When it comes to Jewish ties, no GOP candidate trumps Trump
Uriel Heilman, JTA, Aug 7 2015
NEW YORK — Among the expansive field of 2016 Republican presidential candidates on display in the party’s first debates, Donald Trump may be the most closely connected to the Jewish people. Trump is from New York, works in professions saturated with Jews and long has been a vocal supporter of Israel. His daughter and two grandchildren are Jewish, the executive vice president of his organization is Jewish, and Trump certainly has chutzpah. But you won’t find Jewish donors of influence in Trump’s network of associates: The billionaire’s campaign is self-financed, not donor-funded. Forbes estimates Trump’s net worth at about $4b; Trump says he’s worth $10b. As the main attraction of the Republican debate on Thursday night, Trump’s trademark chutzpah was on sharp display. Asked about past references to women he dislikes as “fat pigs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals,” Trump said he has no time for political correctness. He bragged about how Hillary Clinton dared not miss his most recent wedding because he donated to her campaign. And he refused to rule out running as a third-party candidate should someone else win the Republican nomination. Given his myriad Jewish associations, Trump is not an unfamiliar face in Jewish circles. He has served as a grand marshal at New York’s annual Salute to Israel Parade. After Hurricane Katrina, he was among a group of celebrities who decorated Jewish federation tzedakah boxes to be auctioned off to support hurricane disaster relief. And in February, he was honored with an award at the annual gala for the Algemeiner, a right-wing Jewish news organization. Trump said at the event in Manhattan:
I have a Jewish daughter. This wasn’t in the plan, but I’m very glad it happened.
On Israel, he said:
We love Israel. We will fight for Israel 100%, 1,000%. It will be there forever.
Before the 2013 Israeli election, Trump recorded a video message endorsing Netanyahu. Trump said in the 30-second spot:
You truly have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s a winner, he’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all. Vote for Benjamin – terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.
By the same token, Trump has made clear that he believes Obama is bad for Israel and has questioned how Pindosi Jews could support the president. Trump told
radio host Zionazi broadcaster Michael Savage in February:
I have many Jewish friends that support Obama and I say, ‘Why?’ and they can’t explain why. They support him, they give him money, they give him campaign contributions,”. “This is the worst enemy of Israel.
Trump at times has dabbled in Israeli real estate. About a decade ago he bought a site in Ramat Gan, which is within the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, with plans to build Israel’s tallest building, to be called Trump Plaza Tower. He later sold the property to an Israeli firm before its development. In 2012, Trump met with Israel’s tourism minister to discuss possible investments in real estate and tourism, according to Ynet. Trump’s closest Jewish association is with his daughter Ivanka’s family. Ivanka Trump, a fashion designer and ‘celebrity’ in her own right, converted to Judaism before marrying Jared Kushner, the son of New York Jewish real estate mogul Charles Kushner. She studied for her Orthodox conversion with Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Manhattan’s Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue and the Ramaz School, and Lookstein officiated at her wedding. The couple are members of Lookstein’s Orthodox synagogue and are Shabbat observant (which is more than you can say for most of the rich assholes who are ‘members’ but only go there once or twice a year – RB). They have two children. Donald Trump is Presbyterian. He has said he goes to church on Christmas, Easter and special occasions. When it comes to the Trump organization, Trump’s right-hand man is a Jewish lawyer, Michael Cohen, who also serves as a top campaign aide. Cohen ignited controversy last week by suggesting that spousal rape doesn’t count as rape. He later apologized, saying his remarks were “inarticulate.” Trump, of course, doesn’t shy away from controversy himself. Just since announcing his candidacy in June, he has called illegal Mexican immigrants rapists, disparaged Walnuts McCain for being captured in the Vietnam War, and publicly disclosed Lindsey Graham’s private mobile phone number at a campaign rally. Then there was Thursday’s Republican debate. Following his verbal fireworks on stage, he doubled down on Twitter, saying:
I really enjoyed the debate tonight even though the @FoxNews trio, especially @megynkelly, was not very good or professional!
Apparently he was referring to Kelly’s question about Trump’s comments on women. Trump’s record suggests he is far from a Republican ideologue. He has given money both to Democratic and Republican candidates, including Republican primary rivals and Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president. Trump at varying times has supported liberal policies like abortion rights as well as Tea Party causes like strict immigration restrictions. In the debate, he stood by his past support for single-payer health care, saying that he thought it worked well in Canada and could have worked in the past in Pindostan. Overall, Trump doesn’t appear to have very many fixed policy positions. Unlike the other Republican candidates, he has no policy section on his campaign website. When Ivanka Trump introduced her father at the Algemeiner dinner six months ago, she said:
He has used his voice often and loudly in support of Israel, in support of developments within Israel, in support of security for Israel and in support of the idea of the Israeli democracy.
