So much for that ancient myth that Jews are the smartest people on earth. Never mind our Einsteins and Freuds, and never mind all our Nobel Prizes, and don’t tell me about all our brilliant scientists and scholars and authors.
It turns out, we’re as easily conned as anybody else.
I have before me the latest news about President Donald Trump’s enduring popularity among Orthodox Jews, reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The headline alone is distressing enough to cause migraines: “Orthodox support for Trump is skyrocketing, survey says.”
Never mind that the latest nationwide polls show former Vice President Joe Biden with a healthy lead over Trump in the final two weeks of presidential campaigning.
The numbers out of a poll published last week in Ami Magazine found that 83 percent of Orthodox Jewish respondents plan to vote for Trump.
What’s more, the poll found that among the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, a shocking 95 percent support Trump.
Or to put it in non-mathematic terms understood by people of all religious persuasions: Oy, gevalt.
But before we lapse too deeply into statistical depression, let’s stipulate a few facts: Overall, about 70 percent of all Jewish voters are expected to support Joe Biden. A recent Pew Research Center survey says only 27 percent of the overall Jewish vote will go for Trump.
In fact, the last time a majority of Jews voted for a Republican presidential candidate was precisely 100 years ago when Warren G. Harding got a majority of Jewish votes.
Harding is widely regarded as probably the worst of all U.S. presidents in the past century “B.T.” (“Before Trump”), and the Jews have been repenting for this 1920 error in judgment ever since.
So why are the Orthodox embracing this president?
In a word: Israel.
They think Trump, in particular, and Republicans in general, are better friends to Israel than any Democrat, a misperception which will not be detailed here, because Donald Trump’s candidacy should be about far more than Israel.
Have these Trump supporters not noticed his ongoing attitude toward bigotry of all kinds?
Did Orthodox Jews not hear about Charlottesville, where neo-Nazi marchers chanted “The Jews will not replace us,” and Trump found “fine people” on both sides of that confrontation?
Have they not noticed his unwillingness to criticize such domestic terrorist groups as QAnon, which the Washington Post and The Forward have cited for “striking anti-Semitic elements”?
Have they not heard about Trump telling members of his administration that Jews are “only in it for themselves,” a classic accusation for stoking anti-Semitism?
Have they not noticed all those immigrant children along America’s southern border, sobbing because they were separated from their distraught parents, and did that not evoke haunting images of a Holocaust most Jews have pledged would happen “never again?”
And yet, even those questions imply Jews should only focus on religious connections.
For a broader perspective, I give you my old friend Bruce Kahn, born and raised in Baltimore. He is rabbi emeritus of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase and a U.S. Navy chaplain for the past 40 years. In response to my question about Orthodox support of Trump, he emailed me the following:
“Jewish values about study, saving life, preserving the environment, pursuing peace, loving your neighbor, commitment to truth, proper treatment of strangers and immigrants, assisting the poor, combating greed, advancing justice and fairness, restraining evil speech, exhibiting humility, preventing the spread of hatred … are all being shredded by Jewish support for Trump.”
Let’s add another treasured Jewish value to Rabbi Kahn’s list: education.
That’s the secret behind so many Jewish scientists and scholars, so many doctors and writers, and so many Nobel Prizes.
But it doesn’t answer why so many among us were so easily conned by this president, and still apparently haven’t figured him out.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, including “Tonight at 6: A Daily Show Masquerading as Local TV News” (Apprentice House) and “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).