Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Community

My fellow Orthodox Jews: Character absolutely matters.

On Tuesday night, during the first of three presidential debates, it became clear from the get go that President Trump had arrived ready to betray every rule of sporting decorum. Trump’s constant interruptions and attacks helped destroy the objective of the debates: to clarify both candidates’ positions.

But in a sense, the debate conveyed something equally important: the simple fact that words matter, that behavior matters, and that, most of all, character matters.

Many of my fellow Orthodox Jews understandably put a premium value on Israel, and largely for that reason are supporting Mr. Trump. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem, cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, which also submits payments to terrorists, and normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

These are of course good things. And yet, Judaism also puts a premium on an aspect of the Trump presidency that has been decidedly lacking: character.

A cornerstone of Judaism is the importance of using the ethical instructions embedded in the Torah to improve our character and behavior. As observant Jewish Americans, we have our own scriptural yardstick to measure spiritual fitness. While running for office may involve a romp in deep mud, according to the dictates of our Torah, leadership needs to be a far cleaner proposition. In fact, the Torah teaches us that character is a main determinate of leadership.

Following the advice of his father-in-law, our patriarch and leader Moses selected men of truth, insight, and understanding to help him lead, men of good judgement, with knowledge of the law and the ability to recognize truth in a conflict.

Meanwhile, deception, both in business and personal relations, is forbidden in several verses of the Torah. In fact, the verse “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” is part of the Ten Commandments, and among the Seven Noahide Laws that apply to all humanity. According to Historian Paul Eidelberg, America was explicitly founded on the seven Noahide Laws of the Torah, termed “the seven universal laws of morality.”

Yes: Our Jewish values matter.

Humility is a character trait highly appraised in a leader. Even though Moses was considered the greatest prophet, and a master of Torah and wisdom, the trait that G-d praised about Moses in the Torah was his deep humility.

Finally, Gemilut Chasadim (loving kindness) is considered one of the three pillars upon which the world stands. It involves the free giving of time and resources to others, regardless of the others’ status or political views, and without expecting accolades and popularity in return.

President Trump has none of these traits. During the debates, the demarcation between the candidates’ characters couldn’t have been clearer. Mr. Trump’s commentary contained lies and distortions about his taxes, Covid-19, and the environment. His bullying was intended as self-promotion.

With a president of this character, how can unrest and upheaval help but be the result? Even if we agree with some of his policies, how can a country move forward when the person at the helm is untrustworthy?

Even President Trump’s accomplishments on the Israel front do not differ greatly in spirit or substance from that of other American presidents since the U.N. granted Israel statehood. Israel, our vital ally who protects America’s interests in the Middle East, has always enjoyed bi-partisan financial, military and diplomatic support. In fact, it was under Barak Obama that Israel received America’s largest military aid package: 38 billion dollars over a ten-year period.

Besides helping develop this ten-year Memorandum, Vice President Biden played a pivotal role in securing American funding for the Iron Dome anti-missile system, protecting Israel from Gaza rocket fire.

Vice President Biden might not be the ideal candidate, but his performance is consistent with his character: a middle-of-the-road gentleman with a moral backbone grounded in faith and in search of unity.

Joseph Biden has my vote.

Nancy Hochman is a former stringer for The New York Times regionals. Nancy’s work has appeared most recently in Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Jewish Woman (Chabad.org).

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.