Still playing the Trump card

Still playing the Trump card

NJ Jewish supporters steadfast following president’s ‘disloyalty’ comment

East Brunswick’s Esther Kosoffsky wears her support for President Donald Trump. 
Courtesy Esther Kosoffsky
East Brunswick’s Esther Kosoffsky wears her support for President Donald Trump. Courtesy Esther Kosoffsky

Esther Kosoffsky of East Brunswick has attended concerts by some of the biggest names in rock — her list includes Steely Dan, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith.

“None had the energy of a Trump rally,” the 63-year-old told NJJN in a phone interview while vacationing in Israel.

She admits Trump was not her “first choice” in 2016, but said she was “not ready to vote for Hillary [Clinton].” When she heard Trump speak in Pennsylvania in 2016, she liked what she heard regarding his support for Israel and his tax cut plans. Her vote for him turned into a “slam dunk” and her future one was cemented by a campaign rally she attended in New Hampshire this month.

Kosoffsky is an unwavering supporter of the president, her political allegiance wasn’t
weakened by last week’s criticism of fellow members of her tribe who vote for Democrats. During an Aug. 21 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters that Jewish people who vote for a Democrat show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” These comments were precipitated by an escalation in verbal lobbies between the White House and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and other progressive members of the Democratic Party.

Jewish groups from across the spectrum immediately condemned the president’s remarks. Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ president Scott Krieger and executive vice president/CEO Dov Ben-Shimon posted a statement on Facebook expressing “dismay” and calling Trump’s words “offensive and anti-Semitic.”

The federation post went on to say, “Such a statement is a resurrection of a centuries-old, exceedingly offensive and equally harmful canard. Presuming that American Jews, by definition, have dual loyalties to Israel, implies that we are ‘less’ American, and less loyal, and is equally unacceptable.”

The president’s supporters expressed a different opinion. “Trump is not an anti-Semite or a racist,” said Kosoffsky. “I knew exactly what he meant to say last week. He has been fighting an uphill battle with the media, which has a double standard and I’m sick of it. He’s done things for Israel, like declaring Jerusalem the capital, [which] other presidents said they would do and never did.”

Kosoffsky, a retired chef, is a member of the Orthodox Young Israel of East Brunswick.

She is not the lone camper in the state’s Jewish Trump tent. The president has “several hundred” supporters in New Jersey affiliated with the advocacy organization Jews Choose Trump, according to Carol Greenwald, who handles the group’s communications.

NJJN interviewed a handful of Garden State residents about their steadfast commitment to the president in the wake of last week’s brouhaha. Some common themes for their unwavering support include Trump’s strong pro-Israel stance, in contrast to what is perceived as waning support among the Democratic Party, and his status as an outsider politician. Also mentioned were his tough stance on border control and immigration, and his economic promises.

“As a Zionist, I’m glad President Trump was elected,” said Michael Goldstein, 57, of East Brunswick. “I’m also glad he’s not a politician. He did what others didn’t, declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital, moving the embassy there, and declaring the Golan Heights to be under Israeli sovereignty.”

Goldstein is an administrator and adjunct professor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, where Goldstein said he was a victim of bullying and anti-Semitism from colleagues for being a conservative and Zionist (“Anti-Semitism charges roiling Brooklyn community college,” April 4).

He said he shares Trump’s criticism of some anti-Israel members of the Democratic Party. “I really am concerned about the directions the Democrats are taking,” he told NJJN in a telephone interview. “We must have a strong Israel and Trump supports just that. I’m not sure of the Democrats, and I wonder about that party’s future as far as the Jewish community is concerned.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) defended the president on Twitter. The group’s political director is Sam Markstein, 26, a graduate of Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union (now Golda Och Academy) in West Orange.

Sam Markstein, left, is political director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The graduate of the former Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union (now Golda Och Academy) in West Orange is shown with former N.J. Gov. Chris Christie. Courtesy Republican Jewish Coalition

“We take the President seriously, not literally,” RJC tweeted on Aug. 21. “President Trump is pointing out the obvious: for those who care about Israel, the position of many elected Democrats has become anti-Israel.”

Markstein told NJJN the RJC’s strategy is for “conservative Supreme Court justices, a strong Israel, and a strong economy.” Markstein said the White House’s support for Israel is important to the Jewish electorate.

“President Trump is the most pro-Israel president ever,” Markstein told NJJN in a quote supplied by the RJC. “He is a great friend to the American-Jewish community and our organization. We look forward to conveying that message to Jewish voters all over this country for the next 14-plus months.”

Mike Liebowitz, 76, is a resident of Flemington and 1965 graduate of West Point, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. In spite of his stint as a Republican member of the Monroe Township council, Liebowitz said he likes that Trump is not a career politician.

“I’m still glad this president is not a politician,” he said. “I agree with what he said [about some Democrats’ attitude toward Israel]. There are people who try to use Israel and not give it the needed attention. I also like what he’s doing with China, talking to them. I’m comfortable with the way he is handling things, like withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Liebowitz and his family were founding members of the Reform Congregation Etz Chaim-Monroe Township Jewish Center.

Pine Brook’s Ron Soussa, 60, president of the Delaware Hudson Realty Corporation who is involved in real estate ventures, said Trump has been good for the economy.

Ron Soussa, a Pine Brook real estate developer, approves of the president’s economic plans and tough immigration policies. Courtesy Ron Soussa

The robust economy “is my first approval of what the president is doing,” Soussa, a former Democrat, said. “Another is immigration and the border. I feel we need to job-train people already in our country before we admit more who need training.”

Soussa attends the Conservative Pine Brook Jewish Center in Montville.

Kosoffsky’s support for the president remains secure.

“I put a Trump-Pence sticker on my car and my friends weren’t happy with me, but every time the media condemns Trump, it makes our base even stronger,” she said. “When I come home to New Jersey, I’m wearing my MAGA [Make America Great Again] hat.”

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