US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka bared her Jewish neshama, or soul, on her visit to the Western Wall Monday.
Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have come under lots of scrutiny in America for their involvement in the day-to-day doings at the White House. In the Israeli and Jewish media, the scrutiny is often about something else – their religious observance. Whenever the couple have done anything that seemed to diverge from regular Orthodox conduct, people write think-pieces or endlessly argue about the matter on social media. Never mind that converts aren’t supposed to be treated differently than other Jews, or that Jared and Ivanka never claimed to be paragons of Orthodoxy – they’re public figures who happen to go to Orthodox synagogues.The most recent debate was about a reported rabbinical dispensation to fly on Shabbat.Politico said that Jared and Ivanka, whose Hebrew name is Yael, were given permission to join the presidential entourage on their flight to Saudi Arabia.The Jewish Internet lit up with discussions of how and why they got a pass. Some expressed skepticism and others came up with justifications such as they weren’t the ones flying the plane, and top security officials in Israel are allowed to violate Shabbat for their jobs.Yediot Aharonot contacted Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of New York, who conducted Ivanka’s conversion, and reported that he said he did not give the permission to fly on Shabbat.Previous criticism and debates notwithstanding, Ivanka seemed to satisfy the Orthodox chattering sector on her visit to Israel.She disembarked from the plane with a navy blue fascinator on her head, a fashionable head-covering in American Modern Orthodox circles. And she was dressed very modestly, in a black and navy top that was closed up to her neck, long sleeves and a navy blue skirt that hit mid-calf.Then, when Ivanka visited the Western Wall, she had a genuine Jewish moment that seemed to even catch the Internet cynics off-guard.The government’s live feed of the visit by the Trumps to the Western Wall had been turned off, because the president and his family wanted it to be kept private. But apparently, many live video streams from the Kotel that continue all the time – not just when a VIP visits – answer to a higher authority than the American Secret Service, because they caught it.Likely unaware of being filmed, Ivanka touched the ancient stones and shed tears.Like countless Jewish women who do so every day, she silently worshiped at the supporting wall of Judaism’s holiest site – since Jews are not allowed to pray at the actual holiest site, the Temple Mount, which was not on the Trump itinerary.And while nothing will get all the detractors to come around, it seemed like Ivanka struck a chord. Even hardened Israeli pundits called her “Ivanka, a member of our people,” applauding her for the quiet moment.Afterward she tweeted: “It was deeply meaningful to visit the holiest site of my faith and to leave a note of prayer.”Agree or disagree with her religious choices, many Jews have been moved to tears at the Kotel. And yesterday, Ivanka became one more among them.
Melania and Ivanka Trump at the Western Wall (credit: REUTERS)