As the press pursues one Russia-related lead after another, painting a picture of an administration in turmoil, team Trump is making moves outside of the spotlight. With minimal fanfare or recognition, President Trump is reaching out to faith-based communities throughout the country, making good on a campaign promise to bridge the deep divide between secular Washington, D.C. and Judeo-Christian America.
After eight years of the Obama administration’s apparent attacks on religious freedoms (see: Christian baker controversy) and hostile policies against the Jewish State of Israel, faith-based communities have grown suspicious, even disillusioned by the seemingly elitist and out-of-touch American political class. But as a self-described outsider, Trump has flipped the script, choosing to hold public meetings with faith leaders and appointing men and women of faith to his cabinet. And yet, very little ink has been spilled covering the extent of Trump’s outreach to religious communities.
Take his choice for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. An orthodox Jew, Friedman has made a concerted effort to not only make inroads with Orthodox communities in the United States, but he’s reached out to long-marginalized Haredi communities in Israel, a move that would have been considered impolitic under the previous administration.
Speaking on behalf of the Trump administration, Friedman even delivered a speech at an Orthodox Jewish conference sponsored by Hamodia, a popular Haredi newspaper catering to “Torah Jewry.” Following his speech, Friedman was honored by Dirshu, a world-renowned Orthodox Jewish organization known for its dissemination of Judaic scholarship. The organization’s founder, Rabbi David Hofstedter, gave Friedman a set of Jewish sacred texts, a gesture usually reserved for those who earnestly advance the cause of Torah Jewry.
Watch as Friedman accepts the sacred gift from Rabbi Hofstedter:
The conference, which took place on July 9, received little media attention despite the scope and significance of Friedman’s speech.
Directing his message to Orthodox Jews, Friedman outlined his plan for the U.S. embassy in Israel to build partnerships with the Haredi community in an effort to not only teach English to underserved religious neighborhoods, but promote financial independence. Specifically, Friedman talked about incorporating more Orthodox women in the workforce.
By standing shoulder with the Haredi community and asserting that Orthodox Jews form the bedrock of the Jewish State’s strength, the ambassador essentially challenged decades of U.S. foreign policy consensus, which surmised that secular Zionists, not Orthodox Jews, should be the primary focus of American diplomatic outreach.
To be clear, Friedman’s perspective is unprecedented. Never before has a U.S. administration gone out its way to address the concerns of Jewish religious communities in Israel (or the United States for that matter).
Orthodox Jews, a majority of whom identify as Republicans, have long been a valuable, yet underappreciated voting bloc. Seen as the torchbearers of authentic, traditional Judaism, Orthodox Jewish leaders wield a disproportionate amount of influence in the Jewish community. With much higher birth rates than reform and conservative Jews and the phenomena of assimilation and intermarriage rendering secular Jews virtually indistinct from most other Americans, Orthodox Jews may become more influential as spokesmen for Jewish-oriented causes, including U.S.-Israel relations and lobbying, in the years ahead.
As the Left doubles-down on ideological extremism, normalizing the likes of Linda Sarsour and other virulently anti-Semitic bigots, the Right would be wise to invest more political capital in Jewish communities, some of whom have become political nomads in the wake of Leftist-inspired anti-Semitic incidents.
For years, Democrats have enjoyed a monopoly over the Jewish vote. Two-thirds of Jews still vote for Democratic candidates. But could that soon change? For that matter, could the Trump administration’s outreach to faith-based communities, Jewish and Christian alike, redraw political alignments and create a new interfaith coalition for the Right?
Trump’s flirtations with the alt-right definitely didn’t help, however the president’s outreach and public support for religious communities, his appointment of Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel, and the administration’s friendlier stance to the Jewish State, a cause dear to the hearts of not only Jews but evangelicals as well, may win over a Judeo-Christian alliance for the Right.