Riding to the Inauguration Ball on Shabbat

Jan. 27 2017

Last Friday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump—both observant Jews—rode in a limousine to the inaugural ball after the commencement of the Sabbath, having reportedly received permission from a rabbi on the grounds that walking to the ball would pose a substantial security risk. Their decision naturally prompted much discussion in the Jewish community. Jack Abramowitz, noting that Kushner is an adviser to the president and not a candidate for chief rabbi, weighs in:

Unsurprisingly, the degree to which this decision was accepted or condemned by the Jewish public strongly correlated with one’s personal politics. I would like to take a different approach: it’s none of our business. . . .

The Trump-Kushners did the right thing: they asked a rabbi. Even if the decision was wrong (and I don’t know that it was), the onus isn’t on them. When you ask your rabbi a question, you don’t expect it to appear in the synagogue bulletin for other congregants’ consideration. This should be no different.

We take pride when observant Jews are in positions of prominence but then we nitpick their behavior. It’s great to see that Sabbath-observant Jews can accomplish pretty much anything in today’s society—something our ancestors never would have believed—but just because someone is Sabbath-observant, that doesn’t make him a religious authority . . .

There is the obvious objection that Jews who do questionable things in public [are seen in rabbinic tradition as] desecrating God’s name. To that, I say yes and no. . . . Bernie Madoff, who bilked millions with a giant Ponzi scheme, desecrated God’s name. But when it comes to religious duties, nobody knows the intricacies of Jewish law as well as we do. If we can’t agree on Ivanka’s ride, do you really think Joe Public knows or cares? In such cases, I think the desecration happens when we [start] attacking these celebrities in public.

Read more at Orthodox Union

More about: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, Shabbat


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount