One of the joys of my life in NYC is the proximity to Broadway, the place where archetypal stories come to life, especially in musical theater form. So it is that I often view life through both a Jewish lens and a theater lens, especially in these disturbing days leading up to the dawn of the Demagogue Donald. After yesterday’s press conference, and the president-elect’s comparison of US Intelligence agencies to the Nazis, I feel moved by the weight of Jewish history to share these thoughts. With a nod to “Dear Evan Hansen,” the Broadway hit musical written by two Jewish young men, I begin this letter to Donald’s son-in-law,
Dear Jared Kushner,
Excuse me if this analogy appears to be hyperbole, but to me, you are poised to become a modern-day Jewish viceroy, similar to Joseph (Jacob’s son) in the Pharaoh story, as you assume your role as Senior Advisor to President Trump. How interesting that this is happening just as We the Jewish People continue reading the Joseph story in shul this Shabbat. Yes Jared, by virtue of marrying Ivanka, you are now our President-Elect’s “right-hand man.” Quite a powerful position for a nice Jewish boy from New Jersey not yet 40-years-old. Trust me, I wish you well. And how interesting that your background is more in Democratic politics. Trump World is most fascinating.
It is also no coincidence that I reference the Broadway hit, “Dear Evan Hansen” in these thoughts to you. As you may know, this compelling story was written by two Jewish creative souls, members of the creative class that your father-in-law seems to regularly deride. Could you perhaps advise him that he regularly offends those of us who respect the First Amendment value of free speech. Ah, I digress – returning to “Dear Evan Hansen,” are you aware that the message of the show is essentially the ease by which social media allows manipulation of reality to lead to outright deception? While the story of Evan Hansen has to do with loss, grief, consolation and validation, the larger message about the power of social media to distort reality is right on point for your father-in-law.
As an intelligent young man, Jared, I do hope you understand that Donald’s abuse of social media to create his own reality makes his claims of “false news” frankly laughable. If you are in fact in a position to help your father-in-law see the damage he is doing, please, do your job, just as Joseph did his in our Jewish Story.
Jared, there is biblical history and then there is modern Jewish history. I join the chorus of those who express disgust and dismay that the president-elect is comparing US Intelligence Agencies to the Nazis.
Jared, I understand you are the grandson of Holocaust survivors — even more of an imperative that you find your voice and demand that your father-in-law stop drawing this analogy. As it is, his behavior is much to close to a Demagogue for comfort. For him to then compare agencies of the US government to Hitler’s party is beyond belief. Please, let your sense of what is acceptable and what is not guide you in the days ahead.
Finally Jared, if in fact you are going to be a trusted advisor on the Israel-Palestine situation, let me suggest you surround yourself with the best thinkers on this issue. Please know that my daughter and son-in-law, Rachel and Raffi, and their two daughters, Shira and Molly live in Jerusalem. I have been to the site of the most recent terrorist attack many times. I have deep connections in Israel and I specialize in analyzing Israeli society. If you think that having a US ambassador whose actions undermine any appearance of “honest broker” and if you think that the angry, hostile and pathological Palestinians won’t use moving the embassy as an excuse for more violence, than you know very little about the conflict. Just know that my family is on the front lines of this conflict and that the actions of your father-in-law may mean life or death for my loved ones. That is the power of the presidency.
In closing Jared, as an Orthodox Jew, you are well aware of the power of our words to hurt, to heal, to destroy and to build. As you move to Washington and assume such a powerful position, I pray you take our core Jewish values with you and they form your moral roadmap. To start with, please try to remind your father-in-law that there are many of us in the US today who are watching our modern-day Demagogue assume power with much trepidation. Just as Joseph played a role for the greater good in the Pharaoh story, so may you, Dear Jared Kushner, find the courage and the wisdom to guide your father-in-law toward a greater good. Frankly, a task of biblical proportions…….