Last Tuesday night, Donald Trump stunned the world with his election as the 45th president of the United States. Wednesday morning, the rejoicing, recriminations and rioting began.
One of the most fascinating stories is the “Jewish vote.” Exit polls showed that Hillary Clinton took about 70 percent of the Jewish vote — far from historical highs, but still an overwhelming majority. The landslide is fascinating for several reasons. First, because it means more Jews voted for Clinton (or against Trump) than almost any other ethnic or religious demographic. This includes Latinos (65 percent), whose vote was touted as a lock for Clinton based on the media’s relentless spin of Trump’s immigration stance as racist. Second, because exit data and anecdotal evidence about Orthodox Jews, particularly chareidim — while less easy to come by — suggest that we broke massively for Trump. Among other things, this means that non-Orthodox Jews likely voted well over 80 percent for Clinton. Thus, the two Jewish voter demographics are not only distinct but oppositional: Jews appear to have been among the most anti-Trump and the most pro-Trump of all demographics.
Liberal congregations around the country announced grief services. Parallels to Kristallnacht exploded across the internet. Reform temples held “shivah” events. Left-wing Jewish publications and organizations decried the abandonment of what they call “Jewish values” — political correctness, open borders, redefining [social norms].
Meanwhile, frum congregations in both America and Israel were relieved and overjoyed. Of the 15 neighborhoods in which Trump was strongest, 10 were on Staten Island. The other five were Boro Park, Midwood, Brighton Beach, West Brighton, and Ocean Parkway South. Ocean County, New Jersey — where Lakewood is located — voted overwhelmingly for Trump, far more than any other place in New Jersey. Exit polls of the thousands of chareidi American citizens who live in Eretz Yisrael showed more than 85 percent voting for Trump.
Orthodox Jewry has taken another great step forward as a distinct voting bloc, revealing concerns and priorities very different from those that animate Jewish progressives.
Orthodox voting priorities are not hard to understand. The Orthodox commitment to Jewish continuity and knowledge of Jewish history has always been far stronger than that of non-Orthodox Jews. Combined with the imminent connection of virtually every frum family to Jews in Israel, this also means that — regardless of conflicting religious views on the medinah — most of us put the security of the Jews of Israel among our very highest priorities. Overall among Jews, by contrast, concern for Israel hovers low on the list, consistently between number eight and 10.
The assault by the left on our rights as Jews has gotten more and more aggressive. Democrats have ceased speaking of religious liberties and now concede only that there is a “right to worship.” That is intolerable to frum Jews. The specter of Democrats having the power to appoint more federal judges was terrible to contemplate.
Jews make up less than two percent of the American population. As a subset of American Jewry, frum Jews are an anomaly — a small but growing minority. Considered this way, it’s unclear why this sociological and demographic tale is of anything but marginal interest to the political calculations of those in Washington.
And yet, if we only have eyes to see, this election is evidence of vast potential power. The mass of ethnic, unaffiliated and “social justice” Jews have depleted their political significance even as they have enervated their religious identity. They follow the Democrats everywhere, no matter how extreme, immoral, anti-religious, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic. Our communities, on the other hand, stand on the cusp. If we choose to see ourselves as just another ethnic minority engaged in the kinds of transactional politics that sells out our principles and our future to the highest bidder, we will have failed, relegated to footnotes as an outlier. If, however, we take stances for our principles and for our survival, we will emerge as spiritual, moral and intellectual leaders in the battle that now rages between left and right in this country. It is no coincidence that the party that grants nuclear weapons to the “Death to Israel” Iranian mullahs also opposes traditional morality at home. We can be the tip of a mighty spear: leaders of the literally tens of millions of American Faith and Values voters for whom religious freedom and the security of the Jewish state are also always top priorities.
The choice is ours.