Marvin Hier, the rabbi scheduled to deliver a prayer at the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, has a special connection to America’s next first family: The in-laws of Ivanka Trump are benefactors of his organization.
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According to their tax forms, the Charles and Seryl Kushner Family Foundation has donated $35,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in recent years - $25,000 in 2011 and $10,000 the following year.
Jared Kushner, the son of Charles and Seryl, is married to Ivanka Trump and said to have served as a key adviser to the president-elect on Israel.
Hier, who founded the organization in 1977 and has served as its dean since, was one of six religious leaders chosen to participate in the presidential swearing-in ceremony.
The others are: Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York; Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Pastor Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center; Reverend Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International.
Named after the legendary Nazi hunter, the Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest organizations in the world engaged in fighting anti-Semitism. The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles operates under its auspices.
Hier’s plans to build a second Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, this one on the site of a historic Muslim cemetery, have been shrouded in controversy however.
Back in March, when Trump was scheduled to address the annual convention of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, Hier was among many Jewish leaders voicing concern about the candidate.
Speaking with The Daily Beast at the time, Hier said that a silent walkout was, in his opinion, a “reasonable” form of protest at the event, although he personally would not endorse it.
He appears to have overcome his reservations since then, telling a Los Angeles TV station over the weekend that he felt “honored” to have been invited to deliver a blessing at Trump’s inauguration.
Last week, the Weisenthal Center published its 2016 list of “Top 10 Worst Global Anti-Semitic Anti-Israel Incidents.” Topping the list was the United Nations Security Council vote against Israeli settlement construction in late December, from which the United States abstained.
In the No. 5 spot, however, was white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, who famously celebrated the Trump victory with a Nazi-style salute.
Hier is not the first rabbi connected to the Kushner family invited to participate in a major Trump event. Back in July, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein had been asked to deliver the invocation at the Republican national convention.
Lookstein, who oversaw the conversion of the president-elect’s daughter, backed out at the last minute, in response to pressure in the Modern Orthodox world.
Hier could not be reached for comment.