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July 11, 2016 6:33 pm

Ivanka Trump Chose to Be Jewish; Attacking Her Orthodox Rabbi Is a Disgrace

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Email a copy of "Ivanka Trump Chose to Be Jewish; Attacking Her Orthodox Rabbi Is a Disgrace" to a friend
Ivanka Trump, with baby boy Joseph Frederick after the child's bris. Photo: Ivanka Trump / Instagram.

Ivanka Trump, with baby boy Joseph Frederick after the child’s bris. Photo: Ivanka Trump / Instagram.

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.

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  • duPont

    Who cares what the Israeli Rabbis have to say? They are not accorded the position of “Abba to the Jews” as the Pope is to the Catholics. Let Ivanka and her family live and be well in her new found Jewish life. She probably is a far more observant Jew than most of us and may I remind you all, she is no longer a convert. She is now a Jew.

    Nava’s allusion to “racial Jews” is moot. Jews are all shades of white, brown and black, etc. Jews are not a race, they are a religion. A religion of atonement, peace, compassion and love to which we all need to aspire.

  • Rabbi Lookstein is not Orthodox and his shul is not Orthodox. Instead of being honest and accepting the true level of dedication needed to be a Orthodox Jew we would prefer to blame the Rabbis in Israel. Why is it so hard to have integrity and accept the Torah the way we received it from Sinai? We need to wake up and rekindle our desire to serve God.

  • Putting aside various issues I have with this article and putting aside the harm he does by writing it, in particular to the Jewish people and mainly Israel -which this author claims to care for. The very fact that he demands an apology and just can’t seem to understand why Trump won’t do it, is the height of HYPOCRISY from this writer.

    He reminds me of Hillary Clinton promising the electorate to fight Wall Street or to govern transparently and honestly. This accusation by Boteach for an apology and his inability to understand why Trump won’t give it is laughable on its face.

    But then most of what he writes is and most of what he writes is hypocritical or outright fallacious. He wouldn’t know what humility or apologizing meant if it killed him.

  • There are cardinal (pardon the pun) mistakes made by Rabbi Boreach. First, SHABBOS is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur would be the day most filled with awe and trepidation, as you’re standing before G-d in final judgement for the year.

    Next, though I’m far from a fan of the Donald, his stance on the Muslim immigration issue is correct. Islam is (and has been) using our own Western culture and laws against us and has infiltrated many aspects of society and (even) the government. Islam does not integrate with any society other than Islam, and sometimes not even then. ANY immigrant, especially a Muslim should be vetted. Call me discriminatory, but I’d much rather be accused of that than be killed.

    As for the conversion, we need to have defined & accepted guidelines for conversion, along with approved Rabbis/Batei Din so that situations like this don’t happen and the conversions cannot be questioned.

    As for the people in Rabbi Looksteins’ shul, EVERY Orthodox shul has people who are not fully observant, at least to someones’ standard. THAT is not a criteria by which to assess the validity of a conversion.

  • Daniel ben Immanuel

    R. Shmuley, Thank you for speaking your mind on this subject.
    I only object firmly to your suicidal attitude concerning Islam. It is absolute suicide to allow followers of their murderous pedophile false prophet into ANY country!! Every place they have invaded either by conquest or by propagating like rats has been turned into a hellhole not fit for human habitation!! This is not an opinion – it is FACT.
    I invite you to seriously prove me wrong if you can. Of course this is not possible, since history and current events preclude any such argument. There can be no compromise between civilization and barbarism! Think about it! Thank you.

  • Divina Acker

    I had an orthodox conversion and found it very challenging – The more I studied the more I realized that I knew very little about Judaism and the History of the Jews , their civilization and constant struggles. I only attained understanding, appreciation and respect for Judaism through my studies with Rabbis particularly Orthodox Rabbis. So, Hillel was spot on when he said- ” Go on and study.”

    After my conversion, I found it very hard to be a committed, highly observant Jew. I so admire the Orthodox Jewish families I know who are highly disciplined and observant and it was very challenging to live the lives they do. I noticed that Ivanka Trump wears sleeveless tops and clothes that reveal her cleavage and that is a far cry from the way Orthodox women dress. Now, I can clearly see why an Orthodox Rabbi from Israel would wonder if she is organically Jewish. Dressing up and behaving in public is just one of the many aspects of Judaism. Believe me, I have had many arguments with my Orthodox Rabbi who converted me. One of them was – why make it so hard for a convert to be converted? And, he had a very wise, fascinating answer that only a sage or an erudite individual can come up with, and that is why I love and admire about Judaism.

    • Hello Divina,
      How are you doing?
      I dont know where you’re holding now but it is possible to be orthodox. Please Contact me someday.
      Shem-tov 🙂

  • yosef

    Sorry, but the congregation this “Rabbi” Lookstein hosts does not look to me orthodox at all.. Check the video:
    No modest clothing on women, women singing with men in front of all.. Not shomer negiah. Also you can find pictures of woman carrying sefrei Torah (just search for images on google). So, why this called “orthodox rabbi” should be recognised? to mee looks the same as reform or conservative.
    The conversion to jewish is not a joke.. is a serious thing and when someone converts, must fulfil all the mitzvot. Including modest clothing, shabbat, kasherut, family purity and much more. Not just for the convenience of a marriage.

