Not all Jews of color are Democrats
We’re told every day that this is the most important election of our lifetime. The headlines filling our social media timelines with the message “Vote!” often don’t bother to specify for whom, though it’s clear enough. They don’t have to fill in the blanks: that Donald Trump poses a unique threat to America, especially to people of color.
So you might be surprised to learn that I, a Black Jew, am voting for him. And yet for me, there is only one choice in this election, and it’s President Trump.
I’m voting for him because the alternative erases my ability to practice my religion as I see fit, a right that is supposed to be guaranteed. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution proclaims the inalienable right of every American to assemble in religious worship. And it’s this that’s been under threat from Democratic local governments, particularly now.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the world and taken over 200,000 American lives. My own community, the Orthodox Jewish community, has been especially hard hit. But rather than working with us, the Democratic leadership of our city and state have turned on us. In New York where I live, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio singled out Orthodox Jews as the cause of the spike in New York City.
Not only did they routinely blame us for an uptick, but in their attempts to control it, they violated our religious liberties. In an executive order, Cuomo set new capacity limits for houses of worship, which were really designed to target Orthodox synagogues. He limited attendance to 25 percent capacity or a maximum of 10 people, no matter how big the synagogue.
It was a clear violation of freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, and Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox umbrella group, sued Cuomo, pointing out that synagogues were already implementing Covid protocols like splitting services into smaller groups and requiring masks. “There is simply no justification for the unwarranted, unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions imposed this week,” Agudath Israel argued. But the courts sided with Cuomo.
Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio has been sending police forces into empty schools, which he had forcibly closed, to write summons for children who were home quarantining — mostly without the benefits of Zoom or YouTube.
It’s hard for me to describe what it felt like to watch this liberal assault on religion firsthand. What it felt like to daven in secret on a religious holiday, with plastic bags covering the windows to hide the (masked and socially distanced) prayers of Jews. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be blamed for an uptick in a virus because of our “religious practices,” how that makes you feel in your neighborhood, knowing that your leaders have given your neighbors permission to blame you. It’s hard to describe how hurtful it was to be blamed for the uptick when there were areas of New York with much higher rates than the Orthodox, which weren’t forced to quarantine.
Cuomo and de Blasio’s rhetoric has been irresponsible, and especially nasty when you think of the context. This community still has Holocaust survivors in it. The choice to single out a particular religious group was outrageous.
But here’s the thing: It’s not these last few months that made me a conservative. Because this was only the latest in a long string of attacks by liberal government that aim to restrict religious liberty. Democratic local governments have been increasingly hostile towards religious minorities. And while New York’s treatment of Orthodox Jews over Covid has been deplorable, it has hardly been surprising.
The people who would have kept Judge Amy Coney Barrett from the Supreme Court over her religion are the same people seeking to restrict our right to teach our children as we see fit, seeking to impose liberal values on our communities, and seeking to blame us for Covid.
I fear anti-religious sentiment will get worse as an increasingly left-wing Democratic Party becomes increasingly intolerant to anyone who doesn’t fall into their box. Too many on the left show a hostility toward people of faith.
Those are the stakes of this election for me, as a Black Orthodox Jew. For me, there is the only logical choice: to vote Republican.
Monique Wallace is a Black Orthodox Jewish student living in Brooklyn.