When I first learned that CNN dubbed Ivanka Trump the most powerful Jewish woman in America, I didn’t exactly kvell. Not to kvetch or anything, but actually I felt a little shpilkes. CNN has a lot of chutzpah.
The “powerful” part was annoying enough. Power is a difficult thing to measure in a world where fame and material wealth are often substitutes for intelligence and ability. But off the top of my noggin, the Jewish women who sit on the Supreme Court, head up the Federal Reserve, and run Facebook are bigger machers. Throw in a few prominent Hollywood Yiddish maidels—Natalie Portman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman—and I doubt Ivanka realistically cracks the top ten.
But the “Jewish” part gave me a lot more shpilkes. Yeah, yeah, I know they bust your kishkes in conversion class. Ivanka probably took a mikvah bath or two between spas and rubdowns at Mar-a-Lago. By now she probably knows a kosher animal has to have a split hoof. But can she make a brisket? I mean one to die for.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t kick Ivanka out of shul. Anyone with a cute goyish punim like that is welcome in my temple anytime. I respect her willingness to study Torah and acknowledge, as the Shema says, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Besides, we need the parking lot repaved.
The problem here is the combination of “powerful” and “Jewish.” Novice Jews are great for Hadassah fundraising drives, but when it comes to these top ten or top whatever gigs, they’re just not list-worthy. It’s like when you’re fifteen-sixteenths Swedish and one sixteenth West African and join the Nigerian Olympic bobsled team. I mean, come on, give me a break. Do I look like a schmuck?
Maybe it’s me, but being Jewish all these years nearly killed me. I don’t want to give away a privilege like that to just anyone. Let me ask you something, Bubbeleh. Did you endure two decades of bottomless guilt for not becoming a neurosurgeon? Were you ever hugged so tight by your Great Aunt Rivka that you were effectively waterboarded by her left bosom and came up smelling like gefilte fish?
How many warm sunny late afternoons in April did you watch from a window as your best friends played sandlot baseball across the street while you took your bar mitzvah lessons? How many times exactly, Bubbeleh, did you have your lunch stolen and get it back only on the solemn promise that you let a pair of obese blond eighth graders cheat off you on the algebra exam? There is a reason the word “dues” rhymes with “Jews.”
But that was me when I first heard about Ivanka’s latest accomplishment. Giving nice shiksas like you a hard time is my shtick, and maybe I was just being a putz. The real mensch in me knows the biblical writings are replete with examples of Jewish women inhabiting the halls of gentile power. To save her husband’s life, Abraham’s wife Sarah pretended to be his sister and was taken into the Egyptian Pharoh’s court. A bunch of generations later, Yocheved, the mother of baby Moses, posed as the boy’s nursemaid to ensure his wellbeing as the Pharoh’s adopted son. Perhaps most famously, many generations later, Esther won the heart of Persian King Achashverosh and neglected to mention she was Jewish. That is, until the moment she needed to in order to save the entire Jewish people.
And that’s where you come in, Bubbeleh. The only thing perhaps more important than saving the Jewish people is saving the entire world. And as the only nice Jewish girl in the West Wing, this is your job. Not the makeup dreck and the designer shmatas. Feh! You’re practically First Lady, darling, so don’t make excuses!
March into the Oval Office and tell your father affordable student loans are the future of this nation. Tell him affordable health care means everyone, not just those who maybe had it before the Affordable Care Act. Tell your father public education has been not only the stepping stone for ambitious children of lesser means for five generations but the single most critical ingredient for that melting pot we call the United States. Tell him not to cut Meals on Wheels.
Tell Daddy-O clean air and clean water are worth infinitely more than another aircraft carrier. Tell him real Muslims refer to you and your husband as “People of the Book” and pray for peace every day. Tell Pa Mexican immigrants are on average more law abiding than native born American citizens. Tell Poppy to release his tax returns. All of them. The long forms. Tell him to cooperate to the very limits of his ability with Robert Mueller for the good of the country. Tell him to stop tweeting and get some REM sleep. Tell him to get his ass back into the Paris Agreement today. Yada, yada, yada.
What’s that, Bubbeleh? You already have marched into the Oval Office and told your father every one of those things and he hasn’t listened? But you’re not taking no for an answer? You’re going to nag and nag and nag until you finally get your way?
I take back all the other things I said. You really are Jewish.
Rich Herschlag is well into his third decade as an author, consulting engineer, husband and father and is very tired.