Why Trump’s Not Getting This Orthodox Vote: He’s Neither Good for the Jews, Nor for Judaism


As Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée engaged in battle against Russia in the campaign that would ultimately prove to be his downfall, a sentiment credited to the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, described the diminutive commander as “good for the Jews, but not for Judaism.” History would prove the founder of Chabad Chasidic thought correct, and his aphorism has been on my mind of late when contemplating the choice we face at the ballot box on Nov. 3.

As a proud Jew and Orthodox rabbi, I’ve concluded that unlike Napoleon, the current president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is neither good for the Jews, nor for Judaism. That is why I am supporting former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris.

The fact is, the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the commutation of former Agriprocessors CEO Sholom Rubashkin or then-Ambassador Nikki Haley’s defense of Israel at the United Nations — three things for which Orthodox and like-minded Conservative Jews routinely praise the current occupant of the White House — have not swayed me from the fundamental observation that this country is more dangerous for Jews today than four years ago. Our economy is on a vastly more precarious footing today than four years ago. Racial divisions are more pronounced today than four years ago. And public health is far less secured than four years ago.

Everywhere I turn, I see a country that has neither been made “great again” nor is respected as the protector of human rights and the ingatherer of the downtrodden she once was. And that’s not surprising, considering that we are led by a man for whom suffering is a punch line, for whom dividing Americans is his stock in trade. After almost four years under President Trump, our nation is disrespected abroad while our Constitution and the very fabric of our democracy is trampled at home.

Between a charlatan and a decent man who has spent a career in public service, the choice is obvious. But when looking at what Trump has done to our community — nay, what our community has allowed Trump to do to it — the race between Trump and Biden isn’t even a contest. I have witnessed some of the most respected among us become sneering, abject partisans because of the embassy move, a legitimate policy coup for which the jury is, I’m sorry to say, still out.

By locating the embassy in western Jerusalem, Trump has successfully laid the groundwork for a declaration that the capital of the Jewish state is not, in fact, unified. The recent deal with the United Arab Emirates — which required Israel to take the idea of West Bank sovereignty, in the words of presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, “off the table” — makes that result all the more probable. And yet, some of the fiercest defenders of Israel, who have spent most of their careers professing a love for a “greater Israel,” now praise Trump in his de facto abandonment of Israel’s settler movement.

Not that I’m a big fan of the settler movement, but I prefer people to be intellectually honest, and that’s not a descriptor that can be applied to today’s Republican Party. The GOP is now the party of Trump, and Trumpism is neither a movement nor a bona fide political theory. It is a cult of personality. It is just one step removed from idolatry.

In Biden, on the other hand, I see a principled leader, a longtime senator who has forcefully defended Israel through some of her most trying times, who as vice president was part of an administration that awarded the largest military aid package in U.S. history to the Jewish state, who at the dedication of the Old City home of the National Museum of American Jewish History specifically sought out Rabbi Abraham Shemtov for a hug. I know this much: A President Biden would do no harm to Israel, and would vigorously fight anti-Semitism at home instead of stoking and empowering it from the Oval Office.

I believe that one of the things that has made our country great throughout history has been its embrace, at times more in theory than in actual practice, of diversity. The idea that people of different backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, races and creeds could come together in support of a common enterprise is what ultimately allowed our community to flourish. That we are currently experiencing a reckoning over slavery and the failed project of Reconstruction is something to be cherished, not derided and feared.

Community, sacrifice and justice are three values that Judaism has steadfastly stood by for thousands of years. They’re also three terms that are as foreign to the current president as they are guiding lights to Biden, the man whom I am confident should defeat Trump come Election Day.

Rabbi Joshua Runyan, a former editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent, is an attorney in Center City.

For an alternate view of Trump from the Orthodox perspective, go here.


