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Trump’s Convention Rabbi

Haskel Lookstein—the Modern Orthodox rabbi who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism—will deliver an invocation at the Republican National Convention. Some of his students are not happy about it

Jesse Bernstein
July 14, 2016
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. YouTube
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. YouTube

Haskel Lookstein—the rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side since 1958, and longtime principal of Ramaz, a Modern Orthodox Day school near the synagogue—will deliver an invocation at the Republican National Convention next week. A petition is currently circulating online, which says that “to embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught.”

As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the Modern Orthodox community, this is a shanda beyond the pale.

Trump’s re-tweeting of anti-Semitic and white nationalist imagery is not an accident; it’s a dog whistle. So too is his refusal to attend the NAACP convention—something every other Republican candidate in recent years has managed to do. Trump’s callous attacks on our fellow citizens, embrace of violent rhetoric, his encouragement to supporters to beat up protesters—all these should be red flags, chillul hashems in their own right. But somehow, Rabbi Lookstein, none of this has deterred you from speaking in Cleveland.

…My kingdom for a Kushner, indeed.

(Much of what is mentioned in the above paragraph can be found here, on Tablet’s Trump Watch series.)

Lookstein counts Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner among his congregants; he oversaw Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism in 2008. (The legitimacy of Haskel’s authority to perform conversions was called into question by an Israeli rabbinical council over to a separate conversion, but this was slammed by the Jewish Agency, among others, reported The New York Times.)

Lookstein joins a speakers list that includes Trump’s confirmed running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, Peter Thiel, and Tim Tebow, among others.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article did not properly clarify a reported decision by the Israeli rabbinate, which does not reportedly recognize conversions administered by Rabbi Haskel.

Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.