Does Donald Trump have Jewish supporters? Of course he does, says a new activist group—they just aren’t being taken seriously.
The group, called Jews Choose Trump, plans to bring together Jewish voters supporting the Republican candidate. It argues that Jewish Trump supporters feel silenced—silenced by the Jewish community, silenced by the media at large—and it hopes to serve as their voice.
Since the group launched in late July, around 1,000 Jews have signed up and pledged their support. Its website, which has gotten 55,000 page views, lists supporters from 40 states. “We have more people who don’t give their last name—and say they don’t give it because of the social pressure not to admit you’re voting for Donald Trump,” says Carol Greenwald, president of a Maryland investment firm and one of the group’s founders.
One website page titled “Why We Support Trump” lists a selection of comments—wide-ranging in both focus and tone—from those supporters:
“Any of us voting for Hillary shows a particular disdain towards Israel’s survival,” writes Ralph from New York.
“Conservative values, strong on national security, and destroying ISIS, will approve conservative judges,” writes Luis from New York.
“I love Trump! Donald Trump speaks for me. He is honest. He tells it like it is. He supports a strong America,” writes Shelley from Nevada.
He tells it like it is. It’s a campaign standard for Trump, and it’s the rationale the group uses to describe why the candidate would be better for Israel. On its website, it quotes Trump on his support for Israel and his opposition to the Iran deal. “Trump suffers no confusion as to who is a friend and who is a foe,” the group writes. “Those people who place as their top priority the security of Israel—they’re voting for Trump,” Greenwald says. “And those that are Democrats first and Jews second—they’re voting for Hillary Clinton.”
In the past, Greenwald has been involved in similar right-wing, pro-Israel groups. Back in 2013, for instance, as the treasurer of Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, she spoke out against a play produced by Theater J, which Greenwald’s group considered to be anti-Israel.
Throughout the election, Jewish groups have condemned Trump for various controversial statements. And some right-leaning Jewish organizations have veered toward criticizing Clinton rather than focusing on the Republican candidate. When Trump won the Indiana primary in May, the Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement congratulating the candidate—but the group didn’t focus on Trump; instead, it condemned Clinton and reiterated its commitment to gaining a maintaining a majority in the House and Senate.
Even in more traditional elections, American Jewish voters tend to swing left. In the 2012 election, nearly 70 percent voted for Barack Obama. In 2014, 64 percent of U.S. Jews leaned toward or identified with the Democratic Party.
Richard Allen, one of the group’s founders and the founder of JCCWatch.org, acknowledges that Jews typically lean left. But part of the group’s mission, he adds, is showing those voters why Trump would be the best candidate for them—and for Israel. “There’s a lot of people that are ignorant of the facts or are just predisposed—through history and memory—to supporting the Democratic Party no matter what,” he says. “All we have to do is let people know about the truth of Donald Trump, and they will come and vote for him.”
But the group isn’t just about changing minds; it’s also about helping existing Trump supporters feel more comfortable. “We wanted to make sure that there’s a good, safe space for people who want to support Trump,” says Allen.
And for Greenwald, the idea is that the Jewish Trump supporters are out there, afraid to voice their views. That their leaders—establishment Jewish organizations—are no longer speaking for them. As proof, she points to Trump’s speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference earlier this year. After the candidate criticized Obama in his speech, AIPAC apologized for his too-blatant display of partisanship. But at the time, audience members applauded. “It shows there’s a disconnect between what the leaders are saying and what the people really believe,” says Greenwald.
Moving forward, she hopes Jews Choose Trump will work to spread Jewish Trump supporters’ message. “We’re going to publish op-eds. We’re going to have people be writing letters to the editor,” she says, “so that our voices are heard in the Jewish community.”