About a year ago, I used to actively relish Ivanka Trump’s Instagram feed (yes, I also have a life and hobbies, thanks for asking). I enjoyed it aesthetically, but I also savored the fact that she frequently posted pics of her Jewish family life.
While she never explicitly said the words, “Here We Are, Being Jewish,” Ivanka shared photos of just that, including everything from shots of the mishloach manot she made for Purim to cuddling her second child before his bris. I’m not someone who delights in Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, and take no thrill from naming Jewish celebrities…but I will say that it did make me oddly happy and pleased to see how thoroughly, and joyfully, a prominent mother seemed to have embraced her Jewish life. Reader, I kvelled.
Once her father began his run for the presidency, however, Ivanka’s pictures alluding to a Jewish life went from “few and far between” to “virtually nonexistent.” While commentators or even the candidate himself might occasionally allude to Ivanka and her family being Jewish, she herself did not. Nor did she express any qualms about the “alt-right” support of her father, nor any solidarity with the Jewish journalists who were victims of anti-Semitic death threats during the campaign, both of which I took issue with her back in July (I am sure she is still reeling from my blog post expressing my disappointment).
On this past Monday evening, Ivanka posted on Twitter, saying, “America is a nation built on the principles of religious tolerance and respect for all faiths. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC.”
One might ask, “Why now?” Why did it take almost 70 bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers (alluded to, semi-obliquely, in the non-trending hashtag) around the country for her to speak out? Why wasn’t she bothered by Jews being left out of the Holocaust Remembrance Day statement from the Administration, when the Holocaust’s main goal was to wipe out Jews? Of course, one could argue, as a friend of mine did, that Ivanka’s Twitter statement advocating the very weak word “tolerance” is itself a non-condemnation condemnation, sort of a second cousin to commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning Jews or anti-Semitism.
One might also, of course, ask, “Who cares what Ivanka posts/vaguebooks on Twitter about anti-Semitism or how oblique it is?” “Stop it with the Ivanka obsession already!” And I get that point too. She’s not the President, even if she may have sat at the Oval Office desk for a photo op. She’s one of the First Daughters, she’s a grown adult, and she has no formal obligation to make any kind of statement condemning anti-Semitism (with or without the words “Jew” or “anti-Semitism”). So why bother to work ourselves up into a lather about something so comparatively tepid and meaningless?
Why indeed? Let’s put the political aside and focus on the personal. For me, it’s because I want to live in an America where I can self-identify as a Jew without fear of repercussions. I want to live in an America where people see how much fun my family is having making Purim baskets and then goes and Googles “mishloach manot.” For me, Judaism is a source of pride and joy just like it’s a source of pride and joy to be an American.
So at its root, here is my issue: If Ivanka Trump, daughter of the President, can’t seem to be comfortable—for whatever reason—being completely “out” as a Jew in 2017 America, then how can any of us, from any minority group, especially the more vulnerable ones?
I am vocal about my Jewish identity because I believe in Judaism and I believe in America. I will condemn anti-Semitism loudly and repeatedly—not only because it is hateful, but also because it is personal. I won’t hide the fact that I’m a Jew, because I want to live in an America where we all feel unafraid to be whoever we are. And regardless of politics, I would hope that Ivanka wants that too.