Those two words were among the most famous uttered by President George H.W Bush, a man known for many things, but being articulate or eloquent not being among them.
And yet the power of those words during his inaugural address when he said he wanted “to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world” were incredibly powerful then and even more powerful now, considering what we are living through. Though, truth be told, the idea of being kind is one of the most powerful, most important ideas throughout all of human history.
And especially Jewish history. A famous rabbi once said that the whole purpose of the Torah, our most sacred book, is to teach a person to be kind. Kindness is the very essence of the Torah, the very heart of Judaism.
As regular readers know, I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason and happens exactly when it does for a reason. Now you might dismiss that, not believe or agree with that and that’s okay. You don’t have to agree with me that the deaths of John McCain and George Herbert Walker Bush happened when they did because they were meant to send us a message. You can still learn from their deaths and what meaning it should give to our lives even if you don’t believe in divine timing.
John McCain and George H.W. Bush were not only two of the bravest men of the last century, both war heroes, both dedicating their entire lives to the service of others and to causes greater than themselves, but they were also two of the most incredibly kind people of the last century.
At the funerals of both, you heard much about their kindness, about how much they cared for other people, did for other people, reached out to other people, how very decent they were to other people.
That, more than their war records or political achievements, is what stood out to those who knew them, what was spoken about most at their funerals. I hope we were listening.
We are living in an incredibly unkind and ungentle time. The world around us has become coarser and meaner, people less and less able to relate to other people, let alone be nice to them, as they more and more relate only to the devices in their hands and so lose the ability to care about and be kind to others.
And for Jews, while you can totally love the policies of Trump and Netanyahu, be ecstatic that Trump moved the embassy and killed the Iran deal, be thrilled that Netanyahu is the prime minister who talks tough and avoids any whiff of making a peace deal, you would have to admit they are not exactly kind, gentle people.
Consider this fact. When Bush was president and went to meet the pope, he made sure that all the Secret Service agents assigned to his detail for that were Catholics. He knew it would mean so much to them personally to be in the same room. By contrast, when Trump visited the pope, there was one member of his senior staff that was Catholic, Sean Spicer, and he had made it very clear how much he wanted to meet the pope. Trump purposely didn’t bring him. He did bring his two Orthodox Jewish kinderlach, Ivanka and Jared. More about Jared later in this column.
I don’t want to make this about politics. My point is simply that our leaders today might be many things but kind and gentle they are not. One day, let alone day after day after day of Trump’s tweets shows you how mean he is, how nasty, name calling everyone he doesn’t like, accusing everyone he doesn’t agree with of such ugly things. And if you think that doesn’t penetrate down to the rest of society, you are sadly and badly mistaken.
The world, including the Jewish world, is a far less kind and gentle place than it used to be. And that is the greatest danger we face. For kindness is truly what it’s all about, kindness makes such an enormous difference, kindness enriches our lives, fulfills our souls, feeds our humanity.
The last kindness of both John McCain and George H.W. Bush was to remind us of that, was to give us an example of how we should be, the difference being kind can make. We honor their memories and do ourselves and the world and Judaism a huge favor if each of us every day in some way in our lives try to be a little kinder and gentler.
Okay, now that I’ve said that, I am afraid I am not going to be very kind to one Jared Kushner. I want to be kind, I try to be kind, I try to do so especially to each and every Jew, but I am at my breaking point with Jared, who is truly one of the worst Jews on the face of the earth.
I could write a hundred columns on why that is, but I will try to keep it short so I can get back to being kind. What set me off were three things this week all of which yet again clearly showed his incredible incompetence, gullibility, sense of entitlement and self-delusion.
First came word that he and Ivanka were behind the ousting of White House chief of staff John Kelly. John Kelly served his country for decades as a soldier, rising to the rank of four star general. His has been a life of service and accomplishment. All Jared ever did was be born into an incredibly wealthy family and marry into an incredibly wealthy family. That’s it and yet he thinks he’s so brilliant, though everything he’s ever done has failed miserably. And yet he always has that stupid arrogant conceited little smile on his face.
