Trump Uses Jews To His Advantage

LINK: A ‘Jerusalem Post’ special report explores differing perspectives on the Republican presidential nominee’s decades-long relationship with the Jewish community.


…both supporters and detractors of the Republican nominee agreed on one critical revelation: Trump seems to have something of an affirmative prejudice toward Jews.

NEW YORK: Near the end of his debt-ridden ownership of the Plaza Hotel, Donald Trump summoned Abe Foxman to breakfast at its iconic Palm Court. The real estate tycoon had a bone to pick with the Anti-Defamation League.

Foxman, then ADL’s national director, sat waiting for half an hour at the owner’s usual corner table. Trump finally walked in blustering, hand outstretched.

“Mr. Foxman,” he began, “Trump never apologizes.”

Foxman’s colleague, Art Teitelbaum, had recently criticized Trump for his tactics in Palm Beach – a city long marred by discrimination – battling the city council over turning his estate at Mar-a-Lago into a private social club. Trump was accusing the Florida township of antisemitism, claiming that it was opposed to his efforts because his club was going to welcome members of all races and creeds, including Jews and African-Americans.

The ADL’s leadership had seen this phenomenon up close: Teitelbaum and Foxman were in the trenches fighting discrimination in Palm Beach already back in 1964. There was still antisemitism there three decades later, and they expected discrimination to persist. “But that has nothing to do with Trump’s plans to build at Mar-a-Lago,” Teitelbaum told members of the press at the time, suggesting Trump was using Jews as a negotiating ploy.

“Who the f**k is this guy, Teitelbaum?” Trump asked Foxman, according to a version of the 1994 conversation as recalled by the ADL leader. “Abe, it’s antisemitism. All my members will be Jewish.”

“Donald – that’s antisemitism,” Foxman said. “You don’t know who your members will be.”

Trump appeared shocked, and privately backed off his use of the term at Foxman’s explicit request. But Trump apparently did not understand the problem. In his mind, the caste of Jews was complimentary – if still a caste nonetheless.

“To say that only Jews will be members meant that only Jews have money – it was stereotypic,” Foxman recalled in a recent interview. “For him, it may have been an assessment of business opportunities. He’s a shrewd businessman.”…

“In some ways, Donald Trump and his relationship with the Jews is the latest chapter in a very long history of ambivalence and dichotomous relations,” Jonathan Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History, said in an interview. “The line between philosemitism and antisemitism is often a difficult one – the line is thin. It’s not bright red. Often you can find within the same person both tendencies, and Trump is a study in that.”

…“He surrounds himself oddly enough with Jewish personnel, both then and now: his real estate lawyer is Jewish, his house counsel is Jewish, his controller is Jewish, his chief of staff, chief financial officer, executive vice president, his first executive vice president – I was his litigator for 15 years,” Jay Goldberg, who worked for Trump from 1990 to 2005, said in an interview.

Goldberg navigated Trump through both of his divorces in the 1990s with Ivana Zelníková and Marla Maples. Aware of Fred’s past, Goldberg warned against holding deeds of the father against the son: “No attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood,” he said, quoting the Constitution.

“When we talk about the Jewish community and I really think about it, I can’t think of one Christian person on his senior staff,” said Goldberg, who will vote for Trump in November. “It’s amazing to me. It’s almost prejudice in favor of Jewish people.”

…“I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money,” Trump said, according to the 1991 biography. “I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

…Schwartz would often hear Trump talk about Jews – a group that he quintessentially characterized as shrewd accountants and lawyers, the writer said.

“The way I would describe his perception of Jews is that he thinks of them in very simple and very stereotypical terms,” Schwartz said in an interview. “My feeling was, ‘I figured out how to use Jews to my advantage.’”

…“Donald is clearly not an antisemite – he’s just neutral,” said a former senior Trump Organization employee, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic. “He’s not a supporter of the community. If it’s to his advantage, then it works for him.”

…“I don’t really use the term white nationalism, but I do want to preserve my heritage – just like Jews do,” said David Duke, a prominent white power activist, offering an explanation of why his worldview attracts him to the Trump campaign. “And I think deep down inside, Donald Trump knows where his roots are. He’s concerned about the general heritage of this country. The fact that some of his family is intermarried doesn’t really change that.”

…Toward the end of an hour-long interview, Duke put himself in Trump’s shoes to comport his perspective with the candidate’s lifelong relationship with the Jewish community.

“ ‘I’m going to be quiet,’” Duke surmised of Trump’s thinking, “’I’m going to gain as much power as I can, and when the time comes, I’m going to do what I can for my people. ‘”

But to cast Jews in positive Trumpian terms – smart, shrewd, deal maker – still amounts to degradation equivalent to the sexist act of calling a woman a 10, said Maurice Samuels, director of Yale University’s Program for the Study of Antisemitism.

“Affirmative prejudice is a good term, and I prefer it to philosemitism,” said Samuels in an interview. “As soon as you begin viewing Jews as a group, either positively or negatively, you’re veering into very problematic territory. It’s a process of ‘othering’ and separating that usually doesn’t end well for Jews.”

…“Part of the problem with Donald Trump is that he seems to stereotype different groups – Muslims, Hispanics, blacks and Jews,” Sarna concluded. “He seems not even to understand that in the era in which we live, that’s precisely what we’re trying to move away from: Group stereotypes and definitions.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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