Jared Kushner is under the media microscope these days, but last week the criticism went beyond taking him to task as an individual for one action — hosting members of the Trump administration for Shabbat dinner. Instead, the entire modern Orthodox community was rebuked for having “raised” Kushner.
In a column in the Forward, Peter Beinart asserted that Jared Kushner’s failure to speak out against President Trump’s immigration ban is a failure of the community as a whole. Beinart goes so far as to say, “Every synagogue where Kushner prayed regularly should ask itself whether it bears some of the blame for having failed to instill in him the obligations of Jewish memory.”
While being silent on the role of Jewish ritual, Beinart clearly embraced principles of Jewish justice. His contention that Trump’s policy announcement on immigration lacked the proper balance between our moral imperative to support those in need and our need for security is well-founded. However, in his far-reaching criticism of Kushner and the Jewish community, he appeared to be selective in which principles require strict adherence.
In discussing Kushner’s delicate and complicated role, I believe it is necessary to re-introduce some cardinal principles of Jewish justice.
And you will search and investigate carefully before rushing to judgment.
Kushner was not accused previously for having drafted or supported the immigration rules. Indeed, it is not clear who within the Trump administration knew or approved of these rules, and at what points in time. Should Kushner, on little notice, and without a chance to investigate the answer to these questions, have withdrawn the invitation to dinner? Perhaps debating the issue and determining that such serious errors were made might be considered an alternative approach? Must we rush to criticize Kushner for not canceling dinner before we really know the answers to these questions?
Each man will die from his own sins.
Beinart attached guilt to Kushner’s schools, synagogues, and community for his actions. Even if you agree that Kushner acted improperly, no evidence was provided showing that these groups actually promulgated the world view Beinart opposes. It is simply Kushner’s actions that prompt a priori assumption of guilt on the part of these institutions. Should everyone at Harvard be criticized because some students and graduates occasionally have committed crimes or become racists? Should no one read the New York Times because some of its writers have fabricated stories?
You shall judge the large and the small the same.
It is hard to know how Jared Kushner should best approach the excesses of his father-in-law’s administration. Would resigning be the best approach? Public criticism? Or working within the system to do the best he can behind the scenes to moderate those policies that seem ill advised? Jewish Democrats, when disagreeing with the Obama administration’s policy on Israel, often were faced with a similar dilemma. In most cases, prominent Democrats, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, chose not to disagree publicly with the Obama administration but rather to work behind the scenes to influence policy. Perhaps that was Kushner’s legitimate choice.
I firmly disagree with Mr. Trump’s immigration policy. I also find his style uncomfortable. However, there are other aspects of his policies with which I do agree. Supporting or opposing a politician in the United States is a complicated issue. We never agree with every position that a party or individual takes. However, rushing to judgment in the absence of all relevant facts, condemning hundreds of thousands of individuals for the actions of one, failing to consider what might be a justifiable reason for actions, violates two of the most essential principles of Jewish justice: Judge your brother with the benefit of the doubt and do not judge your friend until you are standing in his place.
Dr. Alan Kadish of Teaneck is the president of the Touro College and University System.