He once owned a newspaper and ran it into the ground. He spent more money than anyone else ever had on a building in New York. The building was a complete bust, he overpaid to the tune of a half billion dollars. It was his idea that it would be a good idea to fire FBI director James Comey. Everyone else at the White House told Trump it would be an enormous mistake to fire Comey. Only Jared, boy genius, said it would be great. And so Trump did, which led to Robert Mueller, which will lead to Kushner being indicted and Trump being evicted from the White House. And it was Jared who urged Trump to hire the criminals Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, Jared who urged Trump to hire the clown Anthony Scaramucci. Fire Comey, hire the Mooch, sayeth the wise Jared.
It was Jared who lied about his contacts with Russians, who was at the Trump Tower meeting with Russians, who tried to establish a back channel with Russians that would bypass the U.S. government. It was Jared who thought he was so smart but who other countries knew was so dumb. Government intercepts found at least four countries plotting to manipulate him by taking advantage of his indebtedness, naïveté and ignorance of foreign policy to further their interests.
The second thing that got me so mad this week is that the New York Times ran an investigative story detailing how Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who ordered the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, has spent the last two years flattering Jared and how Jared ate it up, not realizing he was being played. We now know what a thug and murderer MBS is and yet it was Jared alone in the White House after the Khashoggi murder who stood up for MBS, defended MBS and indeed who advised MBS in phone calls on how to ride out the storm. Talk about having no morals, no sense of decency, not doing the right thing. This supposedly religious Jew has been having phone chats with the murderer crown prince of Saudi Arabia giving him advice on how to cover up his crime.
The third thing is Jared going on Sean Hannity to talk about the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, a process Trump said only Jared could pull off, that only Jared could make the deal of all deals. Jared himself kept assuring us that he knew things no one else did, would be able to do things no one else has.
And yet here he was after almost two year in office basically admitting the plan isn’t coming any time soon and indeed there is a good chance it will never come. The guy can’t even come up with a plan let alone make peace as he bragged he would do, as his father in law assured us only Jared could do.
So those three things made me feel very unkindly toward Jared. But what has always eaten away at me is how he claims to be so Jewish but actually thumbs his nose at being Jewish. The most egregious and nauseating example is the trip Trump made to Saudi Arabia. The flight left Friday night, meaning on Shabbat, and yet Ivanka and Jared were on board flying away. Of course they could have flown the day before, not on Shabbat, but then they wouldn’t have been on Air Force One and that was more important to them than observing G-d’s day of rest as the Orthodox Jews they pretend to be.
When reporters asked about that, the White House said it was not a problem since their rabbi had given them special dispensation. Which rabbi did that, the reporters asked. The White House refused to say. So reporters called the most obvious three rabbis who might have done that — the rabbi who converted Ivanka, the rabbi of the shul in Washington where they are members, the rabbi who gave an invocation at the inauguration. All three said they didn’t give a special dispensation, indeed they not been asked to, and if they had been asked, they would have said no, Ivanka and Jared couldn’t, according to Jewish law, violate Shabbat by flying to Saudi Arabia on Shabbat.
So they lied. Worse, they violated a very important Jewish law just because they felt like it, wanted to do the cool thing, fly on Air Force One, be big shots. Look, regular readers know I don’t judge other Jews, I believe all Jews are good Jews and all Jews have the absolute right to be Jews as they wish. My gripe is that Ivanka and Jared claim to be observant, make a big deal of how observant they are, and yet they so easily discard their observance when it gets in the way of their egos. So it is when they drove to a fancy Washington party before Shabbat was over, so it is whenever Ivanka wears a dress that is anything but modest.
They are a disgrace to the Jewish people, they are a disgrace to the human race. And yet because they are rich and powerful, they can make mistake after mistake, utter lie after lie, accomplish nothing upon nothing, and still act and believe they are G-d’s gift to the world. They disgust me and this week alone gave three more reasons why.
One thing I know for sure. They are neither kind nor gentle. Let their horrible example be a lesson to us, just as the noble examples of John McCain and George H.W. Bush should be an inspiration to us.