Ron Jager
Ron JagerPR

My being former New Yorker who spent his formative years on the Grand Concourse in the South Bronx hasn’t made it any easier understanding the mindset of those that I met during my recent visit. The aftermath of the Oct 7 massacre by the Hamas terror group and the ensuing war in the Gaza Strip, the explosion of anti-Semitism on the campuses and streets of America, the rise of former President Donald Trump as November 4th approaches, and the snowballing demise of President Joe Biden have changed the rules of the game.

As a result American Jews are questioning many former assumptions and uncontested givens that have been valid for many years. It seems that although the Jewish people are a resilient and overly optimistic people, we are so sure that our successes will be sustainable, it takes a while for changes to sink in. For some of us, we wake up in time, but for the majority, it will be too late when they realize what the future is bringing to their doorstep.

Perhaps the most obvious and all-encompassing sign of the change that America is going through has to do with the fast-food chain McDonalds and the direct consequence of the progressive Democratic Party’s economic policies and interference in the most successful business model since Henry Ford improved the assembly line. The fast food industry thrived by offering edible food at low prices and was the perfect answer for working mothers who needed to give their kids a meal. Under Joe Biden’s watch, inflation and the unionization of fast-food workers along with unrealistic state-mandated minimum wages have made fast food something it was never intended to be: a luxury item. I was simply unprepared for how many mentioned the exorbitant price of a big Mac these days.

The American Jews that I met were equally represented by the full spectrum of Orthodox-traditional-reform Jews. This group were top heavy in the area of Nassau Country in Long Island where I am staying. They have “made it” and are living out the American Dream: nice homes, second homes in Florida, a high standard of living, and money is not their primary concern. They are able to avoid the hard realities of street antisemitism, they never ever take public transportation, their exposure to the war in Gaza is limited to prime time, and their college age kids do zoom or go to exclusive or religious and safe academic institutions. They actually believe that nothing has really changed, that the current situation will blow over, and that they will continue to be impervious and distanced from the harsh realities of Jew hatred sweeping the Western World. They act as if all of this is not their problem. Denial is the slogan.

Those in denial were mainly found among the progressive Jews who seemed unable and unwilling to take off their progressive life jackets, holding on with dear life. Even after Oct 7th, they blame Israel and Zionism, they blame Netanyahu, they blame the Jews; they refuse to publicly support Israel, the Middle East’s most tolerant, most liberal, and diverse country. They refuse to admit that the Jewish nation is made up of an indigenous people who overcame centuries of pogroms and never ending persecution, defeating their colonial masters and rebuilding modern Israel into a thriving liberal Democracy.

They deny that Israel is a vibrant, tolerant, and liberal society. They all despise Trump. A not so small contingent of deniers’ were among the Orthodox who actually saw something positive in the current situation! They believe that religious Jews will be less inclined to assimilate and that it will strengthen the cohesiveness of the Orthodox community and maintain a greater affiliation of those within the ranks.

The largest group of Jews that I met, and those that evoked the greatest empathy were those that were experiencing bewilderment. They are up to date and consuming news from Israel and from the domestic front equally. They are aware that the Muslim mobs on the campuses and the streets act and express the same sense of righteous power as the Hitler Youth of the 1930’s. They admit and are aware of these Muslim mobs who freely vent their rage against the Jews, Israel, and anyone else who stands in their way. They have come to the realization that as Jews they will never be left alone to live in peace.

They understand that they will never have quiet, even if they make all the changes to their way of life so that they no longer offend these mobs overrunning the campuses and the streets of their declining city. They express an overwhelming helplessness at being unable to protect their families, their homes, and their community. They have lost their sense of personal security and of America being a safe haven. More and more are taking out gun permits to protect themselves. Many see the coming Presidential elections as a watershed event, which will motivate Jews to vote unlike their voting patterns in recent years.

Making Aliyah was never brought up as an option, at least for now.

These bewildered Jews evoke memories of Ronald Reagan, the former republican President, following Trump's landmark rally in the South Bronx this past Thursday, where thousands turned out to support the 2024 presidential candidate. In the summer of 1980, Ronald Reagan visited the South Bronx. That visit preceded Reagan's narrow victory in New York by nearly 3 percentage points in the 1980 general election. Since Reagan's victories, no Republican president has won this traditionally Democratic stronghold during a general election.

It is fair to say that American Jewry is in the midst of a collective crisis. The good news is that crisis can also be an opportunity for change or making decisions that otherwise would not seem applicable. Today’s antisemites pop up in two distinct forms: the first is your classic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, “Hitler was right” neo-fascist Americans. The second is the kind who buys every lie coming out of Al Jazeera and the rabidly antisemitic Arab press and is associated with Muslim Americans and their supporters. The problem with both kinds of Jew hatred is that they have become socially acceptable and are repeated freely without legal or enforcement consequences on campuses, on social media, and on the broadcasted/printed media.

Maybe, this is where it should begin for all American Jews, making it not “cool” to express Jew hatred and demanding accountability for those that abuse their first amendment rights.