With Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency, the American Jewish community will be well represented in the inner sanctum of the White House.
The decision by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to relocate to Washington, D.C. and play a prominent role in President Trump’s administration all but assured that the Jewish community will be discussing, debating and dissecting every move they make over the course of the next four, and perhaps eight years.
The conversation began even before America’s new Jewish political power couple moved to the nation’s capital. Which synagogue would Jared and Ivanka attend? Would they choose Kesher Israel, the Modern Orthodox congregation in Georgetown, or the local Chabad shul, closer to their new home? The mere fact that we were talking about which shul would be home to the daughter and son-in-law of the President of the United States underscores the incredible strides that the American Jewish community has made over the years.
However, with this extraordinary position that our community now finds itself in comes many potential pitfalls and prospective challenges. We encountered our first major test on inauguration day, even before President Trump took the oath of office. We read reports that Jared and Ivanka received special rabbinic dispensation to travel by car after the inauguration, even though it would be on the Sabbath. With travel by foot after the inaugural festivities presenting safety concerns for the newly minted Special Adviser to the President and the First Daughter, the decision to travel by car on Shabbat generated much debate. Although the decision to grant the exemption based on the concept of pikuach nefesh, that the edicts of the Sabbath can be trumped by a life-threatening situation, has a solid basis in Jewish law, there were those who questioned the couple’s commitment their faith. Don’t they typically observe the Sabbath? How could they so easily override their religious beliefs in this way?
I would posit that it is absolutely none of our business. Their level of religious observance should not be our concern or our focus. Their Jewish pedigree is familiar to us. Jared’s grandparents survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, living through a time when Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis solely because they were Jews. Jared’s upbringing was in an Orthodox Jewish home and he attended Jewish day schools. When it comes to Jewish organizations and institutions, the philanthropy and generosity of his family is well-known. As for Ivanka, she chose to convert to Judaism. Like many converts, her deliberations regarding her religious identity were undoubtedly stressful and I imagine the decision to forsake the faith-based beliefs that she grew up with in favor of a new religion and lifestyle did not come easily.
The religious commitment and convictions of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, regardless of whether they are always consistent with the doctrines that dictate Orthodox Jewry, should not be put under a microscope. Instead of questioning and criticizing Jared and Ivanka, we should value their presence in the White House and the incredible influence that they wield in President Trump’s inner circle.
Regardless of who you supported on Election Day, the American Jewish community should respect the fact that Jared and Ivanka chose to put their professional lives on hold in order to serve our country and play an integral role on President Trump’s team. Rather than patronizing the level of their religious observance, we should be proud that there are committed members of the Jewish faith who are playing leading roles in the new administration.
Among the most fundamental precepts of Jewish law relating to speech are the laws of lashon hara, which prohibit us from speaking negatively about others. Allowing the issue of Jared and Ivanka’s degree of “Jewishness” to become a hot topic of conversation at our Shabbat tables is wholly inappropriate.
Stop scrutinizing every little thing that Jared and Ivanka may or may not do as it relates to their Judaism. They deserve far better than that from the American Jewish community.
Aaron Troodler is an attorney and principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm.