Mixed messages abound as Trump campaign bids for Jewish voters
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Mixed messages abound as Trump campaign bids for Jewish voters

Awkwardly translated Hebrew sign held by VP pick Pence was provided by activist who wants presidential candidate to organize a New York anti-hate festival

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Mike Pence holding a Trump sign with the candidate's name transliterated into Hebrew, and an awkwardly translated 'Make America Great Again' slogan, in a photo released September 7, 2016. (Courtesy )
Mike Pence holding a Trump sign with the candidate's name transliterated into Hebrew, and an awkwardly translated 'Make America Great Again' slogan, in a photo released September 7, 2016. (Courtesy )

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s White House campaign moved to court Jewish and Israeli-American voters Wednesday by releasing photos of vice presidential candidate Mike Pence holding signs in Hebrew and English.

The signs, along with a button that says “NYC Central Park Weed Out Hate Rally” were given to the Indiana governor by Marc Daniels at a Chesterfield, Missouri, rally on Tuesday, September 6.

Although Daniels, who says he’ll support whichever candidate throws him a Manhattan festival, says he proffered the materials not to promote Trump’s campaign or help him appeal to any demographic, but to influence the former reality television star’s behavior.

Trump needs “to transform American hatred and fear” — on which he has drawn — “into a heightened level of connectivity,” and “having Trump tap into ancient Jewish wisdom as a means to bring the country back together … would be a sign of leadership,” Daniels said.

After Pence was given the signs and button, Trump’s team distributed to Israel media several pictures of Pence holding them up, and said the billionaire’s running mate took a brief Hebrew lesson from a Jewish aide on a flight that evening.

Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence holds a 'Jews for Trump' sign with a button for a proposed ‘Weed Out Hate Fest' in Central Park (Courtesy)
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence holds a ‘Jews for Trump’ sign with a button for a proposed ‘Weed Out Hate Fest’ in Central Park (Courtesy)

In one picture Pence is holding a sign that says Trump in Hebrew as well as an awkward translation of the slogan “Make America great again,” that looks to Hebrew speakers closer to “Make America big again.”

A second picture shows Pence holding up a “Jews for Trump” sign.

The campaign, which has several offices in Irael including a recently opened one in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, also relayed a message Pence wanted to deliver to American citizens living in Israel about the US elections: “You have a real chance to influence the outcome. I call on all American voters in Israel to register online quickly, so that you can vote and have influence.”

Throughout his career in public life, Pence has been an emphatic supporter of the Jewish state. Beyond his record as a member of the US House from 2001 to 2013, he led an Israel-Indiana trade delegation that met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2014. He has also signed into law anti-BDS legislation.

Marc Daniels sells yarmulkes outside Quicken Loans Arena amidst the 2016 Republican National Convention (Eric Cortellessa/Times of Israel)
Marc Daniels sells yarmulkes outside Quicken Loans Arena amidst the 2016 Republican National Convention (Eric Cortellessa/Times of Israel)

Daniels, a 62-year-old native of Springfield, Illinois, has made a name for himself this election season by selling $10 yarmulkes throughout the country that are inscribed with the names of the candidates in Hebrew.

“[Pence] thought he was courting the Jewish vote,” he said. “What I was doing was to have the Trump campaign live up to the deepest Biblical roots of their own slogan.”

In a previous interview, Daniels said he believes Trump’s rise presents an opportunity for the Jewish people to combat vitriolic forces throughout the world.

“Donald Trump is very good at bringing out the hatred, but we Jews are experts at inspiring the nations of the world, including those like Donald Trump, to weed out the hate, and compost the hate into a kind of spiritual energy that can translate into Martin Luther King’s ‘Promised Land’ vision,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with Donald Trump’s DNA, it just needs to be resequenced for boring out the hatred he’s encompassed by.”

A recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 43.1 percent of Israeli Jews preferred Clinton, whereas 34.2 percent wanted Trump to become US president.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks to speak with members of the press, Monday, Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio. (AP/Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks to speak with members of the press, Monday, Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Daniels is a registered independent and does not back any candidate, but has maintained he will support any presidential hopeful who agrees to put on a festival with him promoting peace in Manhattan.

“I will support the candidate who takes me up on my offer for a Central Park ‘Weed Out Hate Fest,’ with 100,000 Muslims, Christians and Jews, coming together to pull weeds of hatred, the weeds that fuel global terror,” he has said.

Daniels said he based his idea for the gathering on the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, a minor late-winter rite that celebrates trees and other flora.

On Tuesday, Daniels supposedly told Pence that being seen hoisting his signage would improve the likelihood he could bring his grand idea to fruition.

“I told him that this was the ultimate campaign Hail Mary concept for tipping the balance in the election … showing leadership and innovation to bring the country together… assembling 100,000 Muslims, Christians, and Jews for weeding out and composting weeds, both literally and figuratively,” he told The Times of Israel Wednesday in an email, using a football term for a last ditch attempt.

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