Throughout American history, there have been Jews who have held important positions in the White House as advisers to various presidents. And there have been family members of sitting presidents — wives and brothers, in particular — who have wielded enormous political power from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But never has there been the combination reflected in the appointment — should it come to pass — of Jared Kushner as senior adviser to his father-in-law, Donald Trump. The combination of pure political authority and airtight family bonds residing at the most powerful address in the world means that Kushner, who turned 36 years old yesterday, could represent a level of Jewish influence that is historically unprecedented.
Whatever we think of him or the man at whose pleasure he serves, Kushner will be redrawing the image of the quintessential American Jew — ironically, since, as a super-wealthy, Modern Orthodox, politically conservative (especially on Israel) man, he reflects the tiniest sliver of 21st-century Jewry. That won’t matter, not to those who look at him in admiration, believing there are more of him than there are, or to those who see in him the embodiment of the scheming, clannish, all-powerful Jew of centuries-old stereotypes.
He will not be the first Jewish president. But he will be the first Jew to come so close, and at such a young age, with no civic or governmental experience — and with enviable job security.