Elie Jacobs
Jacobs is a public affairs consultant based in NYC.
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Dear Jared Kushner

A plea to his old schoolmate to use his influence for good: 'I beg of you to be on the right side of history'
Jared Kushner speaking at the Bloomberg Commercial Real Estate conference in New York, Nov. 9, 2011. (Peter Foley/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
Jared Kushner speaking at the Bloomberg Commercial Real Estate conference in New York, Nov. 9, 2011. (Peter Foley/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

NOTE: The letter below was sent directly to Mr. Kushner last night — Monday night — with the note that it would be published verbatim in The Times of Israel 12 hours later.

Dear Jared:

First off, allow me to congratulate you on your father-in-law’s victory in the presidential election, along with the influential role you reportedly played in the campaign.

While we did not interact with one another in any meaningful way, I was a few years ahead of you in high school, which means we likely played more than a few games of basketball together. I am also familiar with your family’s rich legacy and the importance of the contributions they’ve made to the Jewish community. But if you’ll indulge me for a few moments, I had a few thoughts I wanted to share.

As an American, I want nothing more than for President-elect Trump to succeed. And for the sake of full disclosure, I vehemently opposed his candidacy primarily because I, like President Obama (and the four living ex-presidents), felt concerned over his appropriateness for the presidency.

I have no doubt Mr. Trump is a good father and grandfather. Nor do I doubt that he is capable of running a successful business. Yet neither of those take away from the fact that the temperament he displayed on the campaign trail, his lack of substance on major issues, the dangerous pronouncements and the opinions he has held on all sides of vital issues concern me a great deal. As an American. As a Jew. As an inclusive, principled pragmatist. Nonetheless, I pray he is successful. America (and the world) are more successful and safer when an American President is successful. This is something we can all agree on.

I’m writing to plead, beg and beseech of you to speak out against the hatred the President-elect’s campaign has unleashed. More importantly, if you have his ear you need to request he do the same. He can start by returning Steve Bannon back to the shadows of Breitbart and the alt-right. A man open about his fetid prejudices has no place in the West Wing.

I, like so many others in the Jewish community, read your July 6th OpEd with great interest. And I, like so many others in the Jewish community, were also, to be frank, severely disappointed by it.

I am willing to trust your supposition that your father-in-law is not an anti-Semite. I, personally, do not believe him to be one. But what I truly care about is that in his position as presidential candidate, party nominee and President-elect, he has never denounced the seething and toxic hatred of the alt-right[1]. Indeed, between the dog whistling coming from the campaign, his (and your brother-in-laws’) re-Tweeting of posts and images generated from demonstrably hate-and intolerance-fueled accounts the campaign could be seen to have embraced and encouraged – and leveraged – the emergence of the undercurrent of hatred that has long been condemned to the gutter of society.

But you know all of this. I’m certainly not the first to point it all out. And I won’t be the last.

When I turn on the news and the official Trump campaign spokesman spends more time focused on George Soros than talking about the issues, it’s impossible to not see that as something intentional. People can disagree with Mr. Soros (I know that I do on many things), but it’s more than a presumption to assume that the campaign was using him specifically because he is recognized to be Jewish. Otherwise why not talk about Tom Steyer in a similar way?

Let me clarify here that I also do not believe that all Trump supporters (or even most) are racist, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim or fueled by hate. I do not believe the data supports it, nor do I want to believe that 47 percent of the country is fueled by hate.

Rather, I believe Mr. Trump tapped into an idea of change and economic opportunity that brought him support from the oft ignored parts of this great country. I also believe that anyone – yourself included – who chose to support Mr. Trump saw some truly unsettling things transpire over the course the last 18 months. Things that feel contradictory to liberty. To democracy. To core moral values. Yet, still chose to vote for him, as is their right.

The lack of an unequivocal and aggressive denunciation by Mr. Trump of the kinds of things said and done at his rallies, said and done in support of his candidacy, said and done by his supporters has led us to where we are now: an extremely precarious position as a country.

A platitude like “Stop it” during a 60 Minutes interview is not enough – especially if it needs to be prompted by the interviewer. And I cannot imagine that you feel any differently.

Regardless of any future position you may hold in the White House, you will undoubtedly continue to be a decisive voice the President-elect listens to. And there are many voices of concern, the voices who don’t feel represented. The voices that don’t feel their concerns assuaged. It is not an issue of the “PC-police” as you suggested in July[2] — it is now people getting beaten up for their religion, of Jewish mothers frightened for the children, of Muslim mothers worried about sending their daughters out wearing a head scarf.

I have no doubt that you “know the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points.” But we are beyond dismissive labelling. This isn’t tossing. This is an offense to those who cherish their civil liberties. The civil liberties so many have fought for in this country for so many years.

You wrote in your defense of your father-in-law’s “Star of David” Tweet that:

“Government is built with many layers to avoid making mistakes. The problem with this is that it costs a lot and little gets done. In business, we empower smart people to get jobs done and give them latitude on how to get there.”

I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly, but now one of those “many layers” is occupied by Steve Bannon. This should concern anyone even remotely familiar with history. I am not alone in calling for his dismissal, the Southern Poverty Law Center has demanded the same.

It’s true that many campaigns have relied on less than savory people for guidance and advice — that is the way campaigns work. But the White House is different. Governing is different. Leading is different. Elevating someone as unfit as Steve Bannon to serve as a primary advisor is not just the wrong message to send to this great country – even if less than half of it is interesting in listening – it is the wrong thing to do.

This isn’t about me or my wife or you or your wife. All of us can analyze and debate and think through complex issues. This is about our children and nieces and nephews and those who, given this alarming trajectory, will be forced to wrestle with great intolerance over the next four years, or perhaps for the next four decades, if nothing is done to stop it.

I beg of you to be on the right side of history. You are in the unprecedented and unique position to stand up in this instance, and any other in the future that merits concern. It is high time that our President-elect do the same. This can start with the step of ensuring Steve Bannon does not have a position in the White House.

If ever you feel the need to reach out to me directly, should you like to discuss this issue privately, I would be more than happy to talk and if asked, help you and President-elect Trump start his Presidency on the right foot.

Respectfully,
Elie Jacobs

[1] Sen. McCain memorably corrected a woman who insinuated President Obama was a Muslim and more recently President Obama shut down a crowd which was booing a Trump supporter. It is not unexpected for a person in a position of authority to do so.

[2] “If even the slightest infraction against what the speech police have deemed correct speech is instantly shouted down with taunts of “racist” then what is left to condemn the actual racists? What do we call the people who won’t hire minorities or beat others up for their religion?”

About the Author
Elie Jacobs is a NYC-based public affairs and public relations consultant and a political partner with the Truman National Security Project. He is a co-host of the podcast "Taking Ship". VIEWS EXPRESSED DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS OF ANY ORGANIZATION AND ARE SOLELY HIS OWN
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