Jared And Ivanka: From Sukkot Sweethearts To Trump 2016 Cheerleaders
In the innocent days of 2011, a striking young couple observed Sukkot with their new baby in tow. The man pushed a stroller down the street, one hand also holding a lulav, the other being sweetly held by that of his glamorous yet modestly dressed wife. The scene made the Daily Mail Online because of who the people were: investor Jared Kushner and “first time mother” Ivanka Trump. The Mail interpreted the lulav to be “some flowers,” suggesting they were “perhaps a gift for his wife.” Astute Jewishly-informed commenters corrected.
A caption to the photo below, of her dad, is even more quaint: “Donald Trump will be back in the boss’s chair for next year’s new season of Celebrity Apprentice.” If only he’d left it at that.
What do we do with the fact that the presidential candidate bringing anti-Semitic populism to mainstream American politics has a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son-in-law, and Jewish grandchildren?
To me, the Ivanka plotline, as it were, fits with a trope of late 19th and early 20th century European literature: a Christian aristocratic family, in financial ruin, marrying off a son or daughter to a title-hungry Jewish banking family. (I’m thinking especially of Albert Guinon’s 1901 censored French play, Decadence, but there’s a bunch.) In these stories, the fact that a parent was willing (or eager!) to see a child acquire a Jewish spouse in no way indicated an absence of anti-Semitism. If anything, the stories themselves were anti-Semitic exaggerations of real-life events.
The Ivanka story isn’t quite the same. There’s no reason to believe Jared Kusher was somehow brought in to save the Trump dynasty from ruin. But there’s that same mix of philo- and anti-Semitism floating around, the former (as always) amounting to the latter. If—as comments such as the one about wanting accountants to be short Jewish men is any indication—Donald Trump idealizes Jewish financial prowess, for all we know he considers it a status symbol to have a wealthy Jewish son-in-law. In any case, the presence of a wealthy Jewish son-in-law doesn’t somehow absolve the father-in-law of anti-Semitism. Nor, alas, does Jared and Ivanka’s role as ambassadors of Sukkot.
Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood. Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.