This past Tuesday, the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, said in reference to Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar support for boycotting Israel “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
I do not know whether Trump meant it was disloyal to America or disloyal to Israel to vote for a Democrat. But I do know that raising the specter of dual loyalty is an anti-Semitic falsehood that is not only disgraceful but anti-American.
In 1790, our first President, George Washington, wrote a letter to the members of Touro Synagogue following his visit to Newport, Rhode Island. Here is an excerpt from his letter:
“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess a like liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy."
May Washington’s words serve as a reminder of the capacity of the president to elevate discourse, to articulate our country’s highest values, and to fulfill the responsibility of uniting all citizens of the United States.