The Untold Truth Of The Kushner Family

Since its genesis, New York City has been home to some of the country's wealthiest and most influential families — the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies, etc. While many of these old money families are gone or nearing the end of their lines, a crop of new money families is beginning to replace them. Among them is the Kushners.

Perhaps best known for their role in the Trump White House -– Donald's son-in-law Jared Kusher was one of his most senior advisors — there is much more to this family's history than four years of sometimes questionable policy-making. Forbes perhaps put it best, writing, "The story of the Kushners' financial success began like so many other hard working immigrants." Regardless of how you view them politically, there's no denying that the family is one of the most interesting bunches in the upper echelons of society. 

Buckle up because we're digging deep into this clan's history and spilling the untold truth of the Kushner family.

Rae Kushner escaped the Nazis

While most Americans know the Kushner family for their real estate empire and White House influence, Belarusians know them for an entirely different reason: their resistance to the Nazis. Rae Kushner, the clan's matriarch, played an instrumental role in helping more than 300 Jews escape a ghetto in Novogrudok, Belarus.

Born into a well-off family of shopkeepers, Rae was 16 years old when the Nazis forced her family, and thousands of other Jews, into a ghetto surrounding the town's courthouse. The teenager survived five "selections," or massacres, that saw hundreds of members of her community — including her mother — murdered. According to The Times of Israel, in response to the atrocities she'd witnessed, Rae helped mastermind a plan that entailed digging a 600-foot tunnel out of the closely monitored camp into a nearby forest. For weeks, the group worked on the tunnel at night, hiding the dirt they'd removed into the walls of buildings.

Finally, when the preparations were completed, some 350 Jews crawled single file through the narrow tunnel in a desperate bid for their freedom. Not all of them were lucky enough to make it — but hundreds did. Among them were Rae (who gave up her "safe" spot at the front of the line that she'd earned as an organizer in order to be with her remaining family), her 54-year-old father, and her younger sister. Her brother Honie, who was ahead of the group, was never seen again.

The family's U.S. base is Livingston, New Jersey

After escaping the ghetto, Rae and her family joined the Bielski partisans, living in the Naliboki encampment. It was here that she reconnected with Joseph Berkowitz, a young man who she'd known prior to the war. One year after the camp was liberated by the Russian Army the pair married, keeping Rae's last name.

According to The Times of Israel, in 1949, they immigrated to New York where they raised their four children, including sons Murray and Charles. They settled into life in the United States in Livingston, New Jersey, helping to create a tight-knit community of Holocaust survivors and Modern Orthodox Jews known as "the Builders."

The family was very involved in life here, joining the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and becoming benefactors of several schools including those now named Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School. As Andrew Silow-Carroll, the former editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency told Esquire, "That Generation were cohorts. They were very collegial." It was this collegial environment in which Charles, and his wife Seryl, raised their own four children.

Charles Kushner began the family's real estate empire

Before the war, Joseph Kushner had worked as a carpenter in modern-day Belarus. After immigrating to America, he was able to find employment as a construction worker. According to the book "Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner," he pursued that career for several years, saving money and acclimating to his new life, before eventually purchasing land with several partners and building new apartments and single-family homes. Eventually, the elder Kushner amassed a portfolio of 4,000 New Jersey apartments.

In 1985, Charles Kushner, who'd previously trained as a lawyer but had recently started his own real estate business after being inspired by his father's success, partnered with Joseph. The duo dubbed their newly formed business Kushner Companies. Months later, Joseph passed away from a stroke at the age of 62.

Undeterred, Charles continued to grow the business, eventually amassing over 25,000 apartments, "as well as commercial real estate, industrial and retail space, hotels, and undeveloped land" (via "Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner"). The properties are spread out across several Northeastern states including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The company has also expanded into other sectors, including banking, insurance, sports, and energy.

Charles Kushner spent a year in federal prison

Charles Kushner may have launched the family's empire, but he'll likely be remembered more for the drama he created than his business acumen. According to CNN, in the early 2000s, Charles found himself under investigation for illegal campaign contributions (notably, these were all for Democratic candidates despite the family's current allegiance to the Republican party). While the investigation was ongoing, William Schulder, Charles' brother-in-law and former employee, turned on him and became a witness for the prosecution.

In an attempt at revenge, Kushner hired a sex worker to seduce Schulder and filmed the two having sex in a New Jersey hotel room (without Schulder's knowledge). The tape was then sent to Esther, Charles' sister and Schulder's wife. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful, and Kushner found himself saddled with additional charges of intimidating a federal witness, alongside the original 17 charges of tax evasion and lying to the Federal Election Commission.

