A number of years ago I wrote about how we spend part of our brutal Canadian winter in what some call “the other land of our people” and others humorously refer to as “ heaven’s waiting room.” Yes, Boca Raton.
At that time I was merely a visitor to Boca, able to watch the goings on through the filter of one not yet retired.
But in 2019, it’s different. I once again, find myself ensconced at my in-laws, nicely laid-out but small condo, in Boca’s iconic Century Village (CV), where today I am retired or as I prefer to refer to this stage as, “rewired.”
And to be sure, the atmospherics remain the same. Rules are still the guiding principle at Century Village. Pool chairs must be lined up just so, all cars must be sure to park in a certain manner straight between the white lines. No deviations permitted. The acts at the Century Village theatre remain once popular singers, comedians, jugglers and dancers that here time did not forget. And for those who are no longer with us, a form of reincarnation occurs so The Carpenters, Elvis, all the Beatles, the full Tijuana Brass and many more acts are miraculously reincarnated on stage.
The chatter around the pool though has changed. While there is still talk about health matters, hair treatments, and the best early bird dinners, since the election of Donald Trump, divisions are now sharply felt.
In many ways the pool at Century Village is the great microcosm and melting pot of America. There is no doubt that the vast majority in this complex are Jews, so it should be no surprise that the support for Trump reflects the general polling in America. Such results have indicated that more than seventy percent of American Jews voted Democrat. But among the twenty-five plus percent of Jews who voted for Trump, the strength of those supporting him is fierce and unwavering.
And in Boca, that drama gets played out over at the pool.
The pool has become one place in this large complex where Republican and Democrat Jews don’t hold back. Often, residents’ geographical roots play a large role. Those from New York, Maryland, New Jersey and parts of Massachusetts are staunch liberals. Their disdain for everything Trump is visceral and hard felt. From his constant lying to his anti-immigration policies and odd embrace of white supremacists in Charlottesville, from his juvenile tweets to his disdain of a free press, these Democrats mirror the positions of many American liberals, Jewish and otherwise.
On the other side of the pool are the Jewish Trumpists. Their hero can do little wrong. And of course their view is much bolstered by Trump’s support of Israel as demonstrated by his decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Never mind Trump’s decision to remove American troops from Syria, against both American military advice and Israeli concerns; Trump’s flirtation with Charlottesville’s neo-Nazis where he suggested that some of them may have been “good people” simply invokes the defense that this was simply blown out of proportion. And sadly, Trump’s anti-immigration stand seems predicated on his Islamophobia which many Jewish Republicans here have little quarrel with.
Indeed the arguments have become so boisterous and divisive that once long-time friends no longer speak to each other if they find themselves on the wrong sides of the Trump pool. I have even heard that geriatric fist-fights have broken out in another Boca resort where friends stay for the winter.
In 2019, America has changed and all too sadly the change is harsh and humorless. It reflects a new reality where early bird dinners, sun, beaches and fun have given way to a time of darkness and discord.
The winters in Canada don’t look as bad as they use to from here.
Bernie M Farber is the former CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress and the Mosaic Institute. Today he is “rewired,” serving on a number of boards including “Human Rights Watch” and Jspace Canada (a progressive Jewish advocacy organization.) He often writes on matters of social justice, human rights and the human condition.