General story Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Will JFK’s grandson become our first Jewish president?

Jack Schlossberg, son of Caroline Kennedy and Edwin Schlossberg, grandson of President John F. Kennedy

May 29 would have been President John F. Kennedy’s one hundredth birthday.

Here is the question: would JFK be shepping nachas in heaven over his grandson, Jack Schlossberg, the son of Caroline and Edwin Schlossberg?

Hold on.

“JFK” and “nachas” in the same sentence?

Apparently, some Jews are going there.

It’s about young Jack, whose physical resemblance to his late uncle John Kennedy, Jr. would be uncanny, except for that whole genetics thing.

Jack is a recent Yale graduate, and he is on his way to Harvard Law School.

Asked about his future plans: “I’m inspired by my family’s legacy of public service. It’s something I’m very proud of. But I’m still trying to make my own way and figure things out. So stay tuned—I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Writes Rachel Shukert in Tablet:

So I’m just going to go ahead and call it now, folks: Unless by some miracle the Red Sea parts and President Al Franken strides out of its primordial depths in 2020, we may have just gotten our first glimpse at our first Jewish President—unless they try to foist the execrable Ivanka on us first.

Even though he has only been voting for four years, we already imagine that Jack Schlossberg is a. going to run for public office, b. going to be president of the United States, and c. he will be the first Jewish president.

Given the history of the Kennedy clan, I would say there is a fighting chance that Jack has a political future.

As his paternal grandparents might have once said: Gei gezunt.

But, can we talk about Jack Schlossberg being Jewish?

First of all, it if were true, it would not have bothered his grandparents and great-uncles and aunts a bit.

Let’s remember: in her later years, his late grandmother, Jackie Onassis, kept company with a Jewish man, Maurice Templesman.

Let’s also remember: Robert Kennedy was assassinated almost fifty years ago – precisely because of his support for Israel during the Six Day War.

As for Jack Schlossberg’s great-grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy: let’s just say that there were no ADL dinners in his honor.

I would actually want his great-grandchildren to be Jewish — just to prove that God has a wicked (as in its Bostonian usage) sense of humor.

Jack’s mother, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, is a product of America’s premier Irish Catholic family.

His father, Edwin Schlossberg, has a serious Jewish background.

His father, Alfred, was president of New York’s Park East Synagogue, which is Orthodox, where Edwin became bar mitzvah. Schlossberg has said that he is “proud to be Jewish.”

But, does that make their children Jewish? (Jack’s sister, Rose Kennedy Schlossberg, was also once “outed” as being Jewish in the pages of the Forward).

First, traditional Jewish law states that if the mother is Jewish, the kids are Jewish.

So, according to any rabbinical colleagues on my right – that would be: No, the Schlossberg kids are not Jewish.

But, wait: what about Reform and Reconstructionist  practice? Don’t they say that the child of a Jewish father can be Jewish?

Well — sort of.

Since 1983, Reform Judaism has considered a child of an interfaith couple to be Jewish if the child is raised exclusively as a Jew. The child would need a Jewish education and celebrate appropriate life cycle events, such as becoming bar or bat mitzvah.

Reconstructionist practice is similar.

Even with such a liberal and welcoming policy, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis would ask:

Were the Schlossberg children raised exclusively as Jews, Jewish education, bar and bat mitzvah?

The deeper question is, of course: do the Schlossberg children consider themselves to be Jewish?

If Jack Schlossberg wanted to join the Jewish people, who wouldn’t welcome him? There are many children of interfaith marriages who decide that they want to be Jews, and who act on that decision.

We have even welcomed descendants of distinguished American political families into the Jewish people. Joshua Boettiger, the great-grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt, serves as rabbi of Temple Emek Shalom in Ashland, Oregon.

I am interested in the “Jack Schlossberg is Jewish” thing — not because of what it says about him, but because of what it says about us.

It is what David E. Kaufman refers to as “Jewhooing,”  

…the habit of citing Jewish celebrities—“Didja know, Natalie Portman is Jewish!”—is characteristic of many Jews… It demonstrates that Jews are a part of America, but nonetheless remain distinctive, even exceptional, and thus stand apart from America.

Secure Jews would not “need” for Jack Schlossberg to be Jewish.

They would not need to collect Jewish celebrities, real or imagined, as if the mere existence of such celebrities validated Jewishness itself.

They would not need to incessantly point to the number of Jewish Nobel Prize winners, as if God charged us at Sinai to become a kingdom of Ph.D’s.

Our grandparents did this.

Must we continue to do so?

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

82 Comments

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  • I think we have had enough of the Kennedys for quite a while. Let them serve humanity outside of politics, and get their hands dirty (really dirty) in the unglamorous toil of direct service. Then maybe they can bring what they learned in a larger way. A Law degree is not an asset to be used as a positive.

