Analysis

Jewish Trump Supporters Will Forgive Donald’s Sins on Yom Kippur, but Not Hillary’s

Polls suggest overwhelming support for Trump in the Orthodox community. No revelation or lewd comment is likely to change their fundamental belief that that the GOP - even the Trump version - is better for Jews and for Israel.

An Israeli soldier stands next to a bus stop covered with a poster from the Israeli branch of the Trump campaign, near the West Bank Jewish Settlement of Ariel October 6, 2016.
Baz Ratner, Reuters

The earthquake that hit Donald Trump’s presidential campaign following the revelation of his lewd remarks in a 2005 video has led some to wonder whether evangelical Christian leaders supporting Trump will square their family values and morals with the crass descriptions of kissing and grabbing female genitalia by the GOP nominee.

The same question might be asked of the sector of the American Jewish community that has been the most consistently supportive of Trump - Orthodox Jews. After all, the uninvited behavior Trump describes in the tape could not be more anathema to Orthodox values of modesty in all contact between men and women. 

The answer appears clear: by all signs, it is highly unlikely that Trump’s high level of support among Orthodox Jews - both those who live in the United States and those in Israel - is damaged by the latest revelations, which have driven away many Republican politicians who stood with him until now, and sparked harsh criticism, particularly from Republican women. 

Opinion: The moral failure of pro-Trump Orthodox Jews

While the traditionally Democratic-leaning U.S. Jewish community overwhelming polls as favoring Hillary Clinton, the Orthodox community has been an outlier. The reasons are what Haaretz commentator Peter Beinart has described as “tribal” - a fundamental belief that that the Republican party - even the Trump version - is better for Jews and for Israel. The result has been overwhelmingly high support for Trump. While there hasn’t been accurate national polling, one poll in the key swing state of Florida found Trump support among Orthodox Jews to be overwhelming - by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, 66 percent favoring the GOP nominee and only 22 percent supporting Clinton. It was practically a mirror image of non-Orthodox Jewish Florida voters, who favored Clinton by 72 percent with Trump receiving 22 percent. 

“It's hard to see them change their opinion on Trump dramatically” following the new scandal, said Jacob Kornbluh, a journalist who follows the Orthodox political scene closely for Jewish Insider, predicting from what he sees, that it is unlikely Trump support in the Orthodox community will dip below 70 percent on November 8.

Kornbluh noted that the 2005 video affair played out over the Jewish Sabbath, and Orthodox Jewry had their televisions and computers turned off as it endlessly cycled through cable news. And in the ultra-Orthodox community, he noted, many people don’t even own televisions. 

Therefore, Kornbluh expects the community to stay loyal to Trump. “In national elections, Orthodox Jewish voters have always supported the Republican top of the ticket Social issues and support for Israel are the determining factor in supporting the GOP nominee. Since Hillary is seen as a third Obama term and has the Arafat kissing story in her past, add that to Trump's recent charm offensive on Israel, I don't see how this story - coming after months of retweeting white supremacists and tepidly denouncing David Duke - changes their vote on Election Day.”

In Israel, Mark Zell, co-chair of the Israel chapter of Republicans Overseas, who is leading pro-Trump efforts here, reported there was “definitely” no change based on a Saturday night and Sunday morning survey of their area captains in charge of voter registration, and that they expected Americans voting in Israel to favor Trump by 70-80 percent. From their information, Zell said “not a single voter” said they had changed their minds as a result of Trump’s “crude, lewd and rude” words in 2005.

“The remarks were horrific. They are not intended to be heard by the public. They were greeted with the appropriate disdain and disgust. You don’t have to be Jewish or Orthodox to be offended by them.” 

The fact that they were meant to be private “doesn’t excuse it or exonerate him from opprobrium that met this remark. That’s why he was correct in coming to the public, acknowledging that he’s less than perfect and apologizing for his remarks. He was courageous in doing that. It would have been nice if his opponent was honest with the public about her less than praiseworthy remarks, but she has not.”

