The Apple Does Not Fall Far from the Tree: Reflections on Cohen & Kushner

Shortly before the beginning of the Trump presidency, I have been following the developments of Jared Kushner and Michael Cohen.  They have a few things in common, most notably, they are children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.  The question is then asked, did their parents or Grandparents have any influence on their value system. Based on my readings, my studying this topic for decades and that personally I am also a child of Polish survivors, my answer is absolutely yes.

Children and grandchildren of survivors are, by far, not a monolithic group.  They come from all disparate backgrounds. The one common thread that they all have is the admission that their world view was impacted on some degree by their parents and grandparents.  Even those children that deny this influence are in the classic sense, in a state of denial.

Michael Cohen is a perfect case in point. He is second generation, a child of survivors.  He was on top of his world, the attorney for a supposed billionaire.  There is no doubt, his ego took the best of him and probably, when caught, bought him back to earth.

We read that it may not have been the investigation that affected him but rather his father, a Holocaust survivor that ultimately changed the course of history.  In effect, it was his father as we read, that told him that this is not how he raised him. That was not the reason of his survival. Money and power are meaningless.  Character is.  Money and power can corrupt the soul.  Kindness and integrity provide hope and future to this planet.  Michael Cohen changed.  He even changed political parties. Not that the Republican Party necessarily represents evil and the Democratic Party represents goodness, but it was a powerful statement that he must change his “derech,” his way of being.  The old way cannot sustain itself.

Then there is Jared Kushner.  A difficult study.  This we know.  His grandparents were survivors.  His father was and still is an affluent man, who gave money to Jewish institutions in which many buildings, inexplicably, still bear the Kushner name.  His father was also a convicted felon, and his adulating son visited him weekly while the father was incarcerated.  Jared was never silent of his grandparents’ influence on him. Yeshiva educated, his father bought his education to Harvard and Jared married a Non-Jew.  To some, there may be nothing wrong with the latter, but a distinguished orthodox rabbi’s reputation was severely tarnished by converting his fiancé so that Jared could have his way and marry her.

It is clear, through seeing Jared in action that the end (money and power) justifies the means.  He is silent about his father-in-law embracing white supremacists, but more than that, we find out that throughout the years Jared dealt with nefarious folks such as Russian oligarchs and anti-Israel corrupt Saudi princes not for the common good, but to build his financial empire.

Where did Jared get his value system?  Most likely from his father.  What about his father, a son of Holocaust survivors? This is a theory and not an accusation, but his father may have got it from his parents.

There are two kinds of people that survived the war: One group, which represented the overwhelming majority, if not almost all survivors, survived with their integrity intact, although psychologically and emotionally scarred.

The second group, the group that is not spoken about in the Jewish community and represents a scant number, are those who collaborated to some degree with the enemy.  They would do anything to survive, to a point of being willing to sell their soul to the devil.  This is not a judgmental statement, but well documented.  Ask any survivor, they would,  albeit reluctantly, tell you about the collaborators in their shtot and shtetls.

I do not know what kind of tree the Kushner apples came from, but I am familiar with the tree of Mr. Cohen’s apple.

Indeed, the apple does not fall far from the tree.



About the Author
For over twenty-five years, Saul’s passionately devoted and immersed himself studying Jewish life in interwar Europe. Overnight, not only did this 1000-year-old community vanish, but so did its complex communal infrastructure. What piqued Saul Chapnick’s interest and curiosity was finding out exactly what it is that disappeared. In talking to politicians, survivors, scholars, Jewish communal leaders from Eastern Europe, and making trips there, Saul Chapnick was able to uncover the richness and the tragedy of interwar Jewish life in Europe. At the same time, Mr. Chapnick has discovered a rebirth of Jewish life in his parents’ and ancestors’ native land, Poland. Saul Chapnick has talked in various venues such as Limmud whether Yiddish still has relevance today, and has also spoke about the contemporary themes of the 19th and 20th century Yiddish writers and musicians. He also prepares the adult participants of The March for the Living about modern day Jewish Poland
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