Charles was eventually found guilty on all charges and was sentenced to two years in federal prison. He wound up spending 14 months behind bars before finishing his sentence in a halfway house. Barred from ever practicing law again, the former attorney was granted clemency by Donald Trump in 2020, during the final days of the former president's term.

Jared Kushner has been accused of being a slumlord

With his father in prison and facing an uncertain future, eldest son Jared Kushner took over Kushner Companies. According to many of the tenants who live in his rentals, the younger Kushner is a terrible landlord. Some even go so far as to call him a slumlord.

The Netflix docuseries "Dirty Money" has an entire episode called "Slumlord Millionaire" dedicated to Jared Kushner and his alleged negligent, abusive ways. Per IndieWire, in the episode, it's revealed that several NYC properties lack a Certificate of Occupancy, a document required by the NYC Health Department indicating that a building is suitable to live in. This means that these apartments are illegal, and may have substandard living conditions (think no windows, lead paint on the walls, rat-infested, at risk of flooding, etc.) The properties that do have a Certificate of Occupancy aren't much better, having received hundreds of health code violations over the years for things like the presence of "lung carcinogens and fire safety hazards."

Health and safety codes aren't the only things Kushner seemingly doesn't seem to have the time for. According to ProPublica, the young millionaire is apparently also heartless when it comes to the struggles of his renters. In at least one case, Kushner Companies refused to acknowledge a Section 8 renters lease termination agreement, suing the single mother for back rent, court costs, attorney fees, and interest garnishing her wages in order to obtain the full sum they felt they were owed.

The disaster of 666 5th Avenue

While the slumlord allegations are serious and surely embarrassing for the Kushner family, nothing tops Jared Kushner's disastrous involvement in 666 5th Avenue. Per CNN, in 2007, at the age of 26, Kushner bought the midtown Manhattan tower for the then record-setting price of $1.8 billion. The initial plan was to split the building into various rental units, which, when all rented out, would net them a profit. From the jump, there were various signs that they'd paid too high a price for the office tower.

Then came the financial crash of 2008. With many of the companies the real estate mogul had counted on for rent going under, the tower sat largely empty and Kushner Companies couldn't afford to make payments on the loans they'd taken out to buy the building in the first place. In an attempt to prevent the company from going bankrupt over the cost of 666 5th Avenue, Kushner met with several foreign investors and government representatives (including the manager of Qatar's $250 billion Sovereign Wealth Fund, a Saudi Crown Prince, and Chinese conglomerate Anbang Insurance Group), hoping they'd invest some serious money into the project and bail him out.

These meetings led to Kushner being called out by members of Congress and investigated by Special Counsel Robert Muller for abusing his White House connections for personal gain. While he was never found guilty of any wrongdoings, many still view Kushner's actions as shady and potentially illegal.

Jared Kushner's workplace romance

2007 was a big year for Jared Kushner. Not only did he buy 666 5th Avenue, but he also met his future wife, Ivanka Trump, at a work event. According to Business Insider, one of Trump's long-time business partners set up a networking lunch and invited both Trump and Kushner. It didn't take long for the duo to realize there was a spark, and they began dating shortly after.

In 2008, they briefly broke up due to religious differences but got back together after Rupert Murdoch's wife secretly invited them both to a yachting weekend. After Trump completed her conversion to Judaism in 2009, Kushner proposed with a 5.22-carat diamond ring. The rest is history.

Today, the pair, who married in late 2009 at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, share three children — one daughter and two sons. As Trump told Vogue, the religion thing is no longer an issue as they're "pretty observant, more than some, less than others," keeping kosher and observing the sabbath.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump kept their assets close upon entering the White House

It also appears that much of the Kushner family's apprehensions about formerly-Presbyterian Ivanka Trump have dissipated over the intervening years. Case in point: when Jared Kushner and Trump took on formal roles in her father's White House, they reallocated many of their assets to his family.

In order to remain on the right side of the Constitution, the couple had to divest some of their assets to avoid any conflicts of interest that may arise during their time as presidential advisors. Rather than selling them off to third parties, like many before them have done, the duo sold several things, including "The New York Observer," a now-defunct paper that Kushner had bought at the age of 25, to the Kushner Family Trust (via CNN). Who runs the trust? Jared's mom, Seryl.