One thing is certain: as long as he stays in this campaign, he will continue to use his voice often and loudly.
The point about this place is that the rich are content to be seen there occasionally, in return for a lying certificate of ‘orthodoxy’ – RB
For first time in 100 years, outsider tapped to lead Looksteins’ NY shul
Uriel Heilman, JTA, Aug 3 2015
So his shul burned down. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein vowing to rebuild. Jul 11 2011.
Tell me it isn’t brainwashing. (Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty)
NEW YORK – For the first time in about a century, a rabbi from outside the Lookstein family will lead New York’s storied (sic – RB) Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun. The Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side voted last week to hire as its new senior rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, who for two decades has led the Montreal congregation Tifereth Beth David Jayloomia. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, 83, who has been at the helm of Kehilath Jeshurun since the death of his father, Rabbi Joseph Lookstein, in 1979, will become rabbi emeritus. The 1,100-member shul is one of the nation’s most prominent synagogues, thanks to its longtime association with the Lookstein family, its connection with Ramaz (the modern Orthodox Jewish day school started by Joseph Lookstein in 1937 has its elementary school housed at the synagogue), and the wealth and prominence of many of its congregants. Among the members are businessman and philanthropist George Rohr; the Kushners, a well-known New York real estate family; and Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism under Lookstein’s tutelage before she married Jared Kushner and whose father, Donald Trump, is now
running for president making at least as much of an asshole of himself as he usually does. KJ has been led in whole or part by the Looksteins’ family since 1905, when the current rabbi’s great-grandfather, Rabbi Moses Zevulun Margolies, known as the Ramaz and one of the nation’s leading rabbis during his lifetime, became a rabbi at the synagogue. Haskel Lookstein’s only son, Rabbi Joshua Lookstein, made clear some time ago that he had no interest in taking over his father’s pulpit and now heads Westchester Day School, a modern Orthodox elementary school in suburban New York. The transition at KJ, which was established in the 1870s, is the second major change at the helm of a Lookstein-led institution this year. Earlier this year, Ramaz announced that Rabbi Eric Grossman will become its new head of school this fall. When KJ announced a while back that it was looking for a successor to Lookstein, Steinmetz was not among those who applied for the job. But KJ sought out Steinmetz, whose Orthodox congregation is similar to KJ in that a sizable number of its members are not strictly observant and do not regularly attend synagogue. Steinmetz will take over at KJ on Jan 1. In an interview with JTA, Lookstein said Steinmetz embodies the values with which he has guided KJ: that being a mensch comes before Torah observance (the Jewish maxim known in Hebrew as “Derekh eretz kadma la-Torah”), commitment to a modern Orthodox religious view, openness to all people, and love for all Jews, and of course for the state(s) of USrael. Lookstein told JTA:
As I reach a certain age where you start worrying about continuity, the idea was to find somebody who not only is gifted rabbinically as a preacher and as a teacher and as a pastor, but someone who is absolutely on the same wavelength as KJ and Ramaz and the tradition that our family has stood for for 109 years. Rabbi Steinmetz is that person.
Steinmetz, 51, a native of Monsey, New York, has led his 600-family Ashkenazic Orthodox shul in the Cote Saint Luc area of Montreal since 1996. Before that he was the rabbi at Fleetwood Synagogue in Mount Vernon, New York, and chairman of the Talmud department at Yeshiva University’s high school for girls. Steinmetz holds rabbinic ordination from YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, a bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva College and a master’s in education from Adelphi University. Steinmetz told JTA:
My shul’s a lovely shul, but there’s only one KJ. There’s really no other shul in the world like it, and it’s impossible to pass up.
When Steinmetz becomes senior rabbi, Associate Rabbi Elie Weinstock will become KJ’s “rabbi”; rabbinic assistant Rabbi Roy Feldman will retain his role. As rabbi emeritus, Lookstein said he’ll still be around but will be departing center stage. The synagogue’s board president, Joel Katz, sent congregants a letter about the changes after the members voted on July 29 to approve Steinmetz’s hire. Katz said:
This amazing Rabbinic team will continue to make KJ a premier modern orthodox synagogue on the world stage and give our membership and our community access to spiritual inspiration, meaningful sermons, sophisticated classes, energized programming, informative workshops and services for members of all backgrounds.
Since a four-alarm fire in July 2011 nearly destroyed the 110-year-old synagogue building, the congregation has been holding religious services elsewhere. With reconstruction of the sanctuary nearly complete, the congregation will be moving services back into the synagogue starting on Sep 11, the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, Katz announced in his letter.