  • Let us also pray for the Jews: That our Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. Almighty and eternal God, who wants that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

  • I presume from a historical perspective, anyone who converts to Judaism is a Jew. Therefore if Jack professes and practices Judaism, he is by default Jewish. What will be more important in his life are the choices he will make with regard to public service or private enterprise. If he as an individual chooses integrity and balance, diligence and concern for his fellow creatures, he will do well whatever his vocation.

  • Then they wouldn’t be Jewish. If all Jews accepted Jesus there wouldn’t be any Jews left on the planet.

  • I am the son of a Jewish woman. The most Jewish thing one can do is to come to our Messiah.

  • For an interesting alternative to this point of view, read Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin’s book, “The Jewish Gospels”. While we should question whether modern day “messianic Judaism” is genuinely Jewish, or Christian, we need to recognize that the early followers of Jesus were thoroughly Jewish and they were only disowned by the Jewish establishment in later centuries.

  • For many people the Kennedy name is ancient history. I tell folks to listen to Kennedy’s speeches and press conferences and compare with what we have today. However, while young Mr. Schlossberg might have advantages in terms of money and heritage, he must also prove himself and explain his political philosophy. My hope is that his faith would not be a matter of concern for most voters. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, encountered little bigotry in his races, and so I have hope for Schlossberg, should he elect to run.

  • Since Bolshevism was primarily a Jewish revolution and the Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe were primarily communist, it would not surprise me if he were progressive in the cultural Marxist persuasion. This cultural heritage among Jews and religious Jewish circles is the reason why most are Marxists or neo-conservatives, which was a Trotskyite subversion of ‘conservatism’ by its founder Irving Kristol.
    I expect nothing but progressive, cultural Marxism from him.

  • Gross generalities regarding groups of people are too ridiculous to warrant a response.

  • Bury your head in the sand if you wish. It’s a cultural matter. I suppose Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Winston Churchill were making gross generalities when they said Bolshevism was primarily a Jewish phenomenon.

  • Yes, but the Messiah in Judaism is not the son of God and he/she is not a personal savior. The purpose of the Messiah is to bring peace, love and understanding to all human beings and to bring the Jewish people back to Zion;. Jews are not supposed to live their lives based on if their actions or beliefs will get them into heaven.

  • Solzhenitsyn s an anti-Semite. Today most Jews are moderately liberal which is far from being a Marxist. If Eastern European Jews became Marxist it was because of the anti-Semitism and persecution they faced in Eastern Europe and Russia. Of course, the communists ended up being as anti-Semitic as the Czar.

  • Actually, the Jewish establishment arrayed itself against Christ (and his followers) from the very beginning — an issue brought to a head by His chasing the money-changers from the temple, and manifesting as a “plot” against Him in the Judas affair. Then things went downhill from there.

  • Accepting Jesus as Messiah doesn’t extinguish one’s Jewishness – it fulfills one’s Jewishness.

  • Thanks, Stein, for your non sequitur use of the Marxist term anti-Semite and proving that all it means nowadays is a pun toward anyone who criticizes Jews or someone who happens to be Jewish.

  • “A Law degree is not an asset to be used as a positive.”
    Agreed. A Law degree certifies that one has been trained as a professional partisan in the field of law. Period. Such “professional partisan” training is obviously a pragmatic advantage for a professional politician (for what is politics, after all, but professional partisanship on a mass scale) — but otherwise it means nothing.

  • That is modernistic man made Talmudic Religion. Not at all what was believed by The Jews of ancient Israel.

  • They’re going to have to buy a lot of votes or his chances are about as good as Hillary Clinton’s. Only the pervert “educated” crowd is mentally insane enough to support that corrupt family in any way, especially after his uncle covered up manslaughter.

  • No more Kennedys, Bushes, Clintons, or even future Trumps.

    Political dynasties make our system of government feel like a monarchy instead of a democratic republic.

    (stan, you ought to drop that “bigotry” bit. It’s old.)

  • That is just not true. If you read Isaiah, he changed the idea of the Messiah. Isaiah is part of the Hebrew Bible or Tanach,

    Messiah means Annointed One. Kings of Israel were annointed with oil. The original idea of the Messiah was a king who would save Israel. He might also be a general, Many Jews thought that Bar-Kochba who would conquer the Romans was the Messiah. Isaiah made the Messiah a bringer of universal peace for all.

  • That’s just plain wrong. It means nothing. Judaism and Christianity split for real reasons. You cannot worship a MAN as God or the son of God and remain Jewish.

  • That is something only an antisemite would say. Anti-Semite is not a Marxist term. Anti-Semite was first used in 1881 to mean hatred of Jews. Marx lived from 1818-1883.

  • The Saducees were against Christ, but they did not represent the Jewish people. Who thought of the Saducees as collaborators.

