February 17, 2017

Thanks to Trump, Jared's Jewishness is not off limits

Not only as an American, but as a Jew, I am embarrassed by Donald Trump. So what do about it?

Without questioning the religiosity of individual Jews, I do think the President and his team -- including his extended family -- have put the question of Jewish affiliation on the table. Because they are trading on their Orthodox Jewish cachet, it seems appropriate -- if a bit awkward -- for Peter Beinart and others to second-guess and to reject this use of our community's hard-fought brand to buttress objectionable decisions.

Last year's big insider joke was about the difference between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump: Trump has Jewish grandchildren. 

This week, two days in a row, the President used a press conference to dismiss concerns about increased anti-Semitism, emphasizing that his daughter is Jewish, and he has Jewish grandchildren. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister of Israel -- the Jewish State -- explicitly endorsed this excuse for not addressing threats against American Jews -- Bibi knows Jared's family

Trump's nominee for Ambassador to Israel, who has called liberal Jews "worse than kapos", is himself a leading supporter of right-wing religious settlements in the West Bank -- and therefore embraced by a wide swath of Orthodox Jews. 

Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a scion of a prominent family in Modern Orthodox circles, which may be why the President has insisted on handing him the Israeli-Palestinian peace portfolio. Jared himself has invoked his own grandparents' Holocaust experience to defend the 45th against charges he tolerates anti-Semitism.

I'm not condoning such tacky concerns as whether Jared and Ivanka got dispensation to drive to the Inaugural Ball on Shabbat, or how strictly they keep kosher when dining out, or where they choose to educate their children. In fact, those kinds of stories tend to play well among Jews of all denominations. And that is the point.

So long as the young Kushner couple and the Administration utilize the Jewish and Modern Orthodox angle to humanize and legitimize the President's behavior and policies, we have a moral right -- and possibly a duty -- to call out those aspects that either don't represent us as a community or are antithetical to our values. This includes a "one-state solution", war with Iran, rounding up of the undocumented, closing our doors to refugees and Muslims, shuttering Planned Parenthood, Christianizing our public schools, and cutting benefits to the poor.

Aside from the ethical imperative, we must also ensure that our future generations are not burdened with the guilt from our having acquiesced as an arrow in Trump's quiver of rationalizations. Unless Trump and company stop using his Jewish grandchildren as a punchline and a hall pass, and until they stop giving the news media license to implicate the rest of us and our common heritage, we have every right to distance ourselves -- and to explain why.


  1. Do not understand what the point of this article is - Shai. What is wrong with handing Jared the portfolio for Israel-Palestinian peace or having an Orthodox Jew who is pro-settlement as the US Ambassador. Personally I think it is a change for the better...no?

    1. Thanks the feedback. The point of the article is that -- if the Jewishness of Jared and others is being emphasized by the President and his team, and by PM Netanyahu -- then the rest of us have every right to take issue with what's being invoked in our name.