  1. Who is this supposed Rabbi..?!
    He sounds like an airheaded, liberal, hallucinating, lefty Democrat! ??
    Politically Blind.
    To support Biden is to support up to birth abortion, defunded police departments and the ultimate disaster of Kamala Harris as Potus 46, G-D forbid!!!

    Trump 2020, 2024!

  2. Sheesh I hope this self described “rabbi” doesn’t have an influence on the community where he lives! Funny how he says “I prefer people to be intellectually honest, and that’s not a descriptor that can be applied to today’s Republican Party.” The only group to completely disengage when you mention the slightest approval of the other party is the Democrat party. I am a staunch supporter of our President yet I took the time to read this article which is, by all measures, an attack on our great President.
    In response, though a citizen could take it into consideration, not everything the President / future President does should be based on Isreal. At this point the real choice to be made on Nov 3rd is whether you want to live in a democratic republic or a socialist country! There are many places to live if you prefer socialism, but the USA is not one of them and never will be! That is why come Nov 3 you should vote for Trump. Big, overreaching, overtaxing government is NEVER the answer.
    Ps if you’re going to throw your support behind someone, you should at least pick someone who is competent, knows what they stand for and keeps to the same story. Biden’s opinions and policies flip flops like a pancake being cooked by a 7 year old.
    Spread love not hate ❤️

    • Agree with everything you’ve stated….Also, let’s remember that Biden was part of the team that gave us the horrific Iran deal, which was bad for Israel, bad for the entire middle east, bad for U.S., but GREAT for Iran. He’s incompetent at best with foreign affairs. The Biden plan to raise income taxes will bury your personal finances, and his plan to raise corporate taxes will result in companies raising the costs of their goods and /or services to consumers, so they can maintain a profit margin that allows them to survive. Inflation is just a Biden win away. Anyhow, just wanted to add to what you’ve already stated….Many of us agree with you. I hope it shows on Nov 3rd.

  3. It is disappointing that Rabbi Runyan has not applied the teachings of the Torah and the wisdom of the Sages to his analysis of our upcoming election.

    The relocation of the U.S. Embassy was authorized in 1995 by the United States Congress. Successive presidents of both parties delayed doing so. The recognition of Israel by the UAE is the first movement of rapprochement in a quarter- century. And these steps are supposed to make the USA more dangerous for Jews?

    Four years ago we began the biggest economic growth from an economy that was undergoing the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. We are now recovering from the worst pandemic in over 100 years with a vaccine months, not years, away.

    It is difficult to understand how the rabbi can support a candidate who wants to reinstate millions of U.S. dollars annually to the Palestinians with their “Pay to Slay” government. It is equally difficult to understand how he can vote for a party who honored noted anti-Semite Linda Sarsour by allowing her to speak at their recent national convention. This same candidate wants to rejoin the horrible Iran deal, reopen the Palestinian pseudo-embassy in Washington, and supports AOC and her anti-Israel Squad.

    It is unfortunate that Rabbi Runyan does not seem to remember the words of Hillel the Elder, “If I am not for me, who am I?”

  4. Thank you, Rabbi Runyan. We miss your sage advice. We cannot elect a president solely because we (wrongly) believe he is “good for Israel.” Am Yisroel chai, but this is the US. Vote on who is best for the US and this president has unleashed the trolls and demons.

  5. Only because someone has the ability to express him self that not an assurance that it safe to do so.

    King Shlomo all ready wrote “גם אויל מחריש חכם יחשב, אטם שפתיו נבון

    I wish you that G-D Almighty should give the ability of knowing what’s good and what’s not.

  6. Shame on this “so called Rabbi” Has to be insane not to support a president who’s daughter and grandchildren are Jewish,but vote for well known anti-Semite crooked Joe!

  7. We are barking up the wrong tree …. Instead praying for Trup or Biden, let us pray for Moshiach! How many times we thought that it is goo or bad, & it turned out the oppsite! Hashem knows what is good for us, He is showing us signs that with just “little effort” we can have the geula, we just have to make that effort.


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