With America’s Covid-19 death toll passing 225,000 and historic peace deals signed in the Middle East, the 2020 US presidential election has polarised a nation with unique fears and hopes.
Unlike four years ago, when the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency was pie-in-the-sky thinking, this time around, Democrat-supporting Jews are taking no chances.
After a recent study outlined that 70 percent of Jewish Americans would back Joe Biden, voters this week voiced concerns about Trump’s divisiveness and showed little signs of voting against party lines to prevent a second term in the White House.
Chicago-born Edie Friedman, who has lived and worked in the UK since 1971, refuses to even give the incumbent zero out of 10.
“There’s no scale of minus-1000” by which to judge him, she says. “When he stands up, he polarises and belittles people.”
A lifelong Democrat and opponent of racism, Friedman says that “for a lot of people, there’s no choice”, adding: “There are no words to describe Donald Trump”, whose tenure has seen the US divided on issues of race, the economy, inequality, immigration, tackling Covid-19 and foreign policy.
She does not know anyone who is a Trump supporter, saying: “My friends feel they don’t recognise the United States” anymore, with many “physically frightened to go to vote”.
Trump has done “nothing positive and has ripped the country apart” and, while not an “enthusiastic” fan of Joe Biden, the way he “conducted himself during the campaign is a positive”, Friedman says, adding: “He comes across as a mensch” who wants to “decrease some of the tension and division”.
???????? // The polls are now open in the United States Presidential Election!
Who do you think is going to win?
— Jewish News (@JewishNewsUK) November 3, 2020
London-born Mikey Franklin, who now lives in Washington, DC, backed Biden in 2020, having voted for left-wing Jewish senator Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
When asked if he knows any Trump supporters, the father-of-two says: “I have limited social time and try very hard not to spend it with racists.”
Franklin adds: “My wife’s family are Soviet refugees and my father-in-law has some Trumpist sympathies, but I try extremely hard not to get into politics with him for fear of irrevocably harming the relationship.”
The Brit, who attended Akiva School and had his barmitzvah and chuppah at Alyth Synagogue, now belongs to a Masorti synagogue just outside DC.
After moving to the US in 2012, he became a naturalised citizen in 2018, and said the main reason for supporting Biden is “having a president who isn’t Donald Trump”.
He cares “deeply about racial justice, so electing a president who isn’t a white supremacist would be nice”.
- READ MORE – Special report – US Election: ‘Israel is neither a blue nor red state’
“Trump’s embrace of the far-right, the increasing antisemitism of the Republican Party and the mainstreaming of QAnon, a modern-day blood libel, weighed heavily upon my vote”, he explains.
Like other Democrat-supporters, he rates the president zero out of 10 for his tenure, saying it would be “abject despair” if he won a second term.
“A Shoah survivor in my community told me not long after Trump was elected the first time that he thought American democracy could just about survive one term of Trump, but not two,” he says.
“A second Trump term would mark the end of American democracy, and the entrenchment of white minority rule.”
Ethan Olswang, a student in the UK originally from Greater Washington, DC, recently went on a UK Birthright trip, which has brought him back in touch with his Jewish identity.
He echoes concerns about the rise of the far-right, saying, “Trump has continued to enable alt-right members, who are more often than not antisemitic.
“Antisemitic violence and rhetoric has significantly increased under the current administration”, something he believes needs addressing.
While saying Israel “did not play a major role in influencing my vote”, Olswang says it is “extremely important” to vote for Biden, a candidate “who will protect me as a Jewish American citizen”.
The master’s student tries to “steer clear” of any Trump supporters in his family and social circles, also giving Trump zero out of 10 for his time in office.
“America cannot afford to be under the rule of a sociopath for another four years.”
While the president may have critics for his handling of domestic issues, many supporters herald his achievements on the foreign policy front, namely the facilitation of peace deals for Israel with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
Philadelphian Skylar Magaziner, who is based in London, voted for Trump, saying he has “done more in 47 months than Joe Biden has in 47 years in Washington”.
Calling it an “easy decision”, the Republican supporter says “the peace deals in the Middle East and making America energy independent” were issues that swayed her the most, adding: ”President Trump has rejected the failed foreign policy of past administrations while Joe Biden has pushed for endless wars.”
Magaziner would be “concerned” if polls were correct and Biden got in, saying “it would be frightening”.
She thinks he would “shut the economy back down and raise taxes” and doesn’t “believe Biden would expand on the peace deal [Abraham Accords] if he were elected.”
Republicans Overseas UK adds that Biden would “bring back the wasteful and unsuccessful foreign interventionist policies of the Obama years”, with “more troop deployments and the destabilisation of the new normalised relations” in the Middle East.
“Our enemies will feel emboldened”, it said.
Meanwhile, Romford Synagogue member Russell Langer, whose father was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, cast his ballot in Florida, where his grandparents live.
While a Conservative activist in the UK, he backed the Democrats, saying: “I do not consider myself to be a Biden supporter but he has a good history of collaborative politics and I believe that is what America needs in the next administration.”
Saying Trump failed “to switch from campaigner to president” during his tenure, Langer, who has worked in the UK Jewish community for six years, adds: “Trump has focused his attention on exacerbating America’s divides” while in office.
Admitting “Trump deserves credit for some of his foreign policy achievements”, including Middle East peace deals, Langer bemoans the president’s “closeness to far-right groups and his inability to condemn antisemitism in Charlottesville”.
He says these “are particular low points of his presidency, which are very much part of my desire to see him replaced”.
While “the idea of another four years of this divisive politics concerns me”, Langer hopes Biden will “resist the far-left of his party”, especially on foreign policy achievements, if the Democrats win the election.
Whoever is victorious on Monday, the central issues of racism, the response to the pandemic and Middle East peace remain pivotal for Jewish voters, who are placing their faith in Biden to bring stability turn back the tide of Trump.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.