The way the pair handled their money and business positions during the time in the White House caused many ethicists to question whether or not they truly complied with federal conflict of interest laws. While they wouldn't be the first politicians to handle these tricky issues in a controversial manner, the amount of money and power concerned here really sets them apart.

Jared Kushner has been called 'the most powerful person' in the Trump camp

Speaking of the White House, while everyone fully expected Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to take on formal roles in Trump's White House, no one really expected them to have quite as much power as they did. According to Vox, Kushner was, at one point, "the most powerful person in the White House not named Donald Trump."

During his tenure as a senior advisor, Kushner was tasked with an array of things ranging from overseeing the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, brokering peace in the Middle East, ending the opioid crisis, overseeing election campaigns, and managing the country's medical supplies during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was assigned these various projects despite having no experience and no expertise.

Brad Pascale, Donald Trump's campaign manager hired by Kushner, told Time that Kushner had walk-in privileges in the Oval Office and was allowed to weigh in on literally any decision being made inside the building. "Nobody has more influence in the White House than Jared," he said. "He's #2 after Trump."

Return to civilian life has been difficult for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

Now that the White House days are over, and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump find themselves ordinary citizens once again, things have been complicated. While they were powerful figures inside the government, outside of it they haven't had the same luck.

Much of this is due to their own behaviors, which many view as irresponsible and downright "anti-American." Especially after the January 2021 attack on the Capitol — which, according to Vanity Fair, Trump tweeted was carried about by "American Patriots" — many of their former peers, business associates, and society equals have washed their hands of the "toxic" couple. One former friend of the pair told Vanity Fair, "Everyone with self-respect, a career, morals, respect for democracy, or who doesn't want their friends to shame them both in private and public will steer clear."

Perhaps aware of this possible exclusion from the social circles they would so like to dominate, the couple hasn't returned to New York City (their former home base) since leaving the White House, buying a $24 million mansion in the Miami area, instead.

Joshua Kushner has effectively split from the family

While many of the Kushners, including Jared, Charles, and Seryl, are now registered Republicans (despite years of supporting and befriending Democratic candidates) and vocal supporters of Donald Trump, not all members of the family feel the same way. Joshua Kushner, Jared's younger brother, is the perfect example.

Joshua founded Oscar Health, an insurance company aimed at millennials and freelancers, and Thrive Capital, a private equity firm that specializes in media and tech investments. He was also an early investor in Instagram. Married to model Karlie Kloss since 2018, the younger Kushner is a father to one child, a son named Levi.

He also leans to the left, politically. While he hasn't spoken publicly about politics, Town & Country reports that he's "a lifelong Democrat" and that neither he nor his wife, voted for Trump. Additionally, Kushner was spotted at both the Women's March on Washington (in 2017) and at the March for Our Lives (to which he "quietly donated" $50,000). Can you imagine how awkward those family holidays must be?

The sisters Kushner

While Jared and Joshua get much of the spotlight, they aren't the only Kushner children. In fact, they have two sisters, Nicole and Dara.

Nicole attended NYU, earning a degree in Urban Planning in 2006. Upon graduating, she initially took a job in the fashion industry, working for Ralph Lauren for a number of years, before joining Kushner Companies as a principal in 2015. According to Intelligencer, she's married to Joseph Meyer, the CEO of brother-in-law Jared's Observer Media Group. The couple currently live on Park Avenue, in an $8.5 million apartment, according to city property records. In 2017, she was involved in a scandal, reportedly promising American visas to Chinese investors who'd pledge $500,000 or more to the family company (via The Washington Post).

Per Intelligencer, the other Kushner sister, Dara, keeps an even lower profile. Very little is known about her, her life, or her relationships aside from the fact that she lives in Livingston, New Jersey. Her absence from the scene is especially impressive given the high profile and status the rest of her family enjoys.

The Kushner family net worth

So, how much is this high-powered family worth? The answer is unclear. In 2016, Forbes estimated that Charles, Seryl, Jared, and Joshua Kushner shared a combined wealth of $1.8 billion, much of which is held in real estate. An Intelligencer profile from around the same period doesn't put forth an exact number, but simply says the clan is very "wealthy."

While we may not have an exact handle on the family's monetary status, their social and political power is much easier to delineate. Over the years, the Kushners have enjoyed close relationships with many high-powered individuals, including the Trumps, Chris Christie, the Clintons, the Murdochs, Benjamin Netanyahu, and many, many others. Even as some of these friendships have fallen apart, they indicate that the Kushners are a well-connected family. The influence they hold in these circles may hold much more weight than the money in their bank accounts.