The Nov. 8 presidential election divided central New Jersey’s Jewish community as much as it did the rest of the nation, although Donald Trump supporters seemed to be in shorter supply.
Several people said they did not want to talk about their votes publicly for fear of alienating friends after the divisive election season. Despite a Facebook post that was shared by others and separate inquiries, only one local supporter of the now president-elect was willing to go on record.
Indeed, Larry Levine, director of Jews Choose Trump-Ohio, told NJJN that he found that many more Jews voted for Trump than will admit because they are afraid of being ostracized within their communities. A native of Long Island, Levine said he understands why many East Coast Jews found Trump’s win so unbelievable.
“People on the East Coast live in a bubble,” he explained. “They’re insular. They just don’t get it, but I think Trump will be good, and good for the Jews.”
Liran Kapoano of East Brunswick, a longtime registered Republican, was so disgusted by his party’s acceptance of Trump as their leader he switched his affiliation to Democrat the morning after the election.
“I will not be associated with this monstrosity,” he told NJJN. “You always feel powerless after something like this, and I was looking for a way to express my dissatisfaction.”
He admitted he shares very little ideologically with the Democrats, but asked, “How can I be associated with a party whose figurehead is openly racist?”
Kapoano was an early supporter of the #NeverTrump campaign during the primary season and after Trump secured the nomination launched the social media campaign GO(P) for Her — urging other Republicans to support Hillary Clinton over Trump — he became the target of anti-Semitic threats.
He said the current Republican Party has lost its moral clarity and “stands for nothing.”
“We don’t have two legitimate parties anymore; we have one with whose policies I disagree and the other is badly broken and is run by the alt-right and white supremacists,” lamented Kapoano.
He questioned how Jews, who rightly condemn those behind the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel for its underlying anti-Semitism and untrue characterization of Israel as an apartheid state, could justify supporting a candidate who unjustly targets Muslims, Mexicans, and others.
Kapoano is looking into possible third party options — he is researching Evan McMullin, the former CIA operative who took 20 percent of Utah’s vote — and remains optimistic that Trump will soften, adding, “Historically right-wing people tend to moderate when they get in office.”
Elyse Geschwind Schulman of Edison, a Clinton supporter, said that as a mother of two daughters, one of whom is gay, she keeps thinking, “It’s ‘mourning’ in America.”
“As hateful as Mr. Trump and Gov. [Mike] Pence are, that they could even win seems surreal,” she told NJJN. “When I went into work the next morning everyone was stunned and beside themselves. I don’t begrudge him anything, but I just don’t understand how it could happen.”
She went further on her Facebook page, posting, “Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence — if you feel the need to hate, for the love of Gd — let the citizens of your country continue to live free of fear and hatred…. Respect each and every one of us!!!”
Leslie Posnock of Ocean Township voiced concern for her daughters at Trump’s election. A lawyer who volunteered to monitor a polling precinct in Philadelphia for irregularities — but found none — she was a Clinton supporter.
She said her 11-year-old daughter, adopted at eight months from Kazakhstan, started to sob when she was told by her mother that Trump had won.
“She was afraid she was going to be deported,” said Posnock. “Kids talk at school. It was absolutely heartbreaking.”
Her older daughter, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, waited in line three hours on campus to vote in her first election and was “distraught” because she saw all the anti-Semitism stirred up by the Trump campaign. For her, this message hit home since the family has a cousin who reports for Politico and was targeted by Trump supporters with anti-Semitic threats during the campaign.
“This is the tone he has set,” said Posnock, who said she fears for her daughters’ bodies, the rights of gay friends, the standing of the country, and that “a wave” of xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism has been unleased.
Michael Goldstein of East Brunswick said he supported Trump “for all the reasons Jews should have supported him over Hillary Clinton,” including his staunch support for Israel, pledge to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and his vow to dismantle the deal with Iran.
He questioned how Jews could vote for Clinton after President Barack Obama and the Democrats supported the Iranian nuclear deal, which Israel viewed as an existential threat.
“The first person who called him was Bibi” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Goldstein, noting the two already have a rapport.
“I have a feeling many more Jews voted for Trump because they think the Iran deal is a horror,” Goldstein said. “The Iranians are thumbing their nose at us.”
He also cited the anti-Zionist views of Max Blumenthal, son of Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal, as exposed by WikiLeaks.
Max Blumenthal “wrote all these destructive anti-Israel articles,” said Goldstein. “These are the type of people Hillary surrounded herself with. She embraces him.”
Goldstein said his father, a former president of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, came to know Trump’s father, Fred, very well.
“His parents were wonderful people, recalled Goldstein. “Fred was a real businessmen, very cheap, very smart and very proud of his son. [Donald] was a good son who loved his mother and was devoted to his father.”
Goldstein said he saw his decision to vote for Trump as “a moral choice,” also citing his plans to set up camps in the Middle East to vet Syrian refugees before allowing them to enter this country.
Rabbi Benjamin Levy of Congregation Etz Chaim-Monroe Township Jewish Center voted for Clinton for many reasons, including her stand on the environment, compassion, and experience and downplayed her supposed lack of support for Israel.
“I think all the candidates were equally strong on Israel,” he said. “It was a myth, another lie, that she was not a supporter of Israel.
“I voted for the candidate who was not being supported by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and has a firm grasp on the issues, and actually pays her taxes, and has a proven record of public service, and has devoted her life for the greater good,” said Levy.
He also called Trump “a phony” for criticizing China, “where he makes his clothing line and where he buys cut-rate steel to put American workers out of work; the very people he claims to care about.”
Levy found the untruths pushed by Trump supporters particularly unsettling, especially the claims that Clinton was a criminal, although she has never been charged with any crime, while Trump was fined by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination, was cited by the IRS for illegal contributions to a charity, and has been ordered to defend himself on civil fraud and racketeering charges later this month in connection with his running of Trump University.
Moreover, Trump’s positions stand in contrast to Jewish tradition, which, said Levy, command loving your neighbor as yourself and being shomrei adama — guardians of the earth, which his denial of global warming shows he is not.