Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · news · Rabbi Haskel Lookstein

Great article.

A great article on convert Ivanka Trump in New York Magazine, “Why Won’t Ivanka Just Let Herself Be a Trump?”, never mentions her much talked about conversion. Thank G-d.

It seems when people in the Orthodox community talk about Ivanka, all they can talk about is her conversion. And mostly, the stuff I hear is pretty awful.

Some converts fear that her conversion paints all converts in a bad light. These converts can’t stop talking about what Ivanka is or isn’t wearing, what Ivanka is or isn’t doing.

Others are using Ivanka’s conversion to question all of conversions of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the rabbi who converted Ivanka and myself (among hundreds, I’m sure thousands, of others).

I know someone who recently confessed to me and my husband that they had called other prominent rabbis to find out if Ivanka Trump’s conversion (and all of Rabbi Lookstein’s conversions, including, duh, mine) were “kosher.” I was disgusted. Unless Ivanka Trump is marrying your son, you have no business question her conversion. Period.

Here’s what I know about Ivanka Trump’s Orthodox conversion. Ivanka Trump’s only crime is converting at a time when there is an incredible backlash against Orthodox converts, Modern Orthodox rabbis and others in the Orthodox community. Because of this backlash, her actions will be under a harsh spotlight no matter what she does. Because she is Ivanka Trump. Because she is Modern Orthodox. Because she is a convert.

What you’re hearing about Ivanka Trump’s conversion is what you would hear about any convert in backrooms. This recent backlash has only made certain people more comfortable puffing up their chests and questioning all converts, including Ivanka, out loud. For years to come, I fear, Orthodox converts will not be treated as fully fledged Jews as certain Jews in the community wage a “Who is a rabbi?” war and use converts as pawns. To win this war, certain Jews have sown seeds of doubt so deep that all converts will be subject to the microscope for years to come.

When I heard Ivanka Trump had completed her conversion, I wished her a “Mazel Tov” and I said a prayer. For her, for myself, for all converts. That we do not continually come under fire because of a growing schism in the Orthodox Jewish community. And that we are allowed to lead our Jewish lives in peace without the glaring eye of those who do not wish us, or any converts, well.

14 thoughts on “Great article.

  1. You are not a convert, you are a Jew. Ivanka Trump is a Jew. The Talmud tells us to always judge favorably. In the Masechet Gerim it says a conversion is invalid only if the person, at the time of their Orthodox mikvah, did not fully intend to keep the 613 mitzvot. If they fully intended to and one week later decided against keeping kosher or saying the Shema or whatever it may be, they're still Jewish. All of these people hiding their prejudices and insecurities behind what they're pretending is Judaism are wrong.

    Have a good week.
    -Chanah

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  2. hi, so I have a question, and its totally coming from ignorance rather than judgement as I honestly know nothing about conversions or what is involved. I have heard that the only real issue with ivanka, or anyones conversion is when they are driven by a marriage. Like if someone became interested in Judaism because they fell in love with someone who's mother wouldn't approve of the marriage without a conversion. I have read nothing about ivanka trump, know nothing about her (aside from her inheritance), her spirituality or her relationship, but is that a legit issue?

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  3. @ beverly

    i converted, and it was not for marriage. to be honest i have lost many new found friends because i converted and ended up falling for someone who did not share my faith.

    They criticized me when i was converting, thinking it was for marriage, and in the same tone criticized me for falling in love with a non-jew.

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  4. Beverly that is a fair question and I'm sure someone else will give you a better answer.

    My experience has been that many non-Jewish woman become interested in converting when they are dating Jewish men. This isn't simply for marriage (though that's often a plus when dealing with Jewish in-laws) but out of genuine interest in the religion and raising their children with the tradition. In many cases, these women drag their significant others back to Judaism kicking and screaming. I've seen Jewish men leave their non-Jewish girlfriends once their girlfriends became “too interested” in Judaism. I'm seen the same girls complain that while they are committed to making the lifestyle changes required, their spouses aren't.