  • Me

    Really, Rabbi, “The controversy over the tweet is ridiculous and farcical.”

    So, a retweeted, intentionally anti-Semitic campaign ad, crested by anti-Semites somehow is “ridiculous”?

    No, YOUR statement is “ridiculous”, rabbi, alongside everything else anti-Semitic that Trunp has re-posted or his alleged keeping Hitler’s collected speeches by his bed or his Father being a member of the KKK.

    • Kenneth Mark

      It was not originated by Antisemites. It was used by them. But it was not originated, and it was not where Trump got it from. Was it insulting, YES. Any Jew encounters that. But its insulting because of his ignorance, not his racism. Get it right.

    • You find the arrest of Fred Trump (Donald Trump’s father) association with the KKK on Wikipedia and it the police records as truth. So you can’t dispute facts. I you don’t want to believe it but facts are facts. Nothing is fasle so far about Trump but if think looking the other way is the solution, many dictators were elected the same way.

    • john Train

      Donald Trump has many faults. but he has been a pioneer in assuring that Jewish patrons have full access to his facilities. He welcomed Jews when “business sense” would have demanded that he went along with the process of exclusion then conducted by all of the resorts in his major markets
      Interestingly, I as a Christian did not view it as a Jewish star. Further the creator of that image is married to a Jewish woman it would have been easy for Donald Trump to apologize. Israel apologized to Turkey when Turkey was the instigator of the aggression. Does any Jew justify the Obama pressure to apologize to Turkey?

  • Joen rogers


    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s LEFT-WING Rabbi” who supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

  • With all due respect to Rabbi Haskell, it was his sainted father, Rabbi Joseph H.Lookstein, who built both Kehillath Jeshurun and the Ramaz School.He was a powerhouse of a man with extraordinary breadth and vision who realized the need for intensive Jewish education for the new generations growing up in New York after the Depression. His world view, and his energy and passion, were passed down to his remarkable son Haskell, who took his father’s mandate many steps further and is one of orthodoxys’s most original thinkers and leaders today.

  • Linda

    Welcome Ivanka and your children and those who choose not to receive you as Jews should read the story of Ruth.

  • Dani Renan

    The problem isn’t Ivanka, Donald, or Rabbi Lookstein. It is the Rabanut. They have apparently appointed themselves as some kind of curia. Except that Judaism was never Catholic or hierarchical (understatement). They apparently imagine themselves as the new Rosh ha`golah (even if they sit in Yerusalim, their nefesh is still in the golah), except that even then, psakim were only samh’ut in his jurisdiction. In the case of the really great scholars their ideas were accepted, based on the logic of their argument, not by authority.

    As a devout agnostic and secularist, my solution of simply ignoring them, is not acceptable to the religious or traditional members of the a’m. I for one, would follow my sister, who had drawn up a civil contract, and had a ceremony presided over by one of their friends, with khupa, ring, shvua’ and shvirat kos. But no Rav. So they were in a unique position of being married according to halacha, and having the marriage not recognized by the state. But still having the civil protections guaranteed by the state.

  • Ani

    I too find it horrifying that the credentials of this Rabbi are not considered worthy by the Israeli rabbinate. They are impacting a young woman who wishes to get married in Israel as well as others such as Ivanka. I don’t actually think this has anything directly to do with Trump however. It’s more that the Israeli rabbinate has become thug-like. They have decided that they alone get to decide all things Jewish.

    I’m horrified by their actions. The rabbis they are disregarding are not even Reform, Reconstructionist etc but fellow Orthodox rabbis. This is nuts. Between this, which is shameful, and their attitudes towards women who wish to be able to worship at the Kotel, they are racing towards a serious disconnect between their beliefs and that of most Jews.

    I know that while I’ve been considering Aliyah, these recent events have made me reconsider. This is not my Judaism. I don’t think I can live in a country that is run by those who have such disrespect for converts who have willingly joined us and for women.

  • ita

    Please enlighten us as to “all” the cotributions the Latino’s have made.

  • Dear Collegue Rav Smuley,
    I have been in the same situation helping Anusim.
    I agree totally at what tour saying in your article.
    G-d bless you and your wright vision of Torah laws
    Shalom from Rav Di Mauro

  • richard sherwin

    thank you. youre absolutely right. it’s a sin to make a convert ‘feel like a convert’…. heaven knows conversion is hard enough, integration into jewish communities not always all that easy, and we were ALL converted at Sinai(then, and now, and many not all that successfully since either), so who’s to start this nonsense. as for attacking the rabbi… ad hominem slander is always easier than discussing principles or for that matter levantine practices here in israel.

