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.