    In cases, like mine, sometimes the prospective convert meets someone when they're already in the process. But people are so used to assuming that non-Jewish women are converting “for marriage” that they won't even ask why a woman is converting anymore if she's in a relationship with someone. The most common question a female convert, single or not, is asked when she says she's converting is, “So you're marrying a Jew?” In general, when people can, they will assume the worst about people.

    Indeed, a person is supposed to and should convert because of a genuine interest in the religion, not for the sake of marriage. The process is quite rigorous and most rabbis can weed out any converts who are converting for the wrong reasons. But remember, rabbis aren't telepaths so someone could put one over on them and yet, this is not the norm. Many people in relationships with Jews show up on the rabbi's doorstep to learn about Judaism but can find the process too rigid and difficult to continue.

    Honestly, the convert in a relationship with a Jew has it much easier than the convert who doesn't. Converts generally don't have family they can go to for Jewish holidays or ask for help with lifecyle events. We depend on our friends and the community a lot. Because of my husband, I always have built-in plans for the holidays whereas many converts I know (esp. in the case of converts who marry other converts and don't have a good support system) are left scrambling in these situations. It's very hard. Very lonely.

    Ivanka has it hard because she is in the limelight and people are quick to judge “celebrities” and converts, especially those they presume are only “doing it for marriage,” harshly. But I hope that her future husband and in-laws are supportive of her decision to convert to Judaism because that will make all the difference providing her with a built-in support system that will hopefully shelter her from some of these catty, suspicious Jews and also motivate her to keep up this lifestyle in the face of obstacles I'm sure she will face in the workplace, among friends, etc.

    Unfortunately when Ivanka makes mistakes and every convert does, it will be on Page 6. Conversion doesn't end when you step out of the mikvah, it's a lifelong process and Ivanka has a long road ahead of her. Hopefully, as I said, she has a great support system. It is not easy to be Jewish without one.

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  5. As far as holidays and life cycle events, it's hard for baalei tshuva's similarly. While they aren't scrutinized as freely as to whether they are in fact Jewish, there is the same need for single BTs to find, or create thier own network. In general (and this is another rant for another forum) I find that marriage is one's social get of jail free card, for all frum people… no matter how unique or mainstream they are. Gross feelings of inadequacy abound for singles, but obviously with varying levels of supports in place depending on thier backgrounds.

    I guess the issue as you put it, is, how do you ever know what anyone's real motivation is. That goes for converts and those born from Jewish wombs alike. I care much more about the implications of some celebs spiritual endeavors for others associated with conversion than I am concerned for the celebrity. I think you have shed light on the fact that the “kosher question” is so hurtful, and dangerous, and ususally driven by ignorance, intolerance, boredom, elitism…and has no tachlis unless it has direct personal relevance. So, should I find myself at another Shabbos meal where Ivanka is brought up (which hasn't come up all that much and hopefully won't again) I will change my approach from silent and curious to pointing out the fact that it's loshon hara. Thanks.

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  6. Now, I know the whole purpose of this post was to tell everyone to cool it on talking about Ivanka Trump, but I can't help but be interested and a little astounded. I don't question Ivanka's motives at all. However, it's a little confusing for me because people have said many things regarding the difficulties of Orthodox conversion and the way in which many rabbis are tightening the standards. For example, people have told me I might not be able to be converted if I expressed some of my crazy ideas about women's role in Judaism, or if I held a boy's hand. So I see two different possibilities here…either there are different standards for the very rich, or the stringency of rabbis in regards to Orthodox converts has been over-exaggerated.

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  7. Naamah, I can see where the confusion comes from.

    Yes, there have been awful rumors in the past that the rich got it very easy. The worst I've heard is tales of rich synagogue members paying off rabbis to convert their non-Jewish daughter-in-laws. Who knows if this stuff is true or if it's just jealousy, among other things, on the part of other catty congregants?

    People, I've noticed, are quite jealous of the rich and think that their lives are much less complicated than the rest of ours. That's why we thrive on shows about the super rich suffering just like us.

    A great deal depends on the community and the rabbi but with the move to streamline things and make things more stringent as of late, if a lot of people get their way, no, you will not get to convert if you voice a lot of your thoughts about women's issues or hold a boy's hand (even if he's your brother).

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