Columns General story Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism

Yes, Ivanka is “good for the Jews.”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, and their family arrive ahead of the inauguration with her father aboard a U.S. Air Force jet at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on Jan. 19, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Notice that I wrote “Ivanka.”

Not: “Ivanka and Jared.” As a political entity.

I’m only talking about Ivanka here.

Frankly, the whole notion of whether someone, or something, is “good for the Jews” feels a little, oh, 1970s to me.

So, I warn you: this blog is not about Jared and Ivanka’s politics.

I wish that those political positions were very different. I wish that they would be vocal about the plague of anti-semitism and hatred that is afflicting this nation. And, yes — I believe that she is as complicit in the manifold failings of this administration as anyone else in that administration.

But, let’s take the politics out of the conversation, for one moment.

Yes, Ivanka is good for the Jews. Ivanka is good for Judaism.

Ivanka is good for the Jews and for Judaism because she chose to join the Jewish people (a phrase that I vastly prefer to “convert”).

She has followed in the path of countless Jews throughout our history — starting with Abraham and Sarah themselves.

She has walked in the path of such luminaries as: Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Connie Chung, Sammy Davis, Jr., Isla Fisher, Daryl Hall, Jim Croce, among many others.

She has  added to the numerical strength of the Jewish people. She has made herself, and her children, part of Jewish history.

No (political) questions asked.

When it comes to Ivanka and Jared’s politics — I am so not a fan. Not even close.

When it comes to their Jewish choices — I am a fan.

People ask: Did Ivanka join the Jewish people for the purpose of marriage to Jared?

Answer: To quote Rhett Butler: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Oh, sure: Jewish law (the Shulchan Arukh, to be exact) cautions would-be Jews: “Have you been ‘checking out’ (a reasonable translation) Jewish men or women?”

In other words, joining the Jewish people because of a romantic interest in a Jewish spouse was, well, treif.

Why don’t I care about this? And why would I invite you not to care, either?

More than this: why would I invite you to care less about the motives of others who want to become Jews?

Because of another ancient Jewish principle: “Even though someone might do something for an ulterior motive, at a certain point they will come to do it for a pure motive.”

The Talmud invokes this idea in connection with a gentile who decides to join the Jewish people because he wants to become the High Priest (a laughable idea, on the very face of it). He craved the power, the glory — and probably also the cool clothes.

The sage Hillel says: Fine. Welcome him.

Sure, he just wants the status, but at a certain point, he will come to love Judaism and the Jewish people for its own sake.

That is my attitude towards those who choose Judaism and the Jews because they want to join a Jewish family.

“Come on in!” I say. “You’ll love it.”

Here is the reason. Quite often, those gentiles are already pre-disposed to love Judaism.

In my experience, I have noticed that often non-Jews consciously or unconsciously choose Jews as their marriage partners — precisely because they love Judaism, the Jewish people, and the idea of being in a Jewish family.

According to very well-placed sources, Ivanka was diligent in her preparation for conversion, and she has continued to take Jewish observance very enthusiastically and very seriously.

Apparently, the Kushners “do” Shabbat and take their children to a Jewish school.

Yes, you will say. But…does she live up to Jewish values?

My tentative answer: Some, apparently. Not all.

At least, not all of the values according to the way that many American Jewish interpret them.

A second answer: do any of us live up to all of those values?


So, yes, there are plenty of ironies here.

Irony # 1: Donald Trump has Jewish grandchildren.

Despite his dog whistles and his apparent comfort with racists and anti-semites (and vice-versa).

In several years, he will be present at a bar mitzvah ceremony (bat mitzvah, too — let us hope).

At which point, I will say mazal tov.

Irony # 2: Another grandpa doesn’t have Jewish grandchildren.

You want to talk about the unpredictable nature of American Jewish life?

Donald Trump has Jewish grandchildren — and Bernie Sanders does not?

To quote yet another ancient sage: “I have seen a world turned topsy-turvy.”








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.


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  • I think you need to open your eyes. Are you turning religion into a numbers game? Just as many Christians have done? I.E. Their character doesn’t matter, just as long as there is another warm body in the pew putting money in the collection plate–another soul saved for Christ.

    What message do people get when they look at or think about Ivanka? I don’t think they think about her voluntary conversion, or that she practices Shabbat, or that she sends her children to a Jewish school. Is that really all that matters to you?

