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April 3, 2018 12:37 pm

Will Supermodel Karlie Kloss Convert to Judaism? The New York Times Is On It

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Will supermodel Karlie Kloss convert to Judaism?

This, of all things, was the subject of an article by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Dowd reported that Kloss is dating Josh Kushner, a venture capitalist who is the brother of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Dowd writes:

Like Ivanka before her, Karlie has had some rough patches in her romance because of the severe pressure she faces from Seryl and Charles Kushner, the parents of Josh and Jared, to convert to Orthodox Judaism. (The brothers’ grandparents were Holocaust survivors.) Charles Kushner went to jail in a messy sex and campaign finance scandal in 2005.

Karlie’s friends describe her as “insanely nice,” as one put it, and often showing up with homemade baked goods. Some of them are upset, claiming that Ivanka has not been as supportive to Karlie as she could have been during her trial by fire imposed by the Kushner parents over the conversion issue.

In a story in The Forward, Margaret Abrams noted that, of course, the Kushners would not have been pleased with two such “WASP-worthy girls,” but given Charles’s controversial past, “they can’t exactly complain about the shiksas treating Yom Kippur like a juice fast.”

The Forward article appeared in 2015. It’s not clear why it merits recirculation three years later. Nor is it clear why the Times considers the anonymously sourced purported details of Kloss’s relations with her boyfriend’s parents to be anyone’s business.

This is the second Passover in a row that the New York Times has published speculation about Kloss’s conversion to Judaism. Last year, it came in a dispatch from Rome: “a Passover email popped up on my phone from a friend suggesting that Karlie Kloss, the supermodel girlfriend of Jared Kushner’s brother, Josh, might be converting to Judaism.”

Dowd’s depiction of “severe pressure…to convert to Orthodox Judaism” generated pushback from Times reader-commenters. “The idea that this young woman needs to convert to her husband’s religion, in order to satisfy the demands of his ex-con father, is my definition of an unnatural act,” wrote Matthew Carnicelli of Brooklyn, in a comment that was recommended by 925 Times readers.

A recent Washington Post column was headlined “I am tired of being a Jewish man’s rebellion.” It was by Carey Purcell, a Christian woman who says she won’t date any more Jewish men even though “at almost every event I go to, they approach me.” That piece mentioned that one of her Jewish boyfriend’s mothers “was extremely overbearing.” The article was widely denounced as antisemitic, though New York Times columnist Max Fisher wrote on Twitter, “i am a little bit struggling to get worked up over it. everyone on here appears to care SO much. but seems like there are more worthwhile things to think about?”

Dowd’s Easter column, like the Washington Post one, traffics in stereotypes about overbearing Jewish parents. It may even carry an odd undercurrent of concern about Jewish men despoiling gentile women. One might dismiss it, except that Dowd has a history of purveying classic antisemitic stereotypes. She has described the investment bank Goldman Sachs as “blood-sucking” and Jewish businessman and political operative Dan Senor as a “neocon puppet master” in a column headlined “Neocons slither back.”

The Times loves it when Jews convert to Christianity (see here and here and here for examples). But Dowd and a lot of Times readers can’t seem to stand the idea of it happening in the other direction.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critiques, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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