Friday, March 10, 2017

Why It’s Just Fine to ‘Frum Shame’ Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

As we all know by now, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump got special rabbinic dispensation to ride in a car on Shabbat for daddy Donald’s inauguration. This led to a collective Jewish (and general!) eye-roll, but also to demands that we respect the young couple’s religiosity and let them be. Jessica Levine Kupferberg and Andrew Silow-Carroll both made versions of the case that the self-appointed guardians of Shabbat observance should mind their own beeswax Shabbat candles, as it were.

The ‘don’t frum-shame Jared and Ivanka’ take is… well, it’s like ‘don’t kink-shame Donald Trump’ (re: pee-gate) or the ongoing take that it’s mean-spirited and unfair to looks-shame the now-president. Yes, under normal circumstances, you should be respectful of private bedroom activities, and, heck, of the choice to sport orange foundation and an elaborate combover. But just as religious restrictions (such as those about driving on Shabbat) can be broken under special circumstances, so too can etiquette rules along these lines.

Why? Because it’s clear that the Trump looks-shame isn’t about, say, making everyone with small hands feel bad about this, but to get at what would annoy him. So, too, in a way, with the frum-shaming of Jared and Ivanka. It’s not that I’d expect them to be touchy about it, like Donald about his hands. Rather, it’s that the Trumps have invested a lot politically in the image of the couple as a good Jewish family. This fact is used to rebuff the rather heavily substantiated claim that Trump’s rise brought with it a new, right-wing American anti-Semitism. It’s also used, more generically, to suggest that the Trump brand stands for good family values, and not, say, trading a string of wives in for younger models.

So consider this your dispensation: You are totally allowed to frum-shame Jared and Ivanka. You get to do so even if you yourself aren’t pious (am I? is TMZ?), and you can rest easy that you are not, in frum-shaming that particular couple, in some way invading the religious privacy of all observant Jews, or of all converts to Judaism.

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