Are there other American families of German Jewish descent who found themselves on opposite sides in the U.S. presidential election? I’m still trying to wrap my head around how one of my relatives who fled Nazi Germany in 1938 supported the president-elect. I’ve pored through many articles to gain an understanding of what seems so incomprehensible. Why did nearly one third of Jewish voters support Trump? Will voter remorse settle in after the deportations begin? How will Jewish supporters react to the already growing number of hate crimes? And how will they explain away the appointment of a chief White House strategist with ties to white supremacists?
The quest for a rational answer to these questions is unnerving, but it doesn’t compare to the emotional pang of discovering that a member of your family is spreading false, hate-filled, and racist news stories and memes. As one relative’s steady stream of offensive social media posts grew, my sister and I ultimately realized that we were looking at a hard right member of our family who was overtly xenophobic if not outright racist. Ideological differences that had been simmering under a covered pot for years were suddenly exposed in the glaring light of Facebook. “What now?” we keep asking ourselves and each other.
Like millions of others I am seeking constructive ways to move forward. Attending Berlin’s anti-Trump protest over the weekend and making a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center were first steps. My sister has also become politically activated and engaged. But I’m not quite ready to reconcile with family members who expressed views that I believe are immoral. I need some more time before taking that step.
A few weeks ago I wrote a Holocaust-related piece titled Why Don’t We Talk More About Reconciliation? I wasn’t thinking about family relationships at the time, but the sources I consulted may offer guidance for finding a path towards peaceful coexistence with parties who face each other across a deep chasm — families included.