Ivanka Trump Chose to Be Jewish; Attacking Her Orthodox Rabbi Is a Disgrace
The one thing we’re not supposed to do in Judaism is make a convert feel like a convert. A convert to Judaism is as Jewish as Abraham and Sarah. This is why the recent controversy over the conversions of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of New York, and their rejection by an Israeli rabbinical court, is a disgrace.
Ivanka Trump’s conversion, performed by Rabbi Lookstein, is not being contested. But in assailing Rabbi Lookstein’s Orthodox credentials, the misguided Israeli court could inadvertently undermine it — something that is an affront to Jewish decency and righteousness.
Last week, America debated whether a star tweeted by Donald Trump was antisemitic, and whether the candidate himself is so. My problem with Trump has nothing to do with his relationship with the Jews. I think he is extremely proud of his Jewish daughter and grandchildren, and will no doubt be a strong friend of Israel’s. The controversy over the tweet is ridiculous and farcical.
Rather, my problem with Trump has to do with Jewish values and my public plea to him to start running a campaign rooted in the universal tenets of the Hebrew Bible, which constitute the cornerstone of Western civilization.
The holiest day of the Jewish calendar is Yom Kippur, whose central tenet is telling God we’re sorry. Trump could have put this whole stupid star-tweet controversy behind him had he said he was sorry for causing any offense, and moved on.
Why is it such a big deal to apologize?
The North Vietnamese put John McCain in a box for years. Trump mocked him. Did he really not see his sacrifice as honorable, and is it so difficult to say he made a mistake?
The Bible commands us to embrace and respect the stranger. Mr. Trump should reject the immoral -– even if it is temporary -– call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, which is a betrayal of both Jewish and American values. He should also condemn, finally, the disgusting, vile white supremacist Jew-hating nutjobs, all too many of whom support him.
And while we’re at it, Mr. Trump should speak of the incredible contribution Latino immigrants have made to America, even as he insists on enforceable borders and legal immigration.
But regardless, none of this has anything to do with Ivanka Trump and her conversion.
Haskel Lookstein built what is arguably the most successful Orthodox congregation in America, Kehillat Jeshurun. And he built New York City’s Ramaz school into an Orthodox Jewish day school powerhouse. Lookstein is a pioneer at making Orthodoxy accessible, compelling and relevant.
When Ivanka Trump chose to marry an Orthodox Jew, she could easily have said, “Take me as I am,” (to quote a popular song) to her husband. Instead, she underwent the rigorous process of becoming Jewishly observant, which she remains.
It’s not easy being Orthodox. It’s immensely rewarding, but it can be challenging. You have to observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. You have to go to the mikveh and keep kosher. And you have to join a people who have often been vilified and hated. In essence, you’re relegated to playing defense.
Are we so low as to question Ivanka’s Orthodox Jewish credentials? And if so, who is next?
When his daughter sought to convert, Trump might easily have said to Ivanka, “You’re rich. You’re famous. Get this becoming Jewish idea out of your head.” But he supported his daughter’s decision, and now happily dotes on three Orthodox Jewish grandchildren.
Donald Trump is unfortunately not yet running a values-based campaign that we can be completely proud of. But calling him a Jew-hater is defamatory and fraudulent, and violates the Ninth Commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, winner of The London Times Preacher of the Year Competition, He will shortly publish “The Israel Warrior’s Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.