Where is the line?

Where is the Line? When will we know that we must leave?

These are serious questions asked by serious questioners.

The election of Donald Trump has turned the world upside down.

At a lesson for adults at the Reform synagogue in Kiel, Germany last week, a highly respected and caring OB-GYN raised this question because of her concern about what might happen in next year’s German elections. She is proud of being Jewish and makes sure that the many Syrian refugee women she treats in her home city of Flensburg know of her heritage.

Shortly after we arrived home, my older son Leo asked the same question, “Where is the line?” Leo helped found a college preparatory elementary school—which he continues to serve as Principal— to give disadvantaged students a better chance at life in the inner city of Oakland, California.

Both of these individuals work tirelessly to make the world where they live a better place. Now both ask, “When is it time to realize that we cannot make our world better any more, and when should we leave our homeland for another?”

My response to both is, “Not yet! Let’s wait, watch vigilantly and see what happens.”

As a government major in college I learned the importance of giving a new administration every opportunity to succeed before manning the barricades in opposition.

I believe that we should follow President Obama’s wonderful example of facilitating a graceful and gracious transition. Nobody wanted Trump to lose more than our president. But his high road approach to the defeat of his candidate should be an example for all of us.

A disappointing number—to my mind—of Jews and other Clinton supporters are wasting their time and energy by trying to convince the electoral College to do something it has never done in the 240 years of the American Republic: Elect as president the candidate who by the established rules of the election suffered a decisive defeat.

Just imagine the turmoil and violence that will result if they succeed in this effort!

I believe there is much to be gained by Jewish leaders trying to meet with Trump and help him see the light about some of those his campaign has attracted. Engagement is always preferable to estrangement until we are quite certain that engagement will get us nowhere.

“Who is the greatest of all heroes? The one who turns his enemy into a friend (Tosephta to Chapter 4 of Pirke Avot)

It is a worthy goal, and before we organize demonstrations and protests, we should try that with the President Elect!

With Trump’s election  many are raising alarming comparisons to Germany in 1933 when that country legitimately elected Adolph Hitler as Chancellor

When Hitler came to power in Germany, there were two responses in my family. I call them the “Judith Response” and the “Dad Response.”

Dad and Judith were first cousins. They lived close to one another in Leipzig and loved each other deeply. When Judith left Germany in 1935, Dad drove her to the train station.

Judith must have been one of the first female dermatologists in Germany in the early 30’s. She paid close attention to what was happening there. When she saw the writing on the wall, she safely settled and re-established herself with her Husband Lazer and her infant daughter, Devorah (who also grew up to become a physician specializing in nuclear medicine) in Tel Aviv.

Dad—and there is no other way to put this—waited too long to leave. He was arrested on Kristallnacht and taken to Dachau where Nazi soldiers beat him and shaved his head.

But my father was fortunate. His brother and uncle already in the United States petitioned Governor Herbert Lehman of New York, a Jew whose father immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1848, whose office secured his release.

If I could ask my father one question, it would be why did you wait so long?

I do not think it is time yet for American Jews to leave the USA because of fear of Trump, but I do think it is time for us to:

  • Keep a sharp eye on all that Trump and his administration do. We must not become the lobster who does not realize he is being boiled before it is too late.
  • And we should weigh our options: where would we go if we do want to leave?

Yes, we must be vigilant, and we must weigh our options.

But the crucial question, “Where is the line?” is one that each of us must answer for ourselves.



8 thoughts on “Where is the line?

  1. I respect your article, Steve, but I want to assure you that there are many of us non-Jews who know what happened in Germany in the 1930s, and do not intend for our country to devolve to that level of bestiality. Weimar Germany was relatively monolithic in their collective nature, but the strength of the USA has always been our Diversity. I cannot promise that this will protect any of us, but I can promise that we will stay beside you day in and day out, and if we see the abominations of the 1930s start to re-emerge, we will be with you then too.

    Liked by 3 people

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