Jews in the White House

Get ready for even more Jewish spouses, grandchildren and appointed officials in the next US administration

Jews in the White House
EPA/ERIK LESSER

Jews make up just about 2% of America’s population, and yet their place in the White House is substantial and growing.

President Trump boasted a Jewish son-in-law, and when his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism it meant that his grandchildren are now, according to Jewish laws, Jewish as well.

All three of Joe and Jill Biden’s kids grew up staunch Catholics, but married Jews. The baby grandson Biden held in his arms after his victory speech last week is Jewish according to Halacha, or Jewish Law. The Biden grandchildren from their late son Beau are also Jewish by birth.

Hunter Biden married Jewish filmmaker Melissa Cohen and marked the occasion by getting a tattoo just like the one Melissa has with the word ‘Shalom’ in Hebrew letters.

Daughter Ashley married Howard Krein, a doctor and professor from New Jersey. During their 2016 wedding, then-Vice President Biden danced the hora and famously said, “I’m the only Irish Catholic you know who had his dream met because his daughter married a Jewish surgeon.”

In addition to Biden’s Jewish in-laws and grandchildren, his pick for vice president, Kamala Harris, is also married to a Jewish man, Doug Emhoff. This will make him the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president.

 

It’s not all in the family

It now appears that American Jews will also be appointed to some of the most senior positions in the next White House administration.

Ron Klain has been tapped to serve as Biden’s chief of staff, a role he served in for Vice President Biden in Barack Obama’s administration. Klain also served as Al Gore’s chief of staff while he was vice president to Bill Clinton. Klain, considered a top Jewish lawyer, was born to two Jewish parents, Stanley Klain and Sarann Horwitz.

Likewise, according to reports, Biden is expected to appoint Tony Blinken to a key foreign policy position. Blinken was born to Jewish parents, Judith and Donald M. Blinken, and his stepfather, attorney Samuel Pisar, is a Jewish survivor of both the Auschwitz and Dachau camps in the Holocaust. If Blinken is appointed either as National Security Advisor or Secretary of State, he would become the top US diplomat.

It is too soon to tell how their Jewish heritage might impact the way these potential appointees will deal with Israel in their future positions. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s senior advisor, unashamedly championed a pro-Israel platform, which is rare. Many American Jews are overly cautious of appearing too pro-Israel for fear of antisemitic backlash. Some Jewish diplomats have even taken a hard pro-Palestinian position just to try and prove that they are fair negotiators who do not allow their Jewish heritage to unduly influence policy. While this might seem “fair,” ironically, by trying so hard not to allow their Jewishness to affect their policy, it ends up driving them to unfair, anti-Israel policy.

While it is difficult to predict how Biden’s choices will influence the Middle East, and in particular the peace agreements promoted by Trump’s policies, Blinken has suggested that he would be in favor of reinstating the Iran nuclear deal, after criticizing Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement without replacement. He said that having “no deal” risked putting Israel “first in the line of fire.”

Whoever the Biden administration appoints to key positions come January, Jews and Jewish values will certainly have an impact on life and policy in the White House over the next four years.

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