Jewish people around the world celebrate the festival of Sukkoth, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, every autumn, in commemoration of the exodus of Israelites from their land and their reliance on God’s will. Saturday, President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism for her husband Jared Kushner, participated in Lulav Benching with 30 White House officials and staff, according to Jewish Press. Her knowledge of and familiarity with the ritual was obvious as she “recited the appropriate blessing before shaking the lulav.” Others present then followed suit.
My Jewish Learning describes the practice of waving the lulav, a single palm branch. In the Sukkoth ceremony, the lulav is placed in a container with two willow branches to its left and three taller myrtle branches to its right. All six branches are held in the right hand and waved in the morning of each of the first seven days of Sukkoth.
Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism and commitment to its traditions has by all indications been sincere. She converted to Orthodox Judaism in 2009, and has described it as an “amazing and beautiful journey.” Her conversion followed studies with Rabbi Elie Weinstock and the assumption of the Hebrew name Yael, which means “mountain goat.” She has adhered to the orthodox observance of the religion ever since, including following a kosher diet and observing Shabbat from Friday to Saturday. Ivanka has stated that her father has always supported her decision to convert.
For Friday’s ceremony, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friend of Lubavitch, was on hand according to Breaking Israel News. The waving took place in a conference room located in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
On Yom Kippur, Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner arrived at synagogue about an hour before she arrived with 7-year-old Arbella and 2-year-old Theodore. As reported by The Times of Israel, President Trump offered his blessings to the Jewish people on this holiday of atonement.
“Melania and I send our warmest greetings to all Jewish people on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish faith. Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, prayer and fasting, and it is the last day of the Ten Days of Repentance. Yom Kippur provides an opportunity to draw nearer to God through the practice of teshuva in accordance with the words of Leviticus.”
Donald Trump is generally not popular among Jewish Americans, with a 2017 poll indicating that 77 percent have an unfavorable view of the president.