  • A law degree certifies that will uphold the constitution and it can mean that you use your knowledge to help people.

  • “Jews are not supposed to live their lives based on if their actions or beliefs will get them into heaven” — Well that would explain the words chanted in the synagogue at KOL NIDRE: “All vows we are likely to make, all oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths.”

  • That’s because today’s Jews are primarily descendants of Edomites who were forcibly converted to Judaism in 130BC by Hasmonean leader Johanan Hycarnus, as recorded by Flavius Josephus in “Antiquities of the Jews,” Book 13, Chapter 9, Section 1. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D13%3Awhiston+chapter%3D9%3Awhiston+section%3D1

    Hyrcanus took also Dora, and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision, and of the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time therefore this befel them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews.

    Genesis 36:9 “And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:” Romans 9:13 “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

  • In “Wars” Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 2 Flavius Josephus states that of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essens, only the Essens were Israelites by birth, indicating that the Pharisees and Sadducees (who Jesus Christ rebukes throughout the bible, e.g Matthew 16:1-4) were converts to Judaism, most likely of Edomite ethnicity given King Herod himself was an Edomite, and Judea’s demographic makeup around the time of Jesus Christ was primarily of Edomite ethnicity, as a result of Johanan Hycarnus’ forcibly converting the Edomites to Judaism in 130 BC and absorbing them into Judean society, as recorded in “Antiquities of the Jews” Book 13: Chapter 9, Section1. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D13%3Awhiston+chapter%3D9%3Awhiston+section%3D1

    Notice Apostle John speaks of imposters who “say they are Jews, and are not” labelling them a “synagogue of Satan” in Revelation 2:9 and Revelation 3:9.

    “For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essens. These last are Jews by birth, and seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other sects have.”— Excerpt from “Wars” Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 2
    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0148%3Abook%3D2%3Awhiston+chapter%3D8%3Awhiston+section%3D2

  • These are oaths made to God not to other human beings. Jews do believe in keeping their oaths and pledges to others. Anti-semites have used this verse to attack Jews, but they are wrong.

  • What is your problem with the Talmud? I think it is because Judaism didn’t die after Jesus died and Judaism continued to be vital and creative for centuries.

  • I wish that were true. Unfortunately, a law degree merely means one has passed the right exams.

  • Well yes, those who were collaborating with the Roman overlords opposed him from the start, but Boyarin makes the point that there were for several centuries many people who observed Sabbath as Jews but were part of the Jesus movement. While practice varied from place to place, it was only after a couple hundred years that a separation was enforced. What happens in the diaspora is not always the same as what those at the center proclaim.

  • None of this has any relevance to the subject at hand. Why waste our time with this nonsense??

  • From what I can tell, the Children were baptized and raised in her faith and it appears he converted to her faith as well.

    Now prayers for Ivanka Trump and her children and her husbands conversion.

  • If that was the case then it should read, “all oaths made to God,” but it doesn’t. What it says is simply, “all oaths.”

  • I hope thy rabbi is finding life more satisfying now. The legal system is a necessary evil in our world. Some can work in it and help people; others find that they cannot. I respect both. It is those who find the legal system a means of furthering their greed that I cannot respect.

  • Who cares? Any religion that assists people in better behavior (tolerance, helping others) is fine by me. But if your religion suggests that “it’s the one true path to heaven and godly approval”…please find another religion… I hear that the COTFSM has openings with a 30 day warranty. They have fun but don’t tolerate intolerance. No dogma, either!
    As to this young man, why don’t we just leave him alone and see what he does with his life.

  • If you really want to I hold the Constitution, drop your dual citizenship and join the US Armed Forces.

  • I don’t have dual citizenship. You only think I do, because I am Jewish. I am 61 years old and have cardiac stents. None of the armed services would take me.

  • I am the son of a jewish father and gentile mother. During my 67 years, I have been told by the jews that because my mother was a gentile, I am not a jew. Yet I have been persecuted and victimized by gentile antisemites because my jewish surname identifies me as a jew. My point here is that, like me, Jack is not a jew because his mother is a gentile. Therefore, there is no possibility of him becoming America’s first jewish president. Aside from him not being jewish, I am sick and tired of the Kennedy clan and agree with balloonknot9 below!

  • Don’t listen to stupid Jews. You’re like me, a Jewish father. In the past you used to be considered Jewish whether you had a Jewish mother or father because you are from the seed of Abraham. Think about it, they trace Jewish heritage to Abraham, a man, not a woman, yet some of them say you’re not Jewish unless you have a Jewish mother. Also, you have conversion.

  • Well said. I also find it interesting that when I have attended Chabad on the sabbath, before I read from the Torah, they ask me to tell them my FATHER’S Hebrew name (NOT my MOTHER’S)!!!

