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America Does Not Need a Rabbi-in-Chief

US President Donald Trump's recent statements smearing American Jews who vote for Democrats as "disloyal" is merely the latest installment in a longer-running tragedy. American presidents have no business issuing pronouncements about Judaism – or, for that matter, about any religion and its followers.

JERUSALEM – If anything is sacred to Americans, it is the US Constitution, the founding document that contains the country’s source code. Sadly, one of that code’s key components – the First Amendment – is under attack from an aggressive virus unleashed from within the White House.

In 1802, America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, wrote that “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God.” Offering assurances to a group of Connecticut Baptists who feared for their religious liberty, he pointed out that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause built “a wall of separation between Church & State.” That barrier is cracking badly now, owing to the actions of Jefferson’s two most recent successors, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

It has been strange – and frightening – for Jews to see American presidents adjudicating between “good” and “bad” Jews. The question of “who is a Jew” has long been a mainstay of political debates in Israel, whose Law of Return extends citizenship to Jews who immigrate there, but personal beliefs have no bearing on that conversation. For matters of faith now to be put under a microscope in the US is unconscionable. Whether or not the responsible parties have the Jewish people’s best interests at heart is no excuse for this behavior.

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