Ill winds keep blowing.

Author:Epstein, Nadine

When I left off writing in our last issue, anti-Semitism had made a startling comeback in the United States, and Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, was about to be installed as chief strategist to the new man in the White House. Sadly, the ill winds ushered in by the Trump presidency are still blowing. Nationwide, the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents continues to lurch upward, as it has since the start of the 2016 presidential campaign. The unprecedented wave of bomb threats at Jewish community centers and schools, as well as vandalism, is disturbing evidence of this trend, as is the desecration of Jewish cemeteries.

Many American Jews are understandably alarmed by the unanticipated injection of the white nationalist right and its brand of anti-Semitism into mainstream discourse. I do not believe that President Donald Trump is an anti-Semite or that he is deliberately singling out Jews; he has other groups on his mind. It is clear, however, that the extreme right, which promotes such views, is a part of the populist coalition that helped him get elected and has his ear via Bannon and others. Whether that is because the president feels indebted to the far-right, is using prejudice to whip up his base, sees political advantage in distracting his opponents or simply enjoys roiling the norms of civilized behavior and thought, he has so far avoided making the kind of compelling, direct national address necessary to stem the rising tide of anti-Semitism.

A few weeks ago, I attended the Benjamin Netanyahu-Trump press conference in the East Room of the White House and watched the president dance around the issue. This is a man made for TV, where he can dominate the screen, and for Twitter, where a few words can loom large. But in person and without a big, compliant audience before him, Trump seems smaller. With his loyal court seated in the first rows--including Bannon, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner--Trump's response to an Israeli reporters question about the rise of anti-Semitism trivialized the issue: He reminded us that he had won the election with 306 electoral college votes (the official tally is 304) and that he had friends, a daughter, a son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren who were Jews. He promised that the country would soon see "a lot of love." The next day, at an impromptu press conference, his performance was similarly lackluster. Since then, Trump's efforts to weigh in on the topic have...

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