Jared Kushner is much admired among many members of the Jewish community as a result of his new found international celebrity. He attended Frisch High School (a Yeshiva in Paramus, New Jersey), attended the March of the Living during the late 1990’s, an organized educational journey for young people that travels to both Israel and Poland. It is believed that March of the Living, along with the accompanying journey to Israel may have been an influence on Jared Kushner’s weltanschauung. Jared Kushner’s Polish born grandparents, are also Holocaust survivors. He wrote about them and their story of survival and how it continues to be an influence on his world view. The question is then, why have we not heard from Kushner ever since his father in law announced his running to be president almost two years ago.
It is Jared’s jarring silence that is so troubling and frightening. One would think, due to Kushner’s experience he would be “Wiesellian” in outlook and know he must speak out when he sees injustice. We know Kushner comes from a very influential, affluent and charitable family in the Jewish community. He married the daughter of a man who is an internationally known businessman and celebrity. His Father in Law offered Kushner a powerful role in his administration as chief advisor, after helping his father in law defeat the odds to become the 45th president of the United States. Mr. Kushner not only accepted this new role, but he has been designated by his Father in Law to eventually resolve the interminably long lasting Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Mr. Kushner may indeed be qualified to assume these roles in the new administration. That is not the issue at hand. What is most troubling is his deafening silence and indifference to his father in law’s behavior, tweets and outbursts. He is silent about his father in law’s outspoken admiration of authoritarian leaders, his troubling misogynistic outbursts, not to mention his xenophobia and outright racist comments. His father in law surrounds himself with shady people: propagandists, white supremacists and opportunists.
During the first week of his presidency, his father in law made no mention of the Jewish people during International Holocaust Memorial Day. This deliberate omission is consistent with that of the far-right parties in Europe who believe Jews, along with everyone else suffered during this period (so why give them a special mention). This grandchild of survivors has consistently and has always remained silent to his father-in law’s bigotry, but not to react to a modern form of Holocaust revisionism is outrageous, if not criminal. This behavior and silence goes against the grain of what so many students, children and grandchildren of survivors studied in school about the indifferent bystander or the silent witness during the time of the Holocaust.
We do not know what Kushner’s motives are. Even if he felt like he was acting for the greater good, his actions, or lack thereof, shows otherwise. I do not think he comprehends the ramifications of his silence. In other words, his silence may contribute to many unnecessary deaths, or to a threat to our democracy or causing the rise of legal discrimination.
Over the years, the Kushner family was marred with controversy, arrests and a questionable conversion. His father is a convicted felon. A prominent orthodox rabbi’s reputation may have been marred because of questions about the legitimacy of Ivanka’s conversion. Jared Kushner had the rare opportunity to rehabilitate his family’s name and reputation. Instead, it seems, he chose greed and power.
Jared Kushner could have been the biblical character Mordecai to Ivanka’s Esther and rehabilitate his family’s name. That would be a fitting tribute to this young man instead of the route he has currently opted to take. As Elie Wiesel said, “Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds.” Now is the time for deeds.