    You don’t agree with her politics. Can you separate the woman from her politics? They are a package deal. Her conversion to Judaism isn’t likely to affect her politics.

    In a similar vein I certainly don’t condemn Judaism because she has become a Jew. Of course you should welcome her as you would anyone else. Is she good for the Jews, that is really, in my mind an odd way to look at it. Is she bad for the Jews, that is also the wrong way to look at it. She shouldn’t be viewed as an advertising symbol or model spokesperson. She is what she is.

  • Puh-leeze.

    If all you need to do is keep kosher and turn your cell phone off at sundown Friday in order to get your approval as a “good Jew” then there are many unworthy Jews who will end up being revered in your columns.

    My mother, who was raised in an Orthodox home, (but thankfully did not subject her children to many of the ridiculous rules Orthodoxy demands) would repeatedly remind us that “God doesn’t care what you put in your mouth. God cares about the words that come out of your mouth. God cares what you do. Give up your seat on the bus. Find the parent of a lost child. Watch out for your neighbors. Feed a stray dog. Give to charity. Do a kind deed anonymously.”

    Ivanka Trump is a rich, entitled, obtuse hypocrite. She completely lacks rachmones (compassion) which is an essential tenet in Judaism.

    -She can witness her father saying “Grab ’em by the pu**y,” but can find no fault in her father’s misogyny.

    -She can watch children being torn apart from their mothers at the border, she can watch children being gassed, and find no fault in her father’s racism and miserable meanness while she still post pictures of her darling children at play.

    -She dresses up and plays at being a Jew, but whose version of Judaism? Definitely not mine. And I come from 5,000 years of Jews. Jews who suffered through the pogroms. Jews who struggled to get to the United States. Jews who suffered terrible discrimination and antisemitism even here.

    Had Donald Trump been president at the turn of the century no doubt he would have turned away all the Yiddish and Russian and Polish and Romanian speaking Jews in my family.

    Had Ivanka’s great-grandfather stayed in Germany (he’s the one who became a whore-monger in Alaska), no doubt her grandfather Fred (who disliked Jews but liked their money) would have been among those helping to arrest Jews in Germany and shove them into the ovens. And there is no love lost between Papa Trump and the Jews. Trump likes smart Jewish accountants who can safeguard all his ill-gotten gains and he likes smart Jewish lawyers who can help him finnagle his way around the law or out of trouble. (I’m talking to you, Alan Dershowitz: oh, wait – is he another “good Jew,” too?) And For the record, DJT did not want Ivanka to marry Kushner, (he wanted her to marry macho non-Jew Tom Brady) but in the end only the Kushner money and Ivanka’s insistence that she have a husband she could control won the day.

    -Ivanka is a pretty, shallow, dress-up doll who play-acts at being Jewish. Please don’t be confused by her artful acting with any genuine sentiment. She has mastered her role and expects to get applause at every turn. (And you have given it to her in this column.)

    -Ivanka thinks only of herself and perhaps her immediate family, 24-7. In this regard she is completely like her famous fascist and narcissitic father, Donald Trump. No wonder Ivanka is daddy’s favorite.

    She is not “good for the Jews.” She is not “good for women.” Not that she cares. Like her father, Ivanka has bought into her own self-invented mythology. I would urge you not to buy into it, too.

  • Gee, let’s see: intelligent, religious, well spoken, well travelled, mother, wife, business owner, international speaker, charitable foundation board member and incredibly pleasant to look at. The only thing that would make her MORE attractive is if she could handle a firearm.
    Face it, she’s a role model for all the girls out there. She’s everything that a mother would want for her son and an example of a truly successful woman.
    She would be the poster child for the feminist movement IF she were not Trumps daughter.

  • Get back to me when your Jewish credentials match mine. And in the time being tu mir a toiveh: geh kaken oifen yam. Maybe Ivanka can translate it for you.

  • Ooh, I’m quaking in my boots. And by the way, that’s Ms. Bitch to you. Learn to respect your superiors.

  • Susan, from her Fortress of Solitude in New Mexico, likes to propound on her two favorites topics: herself and her opinions.

  • And now international graft taker.

    How many Chinese copyrights has she received since her father became president?

    And what about her emails? 😀

    That charity she was on the board for had to be shuttered for various impropriety and personal use by the Trumps.

    She’s a corrupt chip off a corrupt block.

  • How is someone born into wealth considered successful? Classic born on third base and pretends they hit a triple.

