Beware of the Frum Trump

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By Avrohom Birnbaum

The two disparate topics discussed over the past two weeks in this column may seem totally unconnected, but in truth they are deeply intertwined with one another. Last week, we discussed the deplorable quality of life in Lakewood, with the issuance of more and more permits for housing developments even though the town’s infrastructure is unable to keep up with the growth. Two weeks ago, we discussed the surging candidacy of Donald Trump, the reasons for the success of such an imperfect candidate, and the terrible impact his style will have on the discourse in this country and the world, as well as the impact it will have on our own middos.

Those two topics might seem totally unrelated, but in reality they are almost identical. If we do not learn the lessons from these topics, we may be destined for a rocky road.

The “Protected” Class vs. the “Unprotected” Class

Let us analyze the reason behind Trump’s tremendous success. After all, the American electorate knows that he is an arrogant Machiavellian megalomaniac. He just can’t stop talking about himself, how great he is, how foolish everyone else is, and how he is the greatest force to hit the planet.

This kind of person is one who should generate disgust. Instead, he is generating enthusiasm and adulation. Why? Because everyone is fed up with the politicians and the mess they have gotten us into over the years. Everyone realizes that the politicians worry only about their own personal interests, not about those of their constituents. Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote a column in which she succinctly explains this:

“I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection… There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

“The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful — those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created…”

Noonan continues:

“What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate, but because they’re better.

“You see the dynamic in many spheres. In Hollywood, as we still call it, where they make our rough culture, they are careful to protect their own children from its ill effects. In places with failing schools, they choose not to help them through the school liberation movement — charter schools, choice, etc. — because they fear to go up against the most reactionary professional group in America, the teachers unions. They let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.

“This is a terrible feature of our age — that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.

“And a country really can’t continue this way.”

Avoiding the Ostrich-in-the Sand Syndrome

One must tread carefully when making comparisons between the political situation in this country with trends in the frum world. Nevertheless, to overlook what is going in the country and think that the frum world is not affected by both its excesses and the reaction to them would be foolish. In fact, it would be a classic case of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand and saying that everything is perfect.

In truth, we must worry. Currently, the American people are so fed up and disenfranchised that they are willing to overlook the overwhelming flaws of a person like Donald Trump as long as he promises strong leadership and righting the wrongs and the flaws of the politicians who are beholden to special interests. Similarly, in our own frum world, it is incumbent on us to realize that if our leadership is not careful, they also risk disenfranchising the people to the extent that they will look to new, loud and irresponsible leaders to save them. If that were to happen, one shudders to contemplate the result.

In addition, we also must acknowledge the seminal role that the internet plays in all of this. It is with sadness and heartache, not joy, that we must realize and acknowledge that in today’s day and age, when the internet offers so many different people a soap box, there is no way that unfair and corrupt norms that have sadly become entrenched in our society can continue. Certainly, there is no way that deep-seated injustices can continue without alternative voices being heard on the internet that threaten not only to right the injustices, which would be a good thing, but to overturn the entire applecart and throw out the baby with the bathwater.

We must realize that the world we live in is so different than that of a generation ago. If we don’t, we will be reminded by events that spin out of control.

The Challenges the Average Frum Family Faces

The sad fact is that the middle class in the frum community – the “unprotected,” to use Ms. Noonan’s term – are having it harder than they ever did. Your average person, without pull or astronomic sums of money at his disposal, is choking under the tuition burden. Even though so many of us extol the importance of chinuch, it seems that no one will give one a break if he can’t pay tuition. Marrying off a child is becoming a nearly impossible feat to accomplish while staying out of the red. Few will even look at your daughter if you can’t promise monthly support that equals another mortgage payment. If you are blessed with a number of girls, instead of being thrilled with the opportunity to raise wonderful bnos Yisroel who are going in the derech haTorah and want nothing more than a learning boy, you are tearing your hair out, first wondering how they are going to get someone to be interested in a shidduch with them. Then, even when that someone is found, how are you going to support them? You feel that the “system” is failing you.

And what about when that child finally gets married, has children, and tries to get their children into schools? Again, it is a difficult, humiliating experience that makes you wonder why the “protected” are not doing more to shield the “unprotected.”


Is it any wonder that people feel neglected and uncared for when building permits are issued one after the other while the “unprotected” sit in traffic with a compromised quality of life and taxes and housing prices that keep rising?

Indeed, the feeling that many may get is that we, as a tzibbur, are great about saying “im yirtzeh Hashem” and “boruch Hashem.” We are great at using terms like ben Torah, ahavas haTorah, and only Torah. But we are far less adept at actually bringing Hashem into our lives and acting as if He is watching us.

