This May Be the Real Reason Ivanka Trump Converted to Judaism
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner may have been named the “ultimate Jewish power couple,” but that hasn’t always been the case. When Trump and Kushner started dating in 2005, she was a member of the Presbyterian church. However, Trump made the switch to Judaism in 2009. Why the drastic change in religious beliefs?
Let’s take a closer look at Trump and Kushner’s relationship and why she converted to Judaism, as well as why they might not always follow all of the strict dietary laws (No. 9).
1. The power couple broke up briefly over religion
Trump and Kushner may have started dating in 2005, but their relationship ended briefly in 2008 over their religious differences. Kushner grew up as a Modern Orthodox. And as their relationship became more serious, their differences in religious beliefs became more apparent.
Next: This was the “lingering issue” in their relationship.
2. Kushner was expected to marry a Jewish woman
Kushner followed Jewish tradition throughout his life, such as keeping Kosher and observing Shabbos. His parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, expected him to continue their religious traditions in marrying a woman with the same faith.
“The lingering issue was religion,” according to The New Yorker. “The Kushners hoped that Jared would marry a Jewish woman … Donald Trump is Presbyterian, and Ivanka — who in the documentary Born Rich appears wearing a necklace with a silver cross — was not what they’d had in mind.”
Next: This is why she switched to Judaism.
3. Trump switched to Judaism for love
Trump and Kushner realized from their breakup that they just couldn’t stay apart. Trump made the decision to change the one thing standing in their way: her religion. She converted from Presbyterian to Jewish, and the two wed in a Jewish ceremony on Oct. 5, 2009 (after Kushner proposed with a 5.22 carat diamond ring).
Next: The conversion wasn’t easy for her.
4. Converting to Judaism required hard work
Converting to Judaism isn’t an easy task, but Trump put in the work necessary to ultimately marry Kushner. According to The Times of Israel, “She went through a rigorous conversion process under the tutelage of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein at the Upper East Side’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun.”
My Jewish Learning describes converting to Jewish faith as “[penetrating] a person’s innermost character and spiritual being, demanding an examination of self and other that may culminate in the adoption of a new identity.”
Next: Here’s how she feels about it now.
5. Trump calls it a ‘great life decision’
In February 2015, Trump told Vogue she is still happy with her conversion to Judaism. “It’s been such a great life decision for me,” she explained. “I am very modern, but I’m also a very traditional person, and I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition in how I was raised as well. I really find that with Judaism, it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity.”
Next: Here’s how their religion is present in their daily lives.
6. They’re passing down traditions to their children
Since getting married, Trump and Kushner have become parents to Arabella, Joseph, and Theodore. While keeping Kosher and observing the Sabbath, Trump and Kushner have been passing down traditions of Orthodox Judaism to their children.
“We don’t do anything but hang out with one another. We don’t make phone calls,” she confessed. “It’s an amazing thing when you’re so connected to really sign off. And for Arabella to know that she has me, undivided, one day a week? We don’t do anything except play with each other, hang out with one another, go on walks together. Pure family.”
Next: This is what Kushner has to say about it.
7. Kushner praises Trump for embracing new rituals
Kushner is clearly appreciative of Trump’s willingness to embrace her new rituals. “Ivanka’s such a type A. She just gets it done,” he bragged.
“But she said, ‘If we’re going to do Shabbos, I’m going to cook,'” Kushner continued. “She never cooked before in her life, and became a great cook. So for Friday, she’ll make dinner for just the two of us, and we turn our phones off for 25 hours. Putting aside the religious aspect of it; we live in such a fast-paced world.”
Next: Does Trump follow all of these dietary laws?
8. Jewish dietary laws include strict rules about animal products
As The Spruce explains, the laws of kashrut, also called Jewish dietary laws, form the basis for kosher observance. These laws explain the rules for choosing kosher animal products. Those who observe kosher have to avoid eating certain animals, including pigs, shellfish, rabbits, and reptiles. However, they can eat mammals that have split hooves and chew their cud. These animals — such as cows, sheep, goats, bison, and deer — count as kosher.
If kosher-observant Jews want to eat fish, they have to choose fish with fins and removable scales. Most birds of prey don’t count as kosher. And while milk and eggs from kosher animals are also kosher, eggs can’t contain blood. (Blood isn’t kosher.) To count as kosher, all animals must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law. Plus, all blood has to be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it’s eaten.
Next: Ivanka and Kushner probably don’t obey all of the dietary laws given their location.
9. There are few kosher restaurants near the couple’s home in Washington, D.C.
As The Spruce notes, some kashrut purists argue that “Jews who keep a totally kosher home yet eat in non-kosher restaurants don’t really keep kosher.” But Trump and Kushner may not have much of a choice. As The Washingtonian explains, the couple has “extremely limited” options for kosher restaurants in D.C.
The publication adds that based on their dining habits, “it’s safe to say that the couple isn’t strictly observant.” Interestingly enough, people who are “very strict kosher” usually don’t eat in restaurants that aren’t certified kosher. But some eat “kosher-style” at restaurants, which often means that they don’t eat meat when they dine out. Based on her comments to Vogue, Trump and Kushner seem to take the route of avoiding meat at restaurants.
Next: Is Ivanka Trump the most powerful Jewish woman in America?
10. Ivanka Trump is the most powerful Jewish woman in America
CNN has characterized the first daughter as “America’s most powerful Jewish woman.” (Newsweek takes it a step further, declaring the first daughter “the world’s most influential Jew.”) CNN notes that Ivanka Trump plays a unique role “in an administration that has faced criticism for not confronting anti-Semitism.”
As CNN noted mid-2017, “One question looming over Ivanka is how — or whether — she will use her status at the top of the new Washington to guide a national conversation about the rising number of threats to Jewish community centers and places of worship.” Many Americans still hope for an answer.
Next: She hasn’t claimed to strictly follow these rules.
11. But she hasn’t claimed to strictly observe halachah
Trump and Kushner do keep kosher. But Forward notes that they’ve never claimed to strictly observe halachah. (This body of Jewish laws and practices affects every aspect of one’s life, not just what one eats.) That could explain why the couple occasionally breaks with religious tradition to play golf or to travel on the Sabbath.
According to Forward, “Among Jews who identify with Orthodoxy and belong to Orthodox synagogues, they are far from alone.” The publication explains that a broad spectrum of observance exists among the country’s half-million Orthodox Jews. Unsurprisingly, some observe the laws more stringently than others. But as Forward explains, even by keeping kosher, “Jared and Ivanka undoubtedly adhere more to traditional Jewish customs than most American Jews.”
Next: We should all keep this in mind about her religion.
12. And Ivanka Trump doesn’t have to open up about her religion to anyone
CNN notes that under the intense scrutiny that comes with being the daughter of Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump seems to want her faith to remain private. Many of us find it interesting to learn about the rules that she and her family likely observe. And we all get curious about what, exactly, goes on in her household. But we should all remember that she can choose to keep that aspect of her life private.
As one rabbi writes for the Orthodox Union, “It’s none of our business” how closely Trump and Kushner follow the letter of Jewish laws. The upshot? Some people find it interesting to gossip about where Trump breaks from the rules of a kosher lifestyle. Others criticize her for not following every rule to the letter. But she’s not obligated to be perfect, even though she lives her life in the public eye.
Additional reporting by Jess Bolluyt.
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