Extreme dislike of Hillary Clinton remains the driving factor behind his activity in the presidential contest - the same distaste that transformed him from a strong opponent of Trump in the Republican primaries a staunch supporter in the general election. For Zell and other Trump supporters in Israel and abroad, Clinton’s “incompetence running U.S. foreign policy as Secretary of State” her “propensity for lying” and her “corruption” remained the deciding factors in casting their vote, for both men “and all the women I’ve spoken to” he said. 

One Israel-American Republican female voter, Lisa Gladstone had already marked the Trump box on her Florida absentee ballot and was about to mail it in from her home in Ra’anana when the story broke.

As much as she found Trump’s words “vile and disgusting,” it did nothing to change her vote. Her deep loathing for “two-faced liar” Hillary Clinton, she said, isn’t outweighed by the fact that Trump behaved “like a pig” in 2005. “Listen, I’m not happy about the situation. I wish Trump was a mensch, I really do. I wish I had a better choice and I don’t I would have liked to vote for Mike Huckabee or Lindsey Graham. But I’m stuck with Trump, in the same way the Democrats are stuck with Hillary.” 

Her favorite Republican of the moment, Gladstone said is Trump’s running mate. “I’d like to vote for Pence. I think Pence is such a classy guy, he is so pro-Israel. I like him more than Trump.” (Clinton’s running mate she finds “even worse than Hillary” describing Tim Kaine as “a real J-Streeter, really anti-Israel.)”  

As steadfast as her support is for Trump, however, she’s realistic. “I think Hillary’s going to win.” And how does that make her feel? “Not good. Nervous. Concerned, and fearful, very fearful.”

Gladstone’s neighbor in Ra’anana, Jonathan Surasky, was also unmoved by the tape. While he agreed that Trump’s language was “not a pretty thing ... how many men out there - ball players, businessmen, actors and singers talk that way? A lot. He is what he is. No one is making him out to be one of the best straightest perfect people.” 

While Trump “has got a disgusting mouth and it’s nothing to be proud of” said Surasky, like Gladstone, Orthodox and a Florida voter, “it wouldn’t sway my decision to vote for him,” particularly, he said, since the incident happened in 2005 and he has apologized for it. His vote - like other Jewish Republicans, he says, should be separated from his religion. 

“This isn’t an Orthodox vote, it’s a pro-Israel vote. People have had enough of Obama’s Middle East policy over the past eight years and they feel Hillary is going in the same direction. They want something different.” 

The unwavering support in Israel wasn’t completely unanimous. MK Yehudah Glick, who was a U.S. citizen before he turned in his passport upon election to the Israeli parliament, had supported Trump until Friday, but changed his mind, tweeting “OK, I was wrong. Even when it looked from every angle that this guy was an animal I tried to believe anyway. Mr. Trump go home. Enough is enough. Ich!” 

The Jewish support that likely concerns the Trump camp the most isn’t located in Brooklyn, Israel or Florida , but in Las Vegas - specifically casino owner and businessman Sheldon Adelson. 

Adelson’s representatives didn’t respond to attempts by Politico to contact him Saturday for comment on whether Trump’s latest scandal, would affect his donations and pledges of millions to both Trump and the overall Republican effort. 

In Israel on Sunday, journalists looked for clues as to the Las Vegas mogul’s reaction by parsing in the Adelson-owned newspaper “Israel Hayom.” 

Most observers on social media concluded that the coverage was relatively Trump-sympathetic and Clinton-critical. The cover story was headlined, “Trump Apologizes, America Rages” with a commentary below headlined “Hurricane Trump; the rude words, the hypocritical critics” with the articles giving equal time to the Wikileaks revelation of Clinton’s Wall Street speeches and giving prominent mention to the sins of Bill Clinton who, unlike Trump, wasn’t just caught speaking crudely but was “caught with his pants down.”