After months of a caustic US election cycle, American Jews woke up on November 9th (or let’s face it, a lot of us didn’t ever fall asleep on the 8th) to face a dramatic shift in the sociopolitical direction of our country.  On the 12th, thousands of us convened in Washington, DC for JFNA’s annual GA conference.  I’ve attended the GA a few times before, and, while political topics are usually common at the GA, it was hard to escape a conversation without it turning into a discussion about what this election means for Jews in the US and abroad.  Fresh from the energy of the GA, I offer some constructive ways we can work communally and individually with the Trump administration to make sure America is great.

Some of us look forward to this altered horizon with optimism, though most of the Jews in my circles, me included, feel uneasy and unmoved.  The past few months of Brexit followed by the US presidential race have laid bare a lot of pain, a world more broken than many of us realized.  Whether you voted for a candidate or against one, you likely feel some consternation about what comes next, because the same challenges that preceded the US election still exist and now it is obvious, domestically and internationally, that even more is broken than most of us realized previously.  Perhaps we, in the bubble of privilege, were ridiculously unaware of the degree to which racism, sexism and a xenophobia, that includes anti-Semitism, could be whipped up in our fellow citizens.  Even my colleagues and friends who voted for President Elect Trump are surprised and troubled.  So what’s a Jewish leader to do?  And what is the role of the Jewish community in repairing this world?  To quote Heschel, “[t]he hour calls for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.”

Now, more than ever, let us use our many Jewish resources to address needs that extend well beyond our communities.  Whether the Jewish people confront the fractures of the world with swords or plowshares, our people have history, deep-rooted institutions, tools and training.  This is an historical opportunity for us to think locally and act globally.

Below I have listed some of the new or exacerbated challenges I see, but you likely have your own.  As Jewish leaders, we need to:

1. Protect discourse, disagreement and dialogue
We are the “people of the book,” which means so much more than our cultural devotion to learning.  Torah anchors us, even when our exegesis of Torah differs vastly.  Despite the fact our tradition has its fair share of legendary disputes and rivalries, Jews know how to dissent and mostly in a peaceful and productive way.  We preserve minority opinions, encourage skepticism and allow for modern revisions to old decrees. 

We must remain vigilant in a potential era of challenges to the First Amendment, libel laws and freedom/access of the press.  Jews must model how to preserve voices of dissent and the right to challenge and disagree without fearing retribution.  We must use our positions in legal, governmental and media roles to maintain rights of expression and to model civil discourse.

2. Fight the emboldened alt-right movement in the US and global nationalistic movements
Campaign rhetoric fanned the flames of xenophobia and bigotry that we knew was still alive, but had been by and large confined to corners and shadows in American daily life.  The alt-right feels newly legitimized and normalized after this election.  White supremacy, while not a Jewish ideal under any circumstances, seems to very much include in this recent iteration, overt anti-Semitism. 

Jews have tools and institutions to address anti-Semitism, but we also need to employ our resources to protect — and frankly, to soothe — other “others.”

3. Stand up for gender equality, social justice and civil rights

Our Jewish heroes are both men and women, both rich and poor and all colorless.  Every life has equal merit and each of us is a perfect image of the imageless G-d.  Jews bolster the powerless and we curtail unchecked excesses of the powerful.

We must continue to promote the less powerful and under-represented voices into more prominent positions of authority.  If we see institutions actively oppressing or merely falling indifferent to the needs of the less powerful, Jews need to lace up our marching boots.  It is a Jewish imperative to “seek justice, relieve the oppressed/Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

4. Prepare Our Global Networks for Humanitarian Relief and Rescue

We were already facing humanitarian crises in Syria, Sudan and many other places in the world before this election.  Regardless of what we’ve done thus far to help refugees, migrants and those in military harm’s way, we can and must work harder.  What’s more, we may have to do more for Jews going forward than we have had to in recent times.  In recent years, we have banded together to bring supplies in and take Jews out of vulnerable areas such as Ukraine and Yemen, but we must brace ourselves to help Jews in other places such as the Baltic States, Azerbaijan, Turkey and perhaps even France if the wave of ultra-nationalism ushers in Marine Le Pen there.

Even this short list may seem overwhelming, and I am certain you can think of many areas in need of attention, problems that are ripe for Jewish solutions, that I haven’t mentioned.  The Wexner community is up to addressing all these tasks if we break them in to pieces and divvy them up.  Our texts, traditions and experiences have readied us to respond with chesed and chutzpah.  In the words of a Canadian Jewish prophet we lost last week:

Ring the bells that still will ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen, z”l


Cintra Pollack, WHP Alum (Denver 14) runs a family office and manages investments and a charitable foundation in Denver.  Her commitments in the Jewish world currently include sitting on the main board for JewishColorado, the local Colorado federation/community foundation.  She has served on JewishColorado’s investment committee, allocations committee and also as the local chair for the Colorado contingent of JFNA’s National Young Leadership Cabinet.  She can be reached at