The name “Trump” is inescapable as a visitor approaches the landscaped entrance of Beit Issie Shapiro, an impressive world-renowned facility in central Israel that offers a wide array of innovative treatment and care for people with disabilities.
Why, one might wonder, is U.S. President Donald Trump not planning to visit the facility’s Trump Campus when he comes to Israel next week? Or to check out the Trump Foundation in Israel? It has spent $150 million on improving the quality of instruction in math and science in the country, through teacher training and other programs. And there’s the Trump family’s major business holding in Israel: Haifa Chemicals, which manufactures potassium nitrate for agriculture and industry and has been in the headlines over a hazardous ammonia storage tank?
The U.S. president won’t be seeing any of the notable institutions in Israel that bear the Trump name. That’s because they have nothing to do with him.
There is, it turns out, another Trump family, one with several similarities to the president’s – they too are wealthy and are highly successful in the business of high-end real estate in New York and Florida – as well as some key differences.
First of all, these Trumps are Jewish.
While it’s known that the president’s name is a variation on the German Drumpf, the Jewish Trumps aren’t quite sure where their name came from. The family folklore is that they came from a place called Trumpskoya, somewhere in Lithuania. That’s the story according to Sasha Weiss Trump, the only member of the family who lives in Israel and a member of the Beit Issie Shapiro board of directors, though she said she knows of no documentary evidence to back it up.
The story of the Jewish Trumps begins with Willie and Celia, whose names are on the Beit Issie Shapiro campus sign. Willie also has another namesake: Williams Island, a posh Miami-area neighborhood for the ultrarich, including celebrities. Perhaps the family’s most successful, highest-profile project, it was built in the early 1980s. In the complex is the William and Celia Trump synagogue, the home of a modern-Orthodox congregation that bills itself as serving “the diverse Jewish community of luxurious Williams Island.”
According to an account of the family history in the real estate trade publication The Real Deal, Willie and Celia Trump’s family of Lithuanian Jews fled Europe in the late 19th century and ended up in South Africa. The couple, who owned a clothing store in Johannesburg, brought their family to the United States in the 1960s. It was their sons, Jules and Eddie, who built the family empire, first in retail and later in real estate. Like Donald Trump, who at 70 is their contemporary – Jules is 72, Eddie is 69 – their business interest go far beyond Florida resorts. The brothers have owned bowling alleys, an auto supply company, a website about religion and – like Donald – a modeling agency. They have no property holdings in Israel.
Ironically, the family’s highest-profile moment occurred when Donald Trump took them to court. Not known for his affinity for sharing, in 1988 Donald decided it was time to stop sharing his famous name with another aspiring real-estate family.
His lawsuit, detailed in the New York Times, which dug out the “Trump vs. Trump” court papers last year, was filed by the president’s infamous late attorney Roy Cohn. It argued that their use of the Trump name was “designed to reap the benefits” of Donald Trump’s name, pointing to the number of times his business, The Trump Organization, and theirs, The Trump Group, were mistaken for one another.
The judge was not convinced, however, and Donald lost his case in New York State Supreme Court. Ultimately, though, he achieved success in another legal route. He petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office asking that it revoke the federal registration of the group’s name as a trademark. That mean they could still use the name – which they do – but can’t register it.
Both sides of the dispute say they’ve buried the hatchet since the court fight. Donald Trump even told the Times that since if he’d known earlier that the "other Trumps" were such “nice guys,” he might not have sued them in the first place.
Besides religion, the biggest difference between the two wealthy and successful Trump families is that one of them avoids the spotlight as intensely as the other one seeks it.
Over the years, the Jewish Trumps have been highly reluctant to discuss their relationship with the flamboyant man with whom they share their name. In 2009, Jules Trump told The Real Deal, “We’re very boring. We’re very different from Mr. Trump. He’s much more interesting. Go write about him.”
In 2016, when The New York Times tried to get him to comment on the lawsuit, Jules Trump would say only that “bygones are bygones” and wouldn’t say who he was voting for. His brother Eddie has close ties to a former U.S. president who doesn’t share his name – in 2005, former President Bill Clinton visited Israel and, at Eddie Trump’s invitation, was the star guest at Beit Issie Shapiro’s 50th anniversary gala.
Following in the family tradition, Sasha Weiss Trump turned down an interview with Haaretz on her life as a Jewish Trump living in Israel during a Trump presidency.
A source close to the family said that the relationship between the two Trump families has become “amicable” in the years since the lawsuit and they felt “very uncomfortable criticizing Donald Trump.” The source said the family’s “deep hope is that he will continue to be a true friend to Israel and they certainly don’t want to in any way offend him. The family, they said “does its best to stay as far under the radar as possible obviously there has been much confusion as to whether they are related to Donald Trump. They always clarify that they are not related.”
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