The Jewish relatives of Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, have criticized him over an op-ed he wrote this week for his Observer newspaper, in which he cited his family's Holocaust experience as an expansion of a statement he had issued in response to an open letter by an Observer writer criticizing him for staying silent about a Trump campaign tweet that was widely accused of being anti-Semitic.
The controversy began with a tweet from the Trump campaign on Saturday showing an image of Trump’s presumed Democratic opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton, against a background of dollar bills behind her and the words “most corrupt candidate ever” interposed inside a red six-pointed star that many critics claim represents the Jewish Star of David as well as the classic anti-Semitic association between Jews and money. Trump, however, has insisted the star represents a sheriff's badge. The tweet was deleted a few hours after it was posted, and the same image was reposted with a red circle instead of a star.
Dana Schwartz, an Observer writer, then wrote an editorial titled “An Open Letter to Jared Kushner, From One of Your Jewish Employees,” in which she criticized the original tweet and Kushner’s silence about it, noting that she received a barrage of anti-Semitic abuse on social media for criticizing the tweet, several examples of which she included as screenshots with her letter. Kushner, whose wife and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump converted to Orthodox Judaism before her marriage, owns the Observer.
“When you stand silent and smiling in the background, his Jewish son-in-law, you’re giving his most hateful supporters tacit approval. Because maybe Donald Trump isn’t anti-Semitic. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think he is. But I know many of his supporters are, and they believe for whatever reason that Trump is the candidate for them,” Schwartz wrote.
Kushner initially responded with a statement that his father-in-law “does not at all subscribe to any racist or anti-Semitic thinking.” On Thursday, Kushner published his own op-ed titled “Jared Kushner: The Donald Trump I Know,” in which he cited his family’s experience during the Holocaust and his Jewish background as foundations that make him capable of differentiating between legitimate anti-Semitism and the criticism levied against Donald Trump. He described that criticism as “a standard to which no other candidate is ever held.”
“In my opinion, accusations like 'racist' and 'anti-Semite' are being thrown around with a carelessness that risks rendering these words meaningless,” Kushner wrote.
Here are other passages from Kushner's op-ed:
“If even the slightest infraction against what the speech police have deemed correct speech is instantly shouted down with taunts of “racist” then what is left to condemn the actual racists? What do we call the people who won’t hire minorities or beat others up for their religion?
Kushner recounted how “on December 7, 1941—Pearl Harbor Day—the Nazis surrounded the ghetto of Novogroduk, and sorted the residents into two lines: those selected to die were put on the right; those who would live were put on the left.”
“My grandmother’s sister, Esther, raced into a building to hide. A boy who had seen her running dragged her out and she was one of about 5,100 Jews to be killed during this first slaughter of the Jews in Novogrudok. On the night before Rosh Hashana 1943, the 250 Jews who remained of the town’s 20,000 plotted an escape through a tunnel they had painstakingly dug beneath the fence. The searchlights were disabled and the Jews removed nails from the metal roof so that it would rattle in the wind and hopefully mask the sounds of the escaping prisoners.
“My grandmother and her sister didn’t want to leave their father behind. They went to the back of the line to be near him. When the first Jews emerged from the tunnel, the Nazis were waiting for them and began shooting. My grandmother’s brother Chanon, for whom my father is named, was killed along with about 50 others. My grandmother made it to the woods, where she joined the Bielski Brigade of partisan resistance fighters. There she met my grandfather, who had escaped from a labor camp called Voritz. He had lived in a hole in the woods—a literal hole that he had dug—for three years, foraging for food, staying out of sight and sleeping in that hole for the duration of the brutal Russian winter.
“I go into these details, which I have never discussed, because it’s important to me that people understand where I’m coming from when I report that I know the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points,” he explained, adding that unlike those who criticize his father-in-law, he actually knows the man and knows that he is not anti-Semitic.
“There’s real racism in the world. There’s real anti-Semitism in the world. These are pernicious, dispiriting truths. Some of the tweets that Ms. Schwartz has received, depicting her being thrown into an oven, for example, are beyond disgusting. I am appalled that anyone, let alone someone who works for me, would have to endure that kind of hateful rhetoric. But blaming Donald Trump for the most outrageous things done by people who claim to support him is no different from blaming Bernie Sanders for the people who stomp and spit on American flags at his rallies.
“America faces serious challenges. A broken economy, terrorism, gaping trade deficits and an overall lack of confidence. Intolerance should be added to that list. I’m confident that my father in law, with his outstanding record of real results, will be successful tackling these challenges. That’s why I support him.”
Following the publication of his op-ed, several members of Kushner’s family, from whom he is estranged over his father’s incarceration 10 years ago, have voiced criticism against the newspaper owner.
“I have a different takeaway from my Grandparents' experience in the war,” Marc Kushner, a New York City-based architect and first cousin, wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday morning. “It is our responsibility as the next generation to speak up against hate. Antisemitism or otherwise.”
“When an out of touch with reality nominee hires an out of touch with reality campaign manager, who is also a son-in-law, you get the BS Jared wrote. I don't think Trump is an antiSemite; I think he's a lying idiot (among other things) with little to no experiences outside his teetering fiefdom of failed development projects, divorces, bankrupted sports leagues, fraudulent 'Universities' and golf courses (and the list keeps going)...That my grandparents have been dragged into this is a shame,” wrote another cousin, Jacob Schulder, in a comment on Marc Kushner’s post.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has defended the tweet that started it all by saying his staff should not have deleted the original version of the tweet, and by tweeting an image of a book for the Disney movie “Frozen” featuring a similar red six-pointed star.
“Where is the outrage for this Disney book? Is this the 'Star of David' also? Dishonest media! #Frozen,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.