Ivanka, my sister, I need to speak to you, one sister to another. Do you even know that’s what we are? Do you really understand the bonds between Jews? I don’t know that you do or can. I think you hide behind your blonde hair and your surgically altered nose, and your maiden name and it gives you a sense of “otherness” even as you claim to have become one of us. Regardless, I do not know how you can call yourself a Jew, yet continue to defend you father after the events of this weekend.
Your father has invited antisemitism into the White House and he has, by his deafening silence this weekend, endorsed it. He may believe that his name and your looks will protect you, and they may, but they will not protect your children, for they have Jewish blood.
It is rare that I would ever consider the need to have this discussion with someone who chose to be a Jew. The irony is that because of the time and the commitment the conversion process takes, most women who convert are more religious than those of us born to it. That was certain the case with my mother, who converted when she married my father. But, for all I know, your husband and your father’s money and influence could have bought you a few shortcuts in that process too.
On Monday, after 48 hours of silence, your father initially spoke out against the hate groups. It was clear that the words he read here not his own and that they were not coming from his own heart, nor were they nearly enough. We cannot pretend that he did it because he felt he should, rather, given the scripted nature of his statement it was clear it didn’t come from him. His demeanor further showed that he was only doing this because he was forced to. Quite frankly, by that point it was too little, too late.
Then the following day, the real Donald Trump came back to the microphone and made it clear that he meant none of it. Your father’s administration has legitimized these hate groups by the bigotry that was the center of his campaign and remains a core of his current agenda. He had so many opportunities over the last two years to speak out against this kind of behavior, but he was largely silent. When he has been forced into specifically addressing it, he is frequently vague and it is always brief. When the man who can go on a twitter rampage about Nordstrom not carrying your line anymore doesn’t tweet a thing, the silence is deafening. When he breaks that silence and it’s not to speak about the hate, but rather to attack an African-American male for leaving his advisory group due to his silence – the message is loud and clear. Your father defended, legitimized and empowered the white supremacists while at the same time condemning the actions of those who fought against them. It took him five days to use the Heather Heyer’s name — the young woman who died on US soil fighting Nazis
As a Jew, I don’t know how you can tolerate this. Maybe it’s because you didn’t grow up Jewish, so you never had to feel “different” because of it. You never had someone look at you and say, “Oh, you’re a Jew?” in the tone that suggests I might as well have said I kill puppies. You haven’t had friends tell you that “the Jews killed Jesus” and have to give them a history lesson which they will ignore anyway. You didn’t have friends’ parents offering to take you to their church instead (as if somehow they could save me from this horrible affliction). You didn’t have to hear endless debates about the school district decided to call the two-weeks off at the end of the year “winter break” instead of “Christmas break” as if somehow this ruined the entire meaning of Christmas. You didn’t grow up knowing that more than half your family died in the camps.
Do you know the history, other than what is briefly touched on in high school textbooks? Do you feel that since you saw Schindler’s List that you “totally get it”? Do you know that this country has deeply rooted antisemitism? Maybe no one has told you that during Hitler’s rise to power and when the Jews started to flee, the US did not open its arms. Much like your father’s stance on Syrian refugees, Jewish refugees were not welcome here. Jews that already lived here were often blamed for the wars and many other things. Many Jews hid their identities by changing their names in order to avoid discrimination. I always considered myself lucky that I grew up in the 70s and 80s, because it could have been so much worse. I was never afraid because I was Jewish.
Until now. For the last nine years, my menorahs have sat in my windows. Every Hanukah I looked forward to lighting the candles and sharing the pride of my heritage with my community. On Sunday, I removed them and placed them inside where they are not visible from the street. Those symbols of faith, family and history all of a sudden felt like I’d painted a target on my home. I saw the images in Charlottesville of the men proudly carrying the Nazi flags and I felt terror. These were not your tattooed skinheads that live on the fringes. These were men who could live around the corner from me, or my family. They feel empowered because of your father and his friends. Make no mistake, they think that I, along with your husband and children and the rest of the Jews, don’t deserve to live. For them, it’s not just about making sure they control everything, they want us gone, wiped off the face of the earth.
Your father was silent for two days, he couldn’t even be bothered to say the name of the woman who died on US soil fighting the Nazis. Out of everyone in your father’s life, you seem to be the only person he respects. He shows disdain for his wife, contempt for his underlings and indifference towards your siblings, but you are his chosen one. Is your need for your fathers love and approval more important than the lives of your chosen community? Is the money, power and influence that your husband’s family has gained due to his presidency worth turning your backs on what is right?
My sister, you chose to become one of us. It’s more than lighting candles and unplugging on Friday nights. It’s time you join the fight. If you cannot turn your father then you must shun him, to do otherwise would be to turn your back on all Jews. Shalom.
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Wendy Luxenburg writes for Palmer Report