Again, this does not justify the Trumpization of the frum world, but if we think that Donald Trump was born in a vacuum in a way that doesn’t affect frum life, we are greatly mistaken.

If we, as a community, as leaders and the “protected” class, don’t realize how precarious the entire edifice is, we are fooling ourselves and we may be faced with a frum Trump whose damage to our community and way of life may be incalculable.

The Dog, the Bone and the Lifeblood

The scary situation in which we find ourselves brings to mind a shmuess I once heard years ago at Bais Medrash Govoah from Rav Chaim Shaul Kaufman zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Gateshead Yeshiva Ketanah.

He related the following moshol in the name of the sefer Ben Hamelech Vehanozir: A starving dog once sought a bone to eat. It couldn’t find anything and felt faint. Finally, after foraging for a long time, it found one very dry bone. What could it do with a dry bone? Left with no choice, the dog began to gnaw at the bone, hoping to extract some juice. The dog chewed harder and harder and still could not get even a drop of moisture out of it. The dog was desperate. It needed to eat. It kept on chewing with even more gusto. The dog chewed itself into a frenzy, until, finally, it tasted a drop of moisture. This bit of wetness only whetted its appetite. It used all of its remaining strength to continue chewing. Finally, its hard work paid off. It began to suck liquid out of the bone. At first, it was a drop, and then it was more and more, until liquid was literally gushing out of the bone. The dog enthusiastically sucked out the liquid until…it dropped dead.

What happened? The liquid was its own blood. Gnawing at the bone had caused the dog to bleed. While it was enjoying the juice seemingly coming from the bone, it was really sucking out its lifeblood.

Humpty Trumpty

Sometimes, it seems that the protected are so intent on squeezing a little more juice out of the dry bone called the “unprotected” that they don’t realize that they may be sucking out their own lifeblood. How? When some “frum Trump” suddenly comes down the path promising to fix everything, his words may resonate. Then, the false hopes that will be dashed later when the frum Trump is proven to be an imposter will break down everything in a way that may make it difficult to put together again.

This article first appeared in Yated Ne’eman USA.


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  1. this article was written like a coffee room coversation. This is a serious issue and should be discussed intelligently, with real ideas, not just a rant

  2. I first read this article last week. At first i was bewildered how the author doesn’t appreciate the success of a man who has turned 1 million dollars in to arguably 9 billion (9000 Million). Albeit the man is the antithesis of what you look for in a son in law. He is arrogant crude rude and in more ways than one socially unacceptable.Mr Trump is everything i don’t want my children to become for the simple reason that it is not a life of Torah and mitzvos. That being said he is not the man i am inviting for shabbos lunch. He is a man that i believe is willing to use all of his knowledge and strengths to do what he thinks is best for this country economically.I could be wrong but it seems that the author has never worked a day in his life in the REAL WORLD i say that as a good thing i wish upon my children to live in a world that is sheltered by the four walls of a bais medrash. In the Torah world everything is peachy the rosh yeshiva speaks thats what we do every one has middos and all is well. The real world is harsh unrelenting and will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t have the type of brazenness and ultimately BAD middos that we as frum people want nothing to do with. The country needs fighters like Trump instead of pacifists like Hilary.

  3. Washington can be fixed. Elected a seasoned Torah yid. He can have G-ds support to get things done.

    Frum Trump? Is that like card games that are just substituted for tiny dark lies? Trump is systemic hate. Gasoline on a fire will need less creativity. Trump is for careless hate. Electing him is forgetting any Torah experience learned.

    Fastly becoming his own gasoline.

    Fear G-d.

  4. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Donald Trump. It seems the author simply enjoyed – as I did – Ms Noonan terrific column and wishes to apply it to the frum oilam.

    However, when the author wonders “why the ‘protected’ are not doing more to shield the ‘unprotected'” he tips his hand. This is not about finding real solutions. It’s about why aren’t the machers helping me pay my bills? The comment about building permits underscores the point. “They have so much. Why not give some to me?”

    And there is some fairness there. After all, yeshiva tuition – which by the way is, more or less, the true cost of a Torah education – ought to be reconfigured. That is to say that the wealthy DO have an obligation to support mosdos haTorah so that EVERY child gets a proper chinuch. Torah is a “morashah”; it is a right (perhaps the only true Right in the Torah world), the cost for which must be borne by the community if the parents (based on a father’s mitzvah to teach his son Torah) cannot afford to do so.


    None of this establishes an entitlement to the “middle-class” lifestyle that the frum community has come to expect, the trappings of which include: A house (as opposed to an apartment), a large family, brand-new clothes every season, five-figure weddings and bar mitzvahs, stipends for children and sons-in-law, sleepaway camp, and much much more!

