How important is it, to know the right people? Or better yet, to be related to the right people? In Ivanka Trump’s case, when it comes to being recognized as “Jewish” in Israel, it can cut right through the red tape.
For decades, I’ve understood how painful it is for those seeking acceptance by the Israeli orthodox rabbinate. An American friend of mine, tells his story of attending boarding school in Israel. “Everyone was so welcoming,” he said. His father was Jewish and born in Israel. But when it came time for his bar mitzvah, he was told no, that he could not have it in the synagogue that his grandfather helped build, because his American mother wasn’t Jewish. He was offered the opportunity to live and study with an orthodox family for a year, to meet the conversion requirements. My friend declined. It was during the 1960’s and he was more interested in listening to the Beatles and the cultural revolution that was unfolding, than to put in the time and work required to be a “real” Jew. His grandmother was furious with the rabbi. My friend felt excluded by the people who had been so warm and welcoming. He was hurt. So was his younger brother, who fifty years later had a bar mitzvah in a reformed synagogue. After all these years, he was finally accepted. To a large crowd in the synagogue, he spoke of his rejection in Israel. “It was very, very painful.”
Now enter the drama unfolding around Ivanka Trump. She fell in love with Jared Kushner, from a New York orthodox Jewish family. She went through the rigorous steps required to convert. Probably a year attending classes. Memorizing and learning Hebrew law, prayers, etc. She must have loved Jared very much and welcomed the orthodox lifestyle. From what I’ve read, they take joy in celebrating Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening. The custom of taking twenty-four hours every week, to refrain from work or business, is rejuvenating. The ancients knew this, that’s how it began. Clear the head. Rest the body. It’s good for you.
But now, the New York rabbi who converted Ivanka, is in the spotlight because he is a bit too liberal for the orthodox rabbinate in Jerusalem, and they have declined to accept some of his former conversions. But because Ivanka is the president’s daughter, they are changing their tune. Bringing to mind, the old saying, “it is not what you know but who you know, that matters.” And even more importantly, who your father is. But beware, there is another old saying, “never argue religion or politics.” This situation involves both.
Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy – A How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy II – Uncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors, Secret Genealogy III – From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians, Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees and Secret Genealogy V– Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family Trees. Available here:
Secret Genealogy II: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-II-Christian-Ancestors/dp/1484053222
Secret Genealogy III: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-III-Jewish-Anglo-Saxon-Acadians/dp/148407579X
Secret Genealogy IV: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-IV-Native-Americans/dp/1500756105