one life is like saving the world. By that count, Trump, with his callous indifference to death by COVID-19 (another 200,000 are expected to die by December), climate catastrophe, gun violence or police brutality, has destroyed an almost infinite number of worlds. And he is doing his best to destroy this one.

Trump has politicized even the simple, inexpensive action of wearing a mask that can save 100,000 of those 200,000 lives by December, as being somehow taking away “liberty.” His consigliere William Barr has said that lockdowns for the sake of public health, are akin to slavery. How does that square with “examining our relationships with people.”

These concepts are an assault on the Jewish values which we pray about and measure ourselves against during these Days of Awe, when we recite the Unataneh Tokef prayer and take to heart, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written; on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die.”

During these Days of Awe, we reflect on our own mortality and our place in the world. We are called upon to examine our lives, our relationships with people, and through these examinations, turn towards God.

Fundamental to our Jewish tradition is justice.

“’Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof’ – ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ Those words are ever-present reminders of what judges must do that they may thrive,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg epitomized everything we hold dear about the law; she was a role model for so many of us women lawyers and judges, and she was truly a trailblazer in the fight for equality and justice for all,” writes Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon’s first female Attorney General. “She always gave us hope that the Rule of Law would prevail.

“To say she will be missed is an understatement. I am devastated by the loss of a giant. In our shared Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness.

“In the Jewish tradition, we also say, Zichrona Livrocho, ‘May her memory be a blessing,’ which essentially means may her life inspire us to do and be better. May true justice prevail,” Rosenblum writes.

What an affront to the “Notorious RBG’s memory and her legacy and her lifetime of sacrifice and public service how Trump and the Republicans are ramrodding through a Trumpolite for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, determined to reverse what little progress has been made in the past 250 years for social justice, political justice, economic justice, environmental justice.

What is also Jewish tradition – learned through horrific experience – is that silence is complicity. Our tradition demands that we act.

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