Judaism Unbound Episode 51: Being Jewish in the Era of Trump


What does American Judaism look like as we enter the Trump era? How might the new political reality of the United States alter the landscape of contemporary and future American Jewish life? Dan and Lex wrestle with these questions, and their implications for deeper questions of why Judaism matters, in Episode 51 of Judaism Unbound.

Image Credit: C-Span.org

Image Credit: C-Span.org

(0:01 - 16:42): Dan and Lex begin by dicussing an issue that many Jews are wrestling with in the current American moment: What does Judaism have to say about Donald Trump? How can Jews support Donald Trump in light of a Jewish tradition that seems to stand against so many of his ideas, behaviors, and actions? Does support for him cross a red line? If not, is one of the reasons Judaism needs to be remixed and rebuilt that some red lines need to be re-established? Dan and Lex reflect on (and condemn) Trump's executive order on immigration, [1] though the two co-hosts disagree about the extent of the role Judaism plays in their opposition to it. [2]

(16:43 - 35:18): Dan and Lex flesh out their disagreement about whether Judaism can tolerate Trump, looking at how this reflects two different ways of approaching the "jobs" that Judaism performs in our lives. Dan expresses his hope that Judaism can serve as a moral system in our lives, while Lex poses an alternative possibility -- that Judaism is and should be more like a library.

Image Credit: Miami Herald

Image Credit: Miami Herald

(35:19 - 50:12): To close the episode, Dan and Lex pivot from the philosophical to the institutional. They look at today's Jewish institutional landscape and analyze the various strategies that organizations could employ as they relate to the Trump administration. [3]  They consider the question of what kinds of Jewish expression and organizations are likely to grow and thrive over the next four years, [4] and which institutions may struggle for relevance in today's political and religious climate.

[1] In a rare unified stance, the four largest denominations of American Judaism have all issued statements in opposition to Donald Trump's refugee ban. Read more about it in this JTA article

Image Credit: JTA

Image Credit: JTA

[2] For an article reflecting on the role that 20th century Jewish history plays with respect to Trump's immigration order, click here

[3] Dan and Lex reflect on the ways that many contemporary Jews, whether religious or not, are "praying with their feet" through protest and social justice work. Read one article about Jewish participation in the National Women's March by clicking here and explore what the quote "praying with my feet" connotes (first uttered in a Jewish context as "my legs were praying" by Abraham Joshua Heschel, based on a quote by Frederick Douglass) through this brief audio commentary from Erica Brown.

[4] To learn more about IfNotNow, an organization discussed in this episode that is at the forefront of the "Jewish Resistance" to Donald Trump, read this article by Ben Sales.