Rabbi Who Converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism Denounces President Trump's 'Equivocation' Over Neo-Nazi and KKK Violence in Charlottesville
On Wednesday, Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein released a statement to the congregation of Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner‘s synagogue, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.
“We are appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and antisemitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right,” Lookstein wrote, along with his successors Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz and Rabbi Elie Weinstock, in a letter shared on the congregation’s Facebook page.
“While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence,” the statement continued.
Last July, Lookstein was invited by the Trump family to speak to the Republican National Convention. He initially planned to give an invocation but later dropped out after outcry from the Modern Orthodox community and other groups.
In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, President Trump spoke out against the incident but did not explicitly lay blame on the white supremacists, instead insisting that “bigotry and hatred” was coming from “many sides.” After days of backlash, Trump attempted to change his tune earlier this week, specifically naming the hate groups as he condemned racism.
Before Kushner could propose marriage in June 2009, Trump had to complete the lengthy process of converting to Judaism. Kushner’s Orthodox Jewish background presented a challenge to the relationship: until Trump converted to Judaism, they could not be engaged.
The topic of religion, specifically Judaism, is “such a personal thing” to Ivanka.
“We’re pretty observant, more than some, less than others. I just feel like it’s such an intimate thing for us,” she told Vogue in February 2015. “It’s been such a great life decision for me. I am very modern, but I’m also a very traditional person, and I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition in how I was raised as well. I really find that with Judaism, it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity.”
This week, Kushner continues to face backlash as the former real-estate developer and newspaper publisher, who is also a senior advisor to the president, has yet to comment on the Charlottesville rally where nationalist and right-wing protesters chanted anti-Semitic slogans, and where one anti-racist counter-protester, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed.
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More than a year before this latest uproar, Kushner wrote an op-ed titled “The Donald Trump I Know” in which he insisted his father-in-law was neither an anti-Semite nor a racist.
Described how his grandparents, Rae and Joseph Kushner, narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Nazis in Eastern Europe, Kushner wrote: “It’s important to me that people understand where I’m coming from when I report that I know the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points.”