  • Rachel Cohen

    A non Jewish convert–is a convert–not racially Jewish. And you Boteach being pro Sodomy–are godless

    • Nava

      Moshe Rabbeinu’s wife was a convert, King David’s great grandmother Rus was a convert. Abraham and Sarah were converts. The lineage of Jews, or race, has always included converts so how does that affect the status of “racial” Jews?

      And if lineage does not include patrilineal descent how can you claim Judaism is a race?
      Thank you

  • Totally agree with Reb Shumly (except for his promotion of the suicidal idea of admitting millions of anti-Semitic Muslims into this country – illiterate, raised and steeped in anti-Semiitsm, they will form part of the core of current radicals who are tormenting Jewish students at colleges around the country, and will be voting for anti-Semitic politicians, as has happened in the UK, when they can sit in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey until they can return to their homes or immigrate to Iraq or the Gulf States).
    It is indeed a disgrace for the totally politicized Haredi Rabbis in Israel to cast aspersions on a recognized Orthodox Rabbi in America. Of what do they fear – that Rabbi Lookstein’s conversions may somehow reduce the billions of Shekels that the Israeli govt. gives to their Yeshivot to turn out permanent students who remain permanently unemployed and schnorrers to govt. handouts? Not to worry. There’s no connection. But their divisive, anti-Halachic attitude toward American Orthodox conversions can and will redound to a needless schism between American and Israeli Jews. I recommend that the corrupt Israeli ultras re-visit a blat gemara and remind themselves that mipnai Kamtza and bar-Kamtza nehreva Yerushalyim.

  • The politicians give excessive power to the rabbinate and this can undo Israel.

  • Ron Stark

    How well expressed. Brilliant. Todah Rabah.

  • Although undoubtedly Ivanka Trump was sincere in her conversion, it should be noted that she and the Trump family do know about their a famous relative, who was unmistakably Jewish. I do not have the exact details of their relationship, but years ago, I was advised by a reputable Israeli diplomat that the Trumps and the hero Joseph Trumpeldor share a common Jewish ancestor and Donald was advised accordingly by the Israeli government which researched the matter.

    In short, Ivanka was merely returning to her somewhat distant Jewish roots (on her father’s side). I would like to believe that this was also part of the equation when she decided to convert.

  • Vivian Warshaw

    Rabbi Lookstein was our Rabbi when we lived in New York, and our children went to Ramaz. The Rabbi was (and is) a wonderful Rabbi and a real mensch. He is devotedly Orthodox and his conversion of Ivanka was sure to be strictly in accordance with Halacha. I hope she sends her children to Ramaz which is an amazing school- first rate English academics and a full, rich Hebrew program. We were very active in the PTA and when we moved to California we enrolled the kids in the school Rabbi Lookstein recommended. Ivanka has proved to be a first rate Jewish mother and a devoted congregant of the synagogue. I wish her and her husband and children only good things and a long and happy life.

  • Ronald Sevenster

    Rabbi Shmuley,

    Donald Trump is a follower of Vincent Peale, the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”. Peale rejected the Jewish and Christian concepts of humility and admitting one faults. An interesting article of Peale’s philosophy and its influence on Trump recently appeared in “First Things” and can be read here:

  • dan ehrlich

    I don’t think Trump has any hard and fast convictions other than the profit and loss margin…He calls HRC a liar and a crook, when only a short time ago he was a friend of hers and a democrat…Here’s a man who managed to avoid the draft and never served in the military, but insults a war hero who never cracked in five years of captivity.

    I’m sorry, but the man exhibits the characteristics paranoid narcissist and both he and Hillary have no business being the Pres. Oh, and he lies more than Hillary…quite a pair.

  • Avi

    I love Rabbi Shmuley but he is incorrect here. I read the whole thing in Hebrew last week.
    1. No formal decision has been made yet re R Lookstein by the Israeli rabbinical court.
    2. The Q has nothing to do with Ivanka. It has to do with acceptance of her Rabbi or not.
    3. Chief Rabbi of Israel, who actually is not on the court itself, Rabbi Lau, came out in favor of R Lookstein and thus Ivanka’s conversion as valid.
    Shmuley is jumping the gun here. The bottom line is that the Chief Rabbi of Isael came out in favor. That is the crux of the story thus far. And whether Shmuley likes it or not, and I’m definitely not an apologist for the Rabbinate, but it is written: כי מציון תצא תורה. From Israel goes forth (our) teachings, not from New York. So far, this story is way overblown, a tempest in a teapot.

  • Rabbi, I underwent conversion with Rabbi Alvin Rubin from St. Louis Mo.. Rabbi Rubins last official act was to marry my husband and I in Benton, Il. Both are now deceased. I would like to, at some point, return to Israel and live. Will I be allowed to? Rabbi Ruben was not Orthodox.

  • She is just as Jewish as I am. I was bot anew and will always be a Jew. She is a far better observant Jew than many born into Judaism.

  • Missmsy

    Your headline reads like she is attacking the Rabbi.

  • Missmsy

    Your headline makes it seem like she attacked the Rabbi.