As a Jew, as a rabbi, as a gay man, I have something to say to you: you don’t know me, but I know you. We have met, in fact, many times. We have met in this lifetime, and across countless generations. In my lifetime, I have heard your hateful words and felt your contempt in the expressions of bullies and mean-spirited children who taunted me and beat me and called me “faggot” in the hallways and classrooms of my junior high school. The day after you won the election, your spirit was in the man who approached my partner and me as we walked down the street holding hands, as he pantomimed gunning us down with a semi-automatic weapon.
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf — Photo by Todd Franson / File photo
My Jewish people know you so very well. In fact, we tell the story of you at our Passover seders. In the Haggadah, we read how you rise up in each and every generation — either to destroy us literally, or to destroy everything that we stand for. And what is it that we stand for? “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him…You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan…” (Exodus 22:21-22). The stranger, the widow, the orphan — these represent all the people in society who are vulnerable, who do not have privilege. In our time, that list extends to black people, to LGBTQ people, to Muslims and to immigrants, to Jews, to women, to the disabled.
I know you so well, Mr. Trump, because in every generation, you hate and seek to destroy us for exactly the same reason: deep down, you are afraid of us. We threaten everything that you understand about yourself. For you, life is a nightmare where you cannot feel the nearness of Divine love, no matter how much wealth and acclaim and privilege you hoard, no matter how many of us you attack for the momentary relief of feeling powerful at the expense of the less powerful.
But I also know one more thing about you, Mr. Trump. In every generation, you may rise up to extraordinary power. You may wreak terrible destruction. But you always fall. Always. You see, the power of Divine love lives with us “strangers, orphans and widows.” And that Divine love is the only real power there is. And that love will give us strength to organize, to stand tall and proud, and to resist you.
Sorry to break this news to you, Mr. Trump. Sorry that your power and privilege shuts your eyes and covers your ears to the truth. But we have been around the block with you for thousands of years, and it always ends the same way. Enjoy your power grab and your rampage of hate — yet again. And when Love and Justice vanquishes your regime of intolerance once more, I only ask that you try to remember, once and for all, that it was never us whom you needed to fear. It was your own hardened heart — feeling powerless and closed off to the world — that you projected onto us and called “enemy.”
But whether or not you are capable of learning this lesson, we are here. We are stronger than you can imagine. And we are ready for you.
Adas Israel Congregation, Washington, D.C. @gsteinlauf
Rabbi Steinlauf’s words here represent his views only, and he does not speak on behalf of Adas Israel Congregation.
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