  • Typical liberal envy syndrome.
    She still went to school, still started a business, still involves herself with charities, still promotes being a strong woman and still is a mother and wife to boot.
    No one chooses where they start in this life, but everyone makes choices. She could have been like some kids of wealthy parents that turn into ungrateful deadbeats or drug users; and basically piss their life away.
    Admit it, if she was a democrat; you’d be singing her praises all day.

  • Well, you supported Hillary; so Ivanka should be given the same pass. Plus, Ivanka is sooooooo much better looking.

  • Nope. You are just a hypocrite. Complaining about actions because the person was a Democrat.

    Plus you whiffed on the obvious bribery from China.

    I work in Brooklyn. Blonde women of Russian ancestry are a dime a dozen here. I can see the how the typical Midwest QVC viewer might consider her a classy wealthy woman. But in NY she was always considered kinda trashy.

  • Nope. You just idolize the idle rich.

    It takes so much willpower and skill to squander inherited wealth and run a crooked charity!

    So much business acumen to take bribes from the Chinese government!

    You are attributing to skills something she was born with.

    It dovetails well with the endemic white supremacy nonsense of Trump supporters. They consider attributes like skin color, ethnicity and religion one is born into as the most important traits. Mistaking them for quality of character.

  • Who cares. Al Gore took bribes from the chicoms in 96. The Clinton foundation took bribes from every corrupt middle eastern country for favors to be paid in 2017.
    Wake me up when you get your own house in order.

  • Neither is true.

    Unlike the shuttered Trump Foundation, The Clinton Foundation charity still exists and retains an “A” rating for transparency.

    Conservatives demand evidence and confirmation (and ignore both) when accused of wrongdoing but rely on rumor, debunked info and outright fabrication when accusing others.

    Facts have a distinct anti trump bias.

  • Al gore did get campaign donations from China – see NYT article titled, “al gore and the temple of cash” dated 2/22/1998.
    I have also cited on more than one occasion the large donations from ME countries to the Clinton foundation for favors from sec of state or presidential candidate Clinton.
    And please, don’t get me started on 150 emails that Ivanka sent compared to 30,000 on an illegal server ( by a 20 year government official) set up in a bathtub that was acid washed for apparently no reason. It’s too bad the American people will never find out about the Pakistani intelligence officers (awan brothers) who worked for the democrat party.
    The stench of corruption hangs over the clintons.

  • The latter investigation found no evidence of it. Hence it was not used by the Republican led Congress to go after Clinton or any other accusation of irregularities involving money.

    You like to cite rumor and long debunked accusations and pawn them off as facts and ignore far more substantiated information used against conservative figures. Your credibility on such issues is non-existent.

    “And please, don’t get me started on 150 emails that Ivanka sent compared to 30,000 on an illegal server (”

    So improper and dangerous behavior is OK if someone else allegedly did it first. That is always your argument and proof of your lack of moral and ethical fiber.

    “It’s too bad the American people will never find out about the Pakistani intelligence officers (awan brothers) who worked for the democrat party. ”

    Mostly because like everything else you allude to, it turns out to be largely fictional, overblown or unsubstantiated.

    “The stench of corruption hangs over the clintons.”

    Republicans just stink at investigation and have no use for rule of law or facts. Since they rely so much on dishonesty in their regular practices they have a tough time finding it in others.

  • What an absurd remark.

    Ivanka is not a “blonde woman of Russian ancestry” (nice way to dismiss Russian women as less than human, though). Her mother is from Zlin, in Czech Moravia, only a few km up the road from Zadverice-Rakova where my own paternal ancestors lived before they came to America with little else but their children and within two generations owned half of the county where they settled by virtue of sheer talent, industry and determination.

    Class is about neither wealth nor ancestry. Class is quietly attending to one’s children and ignoring a nasty progressive screaming insults in your face and making an embarrassing public spectacle of himself on a commercial flight, for instance.

    It’s also not gossiping over the internet on your company’s time. Didn’t you have some coffee to make about six hours ago?

  • I thought Ivana Trump (her mother) is from Russia. My bad. I don’t find her particularly special looking. Ivanka has a look which is rather typical in the city she is from.

    I guess it’s better to burn strawmen and give me nonsense indignation then address points made. Whatever.

    Your ancestors worked for their status. The last two generations of Trumps did not. Turning the presidency into a cash machine is not classy.

    Frankly conservatives could use a little public discomfort. They have forgone any semblance of propriety anyway.