President-elect Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka attend a campaign event in Washington, DC, in October.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
You don’t know me, but last year I passed you on Fifth Avenue outside of Trump Tower. I was on the way to my job and you were presumably on the way to yours.
I had the impulse to stop you and talk with you, woman to woman, about the role you were playing in your father’s campaign. I wanted to plead with you to denounce your father’s hateful rhetoric and to honor the Jewish values that you adopted upon your conversion. I wanted to implore you to use your newfound public platform for good.
But instead, I kept walking. I told myself that I shouldn’t hound a complete stranger on the street to tell her things she probably already knows. I assumed your relationship with your father’s campaign was complicated and in due time you would say that a ban on Muslims entering the country was certainly not in line with your values as an American or as a Jew. I knew that you would condemn the way your father talked about immigrants, women, veterans and the disabled. She’ll come around, I told myself.
I understand that you did not ask to be put in this position. Your father was the one who decided to run for president.
Yet you allowed yourself to serve as the balm that made your father a more palatable candidate. He could not possibly be a racist with a Jewish daughter! That picture that he tweeted calling Hillary a corrupt candidate definitely featured a sheriff star, not a Star of David! Your husband even went as far as to publish an article stating that his father-in-law was not an antisemite and not a racist.
The point of this letter is not to accuse your father of being those things.
However, your father’s rhetoric has dredged up the nastiest parts of America and emboldened racists, antisemites, homophobes, and sexists to air their grievances openly and unreservedly.
This is no coincidence, and you are smart enough to see that. As a pawn of his campaign you stood by his side, making his message a little easier to swallow.
Your presence and active participation on the campaign trail softened the glare of his divisive rhetoric, reminding the world that the man spewing such hateful language was really just a sweet and tenderhearted grandfather.
When asked about your father’s demeanor, you stated that you occasionally wished he had more of a filter.
You displayed the same amount of embarrassment that I did when my dad cheered too loudly at a third-grade play. Advocating bigotry requires a little more than just bashfulness.
You don’t speak openly about your conversion but I presume that before becoming a Jew, you made thoughtful decisions about how you would craft your Jewish identity. You decided whether you would keep a kosher home, whether you would provide your children with a Jewish education, and whether you would make your kugel savory or sweet.
You made similar decisions throughout your father’s campaign. Will I be a Jew who speaks out against injustice, even when it doesn’t affect my own community? Will I be a Jew who welcomes the stranger and shows empathy, even if my first impulse is to shy away? Will I be a Jew who remembers the atrocities of the Holocaust and the devastating effects of fear mongering? In supporting your father’s candidacy, you showed the world what sort of Jew you decided to be. I can only hope that your decisions do not signal to the world that I am this sort of Jew as well.
I wish you and your family well. I hope you find the chutzpah to change your course. The writer is a student at the Harvard Law School and an active member of the Reform Jewish Movement.