Prof. Steven Cohen: Help Trump Do a Mitzvah

WASHINGTON – With President Donald Trump’s unpredictable approach towards the Middle East, Steven Cohen, Professor of Jewish Social Policy at HUC-JIR, urged progressive Jews to maintain a nuanced response in responding to the new administration in the scenario that Trump actually pursues a two-state solution. “If a bad person wants to do good things. You help him do any Mitzvah (good deed),” Cohen told Jewish Insider at the J Street National Conference in Washington, D.C. “The next day you reproach him for doing averos (sins). I would hope that my ultra liberal friends would support any effort that would really move us towards a two-state solution because it is a matter of pikuach nefesh, saving lives. We need a Palestinian state in order to save Jewish lives among other good reasons.”

Alan Solow, former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a national co-chair of the 2012 Obama reelection campaign, also called for a diplomatic response regarding Trump’s more ambiguous approach to the two-state solution. “In this current status of five or six weeks into this presidency, it’s important to try to give the Administration some room to find its way to try and to work with the administration and encourage them to work with Israelis and the Israeli government,” he told Jewish Insider. “Therefore, I would say, outward criticism on those issues, if I were in leadership would be premature at this point.”

Solow further stressed that Jewish American organizations should adopt a more measured approach in general in dealing with the Trump Administration. “It depends on what the issue is. I don’t think that Jewish leadership can abandon fundamental values which drive their organizations and remain silent when those values are challenged,” Solow noted referencing the White House’s decision to not mention Jews in its Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement or its slow response to the rise in anti-Semitism. “It is impossible for [the ADL] not to speak on that and have any self respect and perform their role.”

Nonetheless, when addressing domestic policies – such as immigration – that are not directly connected with the Jewish community, Solow said, one should not expect every Jewish organization to speak out on that issue not related to their cause. “For other organizations, which have never acted in areas of immigration, it’s not so important for those organizations and it’s not a dereliction of their duties to not speak out on those issues,” he emphasized. “I don’t expect every Jewish organization which I support to speak out on the immigration issue.”

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