Jared Kushner Family History

Overview

Jared Corey Kushner was born on January 10th, 1981 to Charles and Seryl Kushner in the upmarket suburb of Livingston, New Jersey.

He was raised in a modern Orthodox Jewish family and graduated from a yeshiva high school in 1999.  He enrolled at Harvard University that year.  It appears that his admittance was helped by his father Charlie’s earlier donation of $2.5 million to the University.  Harvard may have accounted for this tall slim young man having a Waspish demeanor.

When his father was arrested for illegal campaign contributions and other crimes in 2005, Jared was studying business and law at NYU and working as an intern for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.  He had planned to work at a nonprofit for a while after graduation.  But instead he embedded himself in the family’s real-estate business.

After Charlie’s imprisonment, most of its suburban empire was sold off and Jared Kushner bought 666 Fifth Avenue. an aluminum-clad tower in midtown Manhattan, for a record-breaking $1.8 billion.  It turned out to be a risky investment.

Life, however, was moving him in a different direction.  His marriage to Ivanka Trump in 2009 brought him as a father-in-law Donald Trump, the man who was to become President of the United States in 2016.  Jared came to the White House as his special advisor, with a focus on the Middle East.  During that time he was able to cultivate a relationship with the new Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman.  This paid off later when the Saudis invested $2 billion in his investment fund.

Jared and his wife Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, are modern Orthodox Jews.  They keep a kosher home and observe the Jewish Shabbat.  After the White House years, they moved to a French neo-classical home in Florida in 2021.

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His First Encounter with Trump

In his 2022 memoir Breaking History, Jared wrote that his initial interaction with Donald Trump in 2007 was rough.  He was at the time publisher of the New York Observer, a weekly magazine.  Trump, a real-estate mogul, wrote him an angry letter expressing disappointment about his placement on the Observer’s annual Power List.

“Please stop sending me your paper, so I don’t have to read bullshit like this anymore!” Trump wrote.

Two years later, Ivanka Trump would introduce Jared as her boyfriend.

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Kushners in Poland

Kushner is a Jewish surname that originated in Eastern Europe, most notably in Poland (from the Polish word kusnierz meaning “furrier”). Jews were involved in the furrier trade for many years. In Eastern Europe the furriers catered to men who wore expensive fur-trimmed garments and headgear.

Due to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Kushner name has largely disappeared from Eastern Europe.  The biggest numbers, totalling some 6,000, are now in America, with 20% of those in New York state.

The Kushner family of Jared Kushner’s ancestors originated in Novogrodek in northeast Poland.  In the 1930’s the town had a thriving Jewish population,  comprising just over half of the town’s 12,000 inhabitants.  Naum Zaidel Kushner lived there with his wife Hinda and their four children – Esther, Reichel (Rae), Chamon, and Lisa.

Soviet troops arrived there in 1939.  Though the Russians took away the Kushner business and home, life under Soviet rule was relatively tolerable.

Then, in the summer of 1941, the Nazis invaded.  Thousands of Jews from the area were murdered, shot as they stood on the edges of giant trenches so that they would fall directly into their own mass graves. Following these massacres, the remaining Jewish population was herded into a ghetto.  Two Kushners – Hinda and her daughter Esther – were killed in a subsequent massacre in May 1943.

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Escape from the Nazis

Before long, the remaining Kushners were among just the 300 Jews in the town that had survived.  These Jews, however, managed to dig and escape through a 600-foot tunnel during the nights, using special-made tools in the workshops and hiding the dirt in the walls of buildings.

When completed, the 600-foot tunnel was only large enough for one person at a time to crawl through. Upon emerging from it, the escapees were met with gunfire, darkness, and disorientation.  Consequently, only 170 survived out of the 250 that escaped. Rae’s brother Chamon was among the fallen, having lost his glasses during the crawl through the tunnel.

Rae and her surviving family (father Naum and sister Lisa) spent ten days hiding in the woods, before eventually making their way to the home of an acquaintance. The woman fed them and allowed them to sleep in her stable with the cows for one week, a risk that carried the penalty of a violent death.  Shortly afterwards, the Bielski partisans took in the escapees from Novogrodek, including Rae and her family.

After a year in hiding, some twelve hundred Jewish partisans made their way back home to Novogrudok in 1944 when the Germans left.  But this town, occupied by the Soviets, was now a wasteland (it would later be incorporated into Belarus and be renamed Navahrudak).

The Kushners plotted their escape.  After about nine months they were able to make their way to Hungary.  There Rae met up with Yossel Berkowitz, also from her hometown, and in a synagogue in Budapest Rae and Yossel were married by a rabbi.

According to The Miracle of Life, a book compiled by Rae’s children for her seventy-fifth birthday, the couple then “illegally crossed the Alps and several borders by foot, train and any other available mode of transportation.” They ended up in a displaced-persons camp near Rome. For the next four years, they were stuck in Italy, refugees waiting for a nation to welcome them.

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Kushners in America

After the Second World War, anti-Semitic immigration laws had sharply limited the number of Jews allowed into the United States. In 1949, in order to increase his chances of getting an American visa, Rae’s husband Yossel Berkowitz posed as his father-in-law’s son.  He listed Kushner as his name on U.S. immigration paperwork and renamed himself Joseph Kushner.  The ploy worked.

Joe (as he was known) began work as a carpenter in New Jersey.  Carpenters were in high demand in the postwar years.  And in 1956 the Federal-Aid Highway Act stimulated home construction in the suburbs by making commutes to the town faster.  This act, which established the biggest federal infrastructure program in US history, fuelled the economy and made builders such as Joe Kushner rich.

At the time of his death in 1985, Joe had built four thousand homes and had accumulated tens of millions of dollars.  Four of those homes were mansions for his children which he built in the New Jersey suburbs of West Orange and Livingston – areas that were newly opening to Jews.

Joe’s sons Murray and Charlie followed him into the real estate business.  These Kushners were part of a wealthy, aggressive, and fiercely private coterie of developers in New Jersey known as the “Holocaust builders.”

Charlie was the more flamboyant of the two brothers.  He was written about in the press and would make attention-getting donations to politicians.  However, he had his come-uppance in 2005 when he was accused of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering by an ambitious US Attorney named Chris Christie.  He was sentenced to two years in prison and served fourteen months.

Charlie and his wife Seryl were very clannish about their Jewish faith.  They tolerated the marriage of their son Jared to Ivanka Trump in 2009 after she had converted to Judaism.  She was also from what they called New York real estate “royalty.”

However, they were strongly opposed to the relationship of their younger son Josh with a non-Jewish model from the Midwest.  For six years they refused even to meet with Karlie Kloss.  They accepted her in the end, after Josh’s persistance, but only with reluctance.

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Jared Kushner’s Family Tree
  • Naum Zaidel Kushner (1898-1982) m. Hinda Bloch (1895-1943) in  Polond in 1919
  • – Esther Kushner (1922-1943)
  • – Reichel (Rae) Kushner (1923-2004)
  • – Chanon Kushner (1924-1943)
  • – Lisa Kushner (1930-2015) m. Joseph Reibel
  • Reichel (Rae) Kushner (1923-2004) m. Yossel (Joseph) Berkowitz (1922-1985) in Budapest in 1945
  • – Linda Kushner (b. 1944) m. Murray Laulicht
  • – Murray Kushner (b. 1951) m. Lee Kushner
  • – Charles Kushner (b. 1954)
  • – Esther Kushner (b. 1955) m. William Schulder

 

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