Dear Mr. Kushner … a Letter from the Other Side


I am not the obvious person to write a letter to you. We are different from each other in so many ways. You work for a Republican administration, and I am a life-long Democrat. Your family is from Belarus and Poland; mine is from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Our visions and hopes for Israel are different in many ways as well.

At the same time, there are more than a few things that we have in common. Many of our closest relatives were murdered by Nazis. We are both fervent lovers of Israel. We are both patriotic Americans.

Because we share so much, I’m less daunted by the notion of addressing the senior White House adviser who is also the son-in-law of the president of the United States. And maybe that’s why I feel more of a responsibility to be direct with you, in a respectful manner.

As children, we learned how to conduct ourselves in a way that was sensible and sage. We practiced Halachah, the way of discipline and devotion that has been passed down for 2,000 years. Because you were raised in this tradition, you have a unique way of seeing and experiencing the world. And for the same reason, you are unique within the circle of the president’s closest advisors.

Halachic Jews tend to characterize themselves as “more halachic” or “less halachic.” My great fear is that your father-in-law’s administration is not only less halachic, it is being steered away from a halachic way of discipline and devotion altogether.

Your fellow presidential adviser, Steven K. Bannon, is the primary driver of this disruptive approach to the way in which government relates to our country and its citizenry. He wants an administration that is in a battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

There is one person who, at this critical juncture, can restore equilibrium to the most important governmental entity in the world, the Office of the President of the United States. You are that person.

We are at a precarious point in American and Jewish history. A point at which one man — Bannon — is using his relationship and influence over the American president to “bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Mr. Kushner, perhaps you have reached a position of great influence — to paraphrase the Book of Esther — for such a time as this. For the sake of the United States, the Jewish people and the State of Israel, I hope you have.

Jonathan Jacoby was the founding director of the New Israel Fund and a former president of the Israel Policy Forum. He now serves as a consultant for Jewish groups.


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