  • Stupid. Many Jews embraced communism because it promised (but never delivered) egalitarianism which the Jews had been denied everywhere they lived. Those considerations do not apply to this kid who is a person of privilege.

  • RFK was murdered because he supported Israel during the 6 day war? BS. He was murdered because he would actually investigate who killed JFK and the people who actually did the murder wouldn’t like that.

    That a Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan was the patsy means Israel was involved in BOTH murders, since the murder of RFK came almost a year to the day of the brutally savage Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Instead of remembering the 37 dead and 141 wounded Americans one year later and asking questions about what happened, why did our ‘ally’ attack us, we were again mourning the death of another Kennedy.

  • This article is silly. Dwight Eisenhower was the first ethnically Jewish president – that can be documented at least. Then LBJ was the second. Some suspect Harry Truman was actually the first, but I haven’t seen the evidence for that.

  • Any child of Caroline Kennedy cannot be Jewish, unless he/she converts in accordance with Jewish law. End of story.

  • If you are a President, you better have gone to law school and graduated with honors. Having gone to Yale and Harvard are prerequisite. A President must know the law and the constitution. Right Now, we have a semi educated lying psychopath in office who is convinced in his own lies. Having a law degree is a must because The President signs them of which Donald Trump has signed fewer laws than any President. I’d welcome Schlossberg in Congress, he would fight for our rights.

  • No it has not. That is simply not right. Yale and Harvard are hard schools to get into. They have to pass the bar exam, not easy. Lawyers are like Doctors, would you want an uneducated Doctor who is a businessman heal you? You have to have the best. We rate them on how much schooling they have. Also how much experience the candidate has. Right now people are blind as to how uneducated this President Trump is. He knows more about being a slum lord than a President. Real Estate is not a prerequisite for being President. Our president is a huxter, a salesman. A mogul. It is not fair to have a sitting President that did not study law.

  • That’s because it is very hard. You have to experience the worst of things and sometimes defend people who they know are guilty.

  • As long as bigots post their vile and hate filled nonsense I will call them out. It’s called being a Christian.

  • Hitting way too close to home for you I see. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s a duck. The real danger rests with those who refuse to acknowledge their bigotry and therefore their anti-Christian views. One can either be a Christian or a bigot as the two are not compatible. The same holds true for the “patriots” who spew forth their vile anti-American filth.

  • Judgement needs context.

    Desiring to see different people as head of the government other than elite families (who’ve already had their chance) is not bigotry.

    What you’re saying is everybody else but the dynasties are fit to lead. Do you really think only the Bushes, Clintons, Obamas and Trumps should be President? That, stan, is bigotry. And it’s old.

    I say, let other people have their turn.

  • You ought to develop a wider vocabulary than the old, tiresome, all-around word, “racist.”
    The dictionary has plenty of other words.

  • You folks have your “First Jewish President” and he’s a philo-Semitic Adolf Hitler by the name of D. Trump, or Dump for short.

  • yes and the deleted 15? amendment prohibits lawyers frtom holding office and look what we got almosdt all are all are guilty iof treason.

  • jews are the downfall of humanity, a pdont tyou see what they are doing and have been better get up to snufgf on internet research gwasshowpas

  • lol anti semites?/ only a fool is not anti jre your holy talmud says it all.and your lies and murderserous takrovers are vile and now yoiu want to do ion us what you did in russia

  • Flavius Josephus in “Antiquities of the Jews,” Book 13, Chapter 9, Section 1. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D13%3Awhiston+chapter%3D9%3Awhiston+section%3D1

    Hyrcanus took also Dora, and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision, and of the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time therefore this befel them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews.

    Genesis 36:9 “And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:” Romans 9:13 “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

  • Even prior to the 130BC forced conversion of the Edomites to Judaism by Hasmonean leader Johanan Hycarnus, the Kingdom of Judea was already a shadow of its former self, inhabited by only a tiny remnant of the Israelites, as most had been deported by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II starting with the deportation of 10,000 Israelites in 597BC, (2 Kings 24:14) followed by the deportation of a sizeable portion of Judea’s population in 587BC, (2 Chronicles 36:20, 2 Kings 25:11-12, Jeremiah 39:9-10) with ONLY 42,360 of these Israelites ever returning to Jerusalem & Judea (Ezra 2:64-65). This small remnant of Israelites in Judea, was subsequently submerged by Edomite converts to Judaism, following Johanan Hycarnus’ forced conversion of Edom/Idumea to Judaism in 130BC, See: Historian Flavius Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews” Book 13, Chapter 9, Section 1). http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D13%3Awhiston+chapter%3D9%3Awhiston+section%3D1

    The Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian Strabo further testifies to the colonisation of Judea by Edomite converts to Judaism in Geography [Book 16 Chapter 2 Section 34]. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0239%3Abook%3D16%3Achapter%3D2%3Asection%3D34

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