    The “necessities” of a frum life have to be reined in. The current spending cannot continue. The budgets do not add up. They are creaking and will, eventually, crack. But kol zman that we look at everyone else for direction in what is “normal” and what is “expected” and what is “average” no one will move a muscle to change. They will ask to be bailed out.

    That’s a failed attitude. Cost cutting must be the rule of the day for at least the next generation. Otherwise, Donald Trump or no, we will all be “unprotected” from a future financial catastrophe that will impact us materially and, I fear, spiritually, Hasehm yeracheim.

  5. Nothing last forever. America will decline like other great empires. Even this planet will fade. We have the choice either doom and dispar OR enialation, let us choose wisely.

  6. What a pleasure to read the considered words of Rabbi Birnbaum! He conveys so much more than appears in his written words and therein lies his greatest talent.

    As a resident of Lakewood, I can attest that the day is at hand when a rogue candidate will appear on the local ballot without the backing of the Yeshiva and he will win handily. The “unprotected” are fed up with being neglected and we can only pray that the new powers that will be swept in will not undo all the positive things accomplished over the past 25 years…

  7. Kudos to Avraham Birnbaum for another great article. Unfortunately, not everyone is on the level to understand the greatness of his words evidently.

    והמבין יבין.

  8. I think Trump has the right attitude. I think he is a tough but honest businessman. I think your criticism is off the mark when it comes to Trump. I do agree with your criticism when it comes to the lack of urban and communal planning in the frum community in general and Lakewood in particular. Unfortunately the lack of planning comes from wrong notions and misunderstandings of the proper Hashkafa of Bitachon. Bitachon does not mean you should not plan on the individual level or the communal level. Additionally your implied criticism of the elite moneyed classes in the frum community is also on the mark. The world has changed and the divisions between the haves and have nots in general society are also now present in the frum community. Therefore until such a time as someone like Mr trump can bring prosperity back to America, the wealthy must be responsible for supporting the poor. Therefore it is long overdue that the wealthy in our community get together and make sure that Torah education is available to all either free of charge like in the public schools or at a cost that is truly affordable. The present situation is a disgrace.

  9. I just read this article, I think it is brilliant. I dont see a ‘frum trump’ coming on the scene today, but in a few years it is a real scary posibility. I personally would follow such a person, because of the truths of this article, as they pertain to the frum world, and to myself.
    With regard to the comments about his self made wealth, there is an equally interesting article that explains that actually donald did very poorly compared to mainstream people investing the way he does, with leveraging etc. I don’t recall exactly where I saw it.

    • The Man is worth 9 thousand million do you comprehend what that means. I don’t care what you read and from who you read it there are very few people in the world who have amassed more wealth than him.yes his nine billion is a drop in bill gates 50 billon bucket none the less donald is a tremendous business man who’s going to make this country rich again.

  10. CJ:
    The problem is that this middle class behavior is sanctioned by the ‘protected’. No leader will tell his followers that the standard is to go to work right away, and kollel is for the upper class. No leader will tell his followers that having a large family is for the upper class.
    Same with the girls teachers, etc. Many have money in the family, and preach a life of mesiras nefesh. Of course I am generalizing, but it’s a norm.

  11. We have to stop blaming any of our issues on Yiddishkeit, the protected or anyone else. Our issues are brought to us ONLY by hkb”h. We don’t understand everything. We don’t understand why. For some reason too many people blame their Yiddishkeit and assume that without it c’v things would be better. In reality they would have the same problems or worse minus the one connection that we have to something real. It’s moshiachs times. Listen to Gedolei Yisroel, improve your own ruchniyos, and pretty soon we will all understand everything.

  12. If you can’t afford housing, don’t move to a city with expensive housing. If your streets are getting clogged, so are streets everywhere and thank Hashem that your life is so pleasant that you actually have emotional energy to complain about it. If you can’t afford to send your kids to kollel, don’t. And don’t send them to schools that will teach them that if they don’t join kollel (at the expense of their less than wealthy fil and soon to be pregnant wife) then they forgo their olam haba. And don’t make a fancy wedding if you can’t afford it.

    Basically, decide what you want to believe and own up to your choices. If you think kollel is the greatest thing in the world but you can’t afford it, then find a way to save up for years to make it possible, or don’t do it or daven that you should be able to do it with a smile. If you can’t be happy about it then something needs to change.

    Btw weddings are ridiculous. To spend at least 20k on one night that doesn’t do diddly squat to the couples Shalom bayis, boggles my mind. And then you complain that weddings are expensive. Don’t make an expensive wedding if you don’t want to. If anyone judges tell them that you didn’t want to have to borrow to make the wedding. If they still judge then good riddance.

    But most important, stop complaining that others aren’t willing to find your life choices.


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