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Letters

Michael Cohen and the Jewish identity issue

Michael Cohen testified last month before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill.
Michael Cohen testified last month before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill.(Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Tying Cohen to white supremacy is a reckless generalization

In “The Last Temptation of Michael Cohen” (Ideas, March 3), S.I. Rosenbaum contends that, despite being victims of anti-Semitism, many Jews are perpetrators of white supremacy. It is a peculiar claim that she explains by pointing out that Michael Cohen, the son of a Holocaust survivor, helped “a white supremacist ‘autocrat’ ” become president. She buttresses her claim by citing other Jews whom she believes have enabled President Trump, including Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, and then invoking the name of another so-called bad Jew, the notorious Roy Cohn.

Many Jews worked for President Obama, and some of President Trump’s fiercest critics, such as Bernie Sanders, Adam Schiff, Chuck Schumer, and Dianne Feinstein, are Jews. Yet this does little to temper Rosenbaum’s thesis. Her logic is chilling and familiar. Find Jews who have done something of which you disapprove and then argue that these Jews model what other Jews do or think.

Anti-Semitism, like other forms of bigotry, flourishes where reckless generalizations about a people are treated as truths. In the 20th century, National Socialists argued that Jews were responsible for Communism, and Communists argued that Jews were the source of capitalism. The thread that bound these accusations was the propensity to identify Jews with a perceived evil that was believed to threaten public welfare. That impulse has driven anti-Semitism for two millennia, and Rosenbaum seems to have unwittingly embraced it.

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Robert Leikind

Director

American Jewish Committee, New England region

Boston

We don’t have luxury to turn blind eye to anti-Semitism

S.I. Rosenbaum’s “The Last Temptation of Michael Cohen” invokes sweeping generalizations about Jews when Cohen’s behavior has everything to do with his personal failures and nothing to do with his Jewishness.

In Rosenbaum’s world, Jews remain behind the curtain, manipulating and controlling white supremacist infrastructure on behalf of the president. A few people is not the equivalent of a “shocking number.” Yes, among the millions of Jews there are racists and xenophobes, just as among African-Americans, Muslims, and other minority groups there are anti-Semites and bigots. To generalize from these realities is unacceptable and feeds into the narrative of anti-Semites.

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Referring to Jews who work for the administration as “kapos” trivializes the Holocaust and the memory of millions of victims. Rosenbaum comes dangerously close to blaming the victim, as if Jews are responsible for the rising anti-Semitism because of their own alleged collective racist behavior. Rosenbaum clearly has a personal agenda: to convince Jews that they must align with the progressive left to avoid charges that they are part of the problem.

We don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye to some forms of anti-Semitism, because the threat from all sides is too great. If Jews are “to survive the future,” as Rosenbaum puts it, hate and bigotry need to be called out from the left and right, and without denigrating Jews or other groups in the process.

Robert O. Trestan

Regional director

Anti-Defamation League, New England region

Boston

Offensive argument is another case of tyranny of the left

I found S.I. Rosenbaum’s opinion piece accusing many Jews of being allies of racists to be remarkably offensive. Her argument is an example of an unfortunately all-too-common current progressive trope: smearing one’s political opponents (especially Jewish ones) with the worst epithets possible.

This is how she concludes that the significant number of Jews who voted for, agree with, or serve in the current administration should be called “kapos,” a Holocaust-related term that she defiles with her partisanship. This is how she accuses Jews with lighter skin tones of abetting racist persecution, when in fact Jews of all skin tones have been great allies of all persecuted peoples throughout history. And this is how she employs intersectional tyranny to command that all Jews ally with her favored causes, or she will label them as “fascists.”

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Her approach to telling Jews what to do lest they be regarded as evil leaves me cold, and frankly reminds me of National Socialism. I am an American Jew who does not share Rosenbaum’s political opinions, and I reject her disgraceful attempt to tar me and my like-minded coreligionists with her leftist insults.

Daniel H. Trigoboff

Williamsville, N.Y.

Note the lessons of Cohen’s father

I am appalled by S.I. Rosenbaum’s piece about Michael Cohen. Rosenbaum suggests that Cohen’s misdeeds on President Trump’s behalf were done because Cohen, like many Jews, hides behind his whiteness to protect himself. Rosenbaum speculates that Cohen threw his lot in with Trump as a survival tactic, learned implicitly from his father. However, the only actual evidence of Cohen’s father playing a role in his thinking was when Cohen resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee so as not to tarnish the family name, and when he opposed the family separation policy.

Rosenbaum has invented a Jewish motive for supporting white supremacy without fully acknowledging that it is the lessons of Jewish history that ultimately reminded Cohen to do the right thing. Rosenbaum is perpetuating the idea that Jewish values and history lead Jews to be greedy and untrustworthy, and I am deeply disappointed that the Globe saw fit to amplify this voice.

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Kate Schlesinger

Worcester