It’s rare that I repeat an exact headline from The New York Times, but this (“Are Jared and Ivanka good for the Jews?”) is the title of an actual story that appeared this past weekend.
The piece quoted many Jews who despise President Donald Trump and blame Jared and Ivanka for his policies because they provide, according to Leah Pisar, a Jewish leader from Paris, “a fig leaf” for the president. She added that it was “inconceivable that Jared could stay affiliated with the administration after Pittsburgh.”
The Times also quoted Ethan Tucker, a rabbi and stepson of Senator Joe Lieberman, who asserted that, “I don’t think most synagogues would give them an aliyah… I don’t think people generally honor people they feel were accomplices to politics and policies they abhor.”
Let me correct him.
Firstly, Ivanka would not seek an aliyah because she’s an Orthodox Jew and practices traditional Orthodox Judaism, where women don’t seek or receive aliyot. Second, I don’t know a single synagogue on earth that would not give Jared Kushner an aliyah and any that did so should be shut down. And the same applies if they would deny an aliyah to any Jew because he is a Democrat, or voted for Barack Obama, or supported the Iran nuclear deal.
Am I the only one who is amazed at what is happening in our country, the gross politicization of Jewish life by community members who despise Trump?
Let me be clear. I believe that president Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement was a betrayal of all American and Jewish values, seeing as it rewarded a murderous government with $150 billion while they promised to slaughter more than six million Jews. But I would never demonize Jews who backed the deal, even as I opposed them on principle.
Now we have Jewish leaders quoted in The New York Times saying that Jared and Ivanka are going to be shunned and excommunicated when they eventually return to New York.
The suggestion is disgusting and those saying it should be called out.
A woman converts to Judaism, is observant, and is totally committed to Israel and the Jewish people. She stands up publicly and proudly for the Jewish state. She comes from a well-known family, well before her father became president. Was a fashion icon and a national celebrity from her father’s TV show. And with all that, she adopts the observances of the Jewish people and inherits their enemies. She gives up driving and texting on Shabbat or eating non-kosher food at the world’s priciest restaurants. She puts her children in Jewish day school, even as the kids of American first families invariably have them in Sidwell Friends or some other fancy prep school. She pushes her father, the most powerful man on earth, to recognize the Jewish people’s eternal capital in Jerusalem. She urges her father to remove the United States from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, since Iran seeks “Death to America” and is planning to build bombs to enact a second Holocaust, which they promise proudly. Her father appoints an ambassador to the UN who finally makes it clear to that amoral world body that they had better stop bullying Israel or they’ll alienate the United States. And then that same woman proudly keeps the Jewish religion as, arguably, the first Orthodox senior female adviser to a president of the United States in American history. And what is her reward from the community she joined? Threats of excommunication.
As for Jared, I will suffice with a single story.
Everyone knows that Cory Booker and I were the closest of friends until the Iran nuclear agreement, where he broke all of our hearts by supporting the deal. Worse, he never once took to the floor of the US Senate to condemn Iran for threatening genocide. Everyone also knows that amid my lifelong love for a man who was my student president at Oxford and with whom I studied hundreds of hours of Torah – which he uses till today in his speeches before Jewish audiences – I publicly criticized Cory’s decision to support the deal.
What people don’t know is how many Jewish leaders called me up begging me not to publicly criticize his decision. They were afraid of losing access to an influential senator. They were silent and they implored me to remain so.
It worked. Most have retained their access.
There was one exception. In the days after the Iran vote, I saw Jared, who had also been close to Cory. He was one of the few people who gave me encouragement. He told me he knew how hard it was for me to criticize a friend. He told me that I had put the security and safety of the Jewish people first.
Nearly everyone else I knew shuddered at challenging Cory, because access to power is the ultimate currency.
And that’s basically been Jared’s whole life. To protect the Jewish people as his father before him and his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, before him.
The attacks on Jared and Ivanka are disgusting and unseemly. Blaming them for everything that happens in the Trump Administration is as unfair as it is bizarre.
I have plenty to disagree with in the administration and have voiced my objections on many issues. But on Israel, I’m grateful. And so are the citizens of Israel, where Trump enjoys an 80% approval rating.
That does not mean Trump has been perfect on Jewish issues, especially on Charlottesville. But it does mean that his Jewish opponents, even if they won’t give him any credit, have to stop calling him Hitler and demonizing his family. It’s disgusting. It’s vile. And it has to stop.
After Pittsburgh I wrote a column in The Hill where I decried the rise of white supremacists in America, called on the president to give a prime-time address excoriating them, and thanked President Trump for stopping the delegitimization of the Jewish state in international forums like the UN. A Jewish “leader” responded on Twitter that Trump is Hitler and any Jew who defends him is a capo.
This kind of trivialization of the Holocaust and the demonization of a President with a Jewish daughter and grandchildren is an affront to decency. There is nothing wrong with forcefully criticizing the president or his policies. Calling him a mass murderer and demanding the excommunication of his Jewish children is revolting.
The Obama administration was itself guilty of some pretty serious human rights omissions, most notably its failure to punish the gassing of Arab children in Syria, even as Trump bombed Assad twice for doing so. Or the Obama’s Administration’s decision, in its final weeks, to allow the UN to condemn Israeli settlements, even as they could not pass a single resolution condemning the Syrian genocide.
Still, I would condemn anyone who demonized Obama or his Jewish supporters. There has to be some level of civility.
I should also mention that I found it pretty bizarre that two Jewish authors in The New York Times would write a story as to whether or not Jared and Ivanka are good for the Jews.
Obama famously converted to Christianity. His father was raised Muslim but became an atheist. In any event, he did not raise his son. So Obama chose a great world religion to practice – Christianity – and raise his children in that faith. Good for him. Can anyone imagine The New York Times publishing an article with the title, “Is Obama Good for the Christians?”
Yet Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism is fair game.
I read The New York Times every day and our organization has also taken out countless full page ads in it because of how much I respect its influence.
If the Times wants to attack Ivanka or Jared for their policies, go right ahead. This is America and no public official is above criticism. But debating whether they are good for the Jews is an ugly question and beneath the dignity of the newspaper of record. The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 33 books, including Renewal, about the shared values of America and the Jewish people. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.