President Donald Trump will name Howard Lorber to be chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing board that oversees the Holocaust museum in Washington, according to a White House official and a transition official.
Lorber, the chairman of real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman, is a longtime friend of Trump’s who arranged for him to be the grand marshal of the 2004 Salute to Israel parade on New York’s Fifth Ave. He declined to comment on his appointment.
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The choice comes ahead of Trump’s speech Tuesday at the museum in recognition of Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner and other influential Jewish members of Trump’s inner circle—including ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Trump’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt—pushed for Trump to speak at the museum, according to a former transition official.
“Expect a carefully scripted speech by POTUS,” said the transition official, who asked to remain anonymous in order to discuss the plans freely. “He is going to stick to the script.”
The White House has committed repeated gaffes with regard to the Jewish community. Earlier this month, press secretary Sean Spicer’s was forced toafter making reference to “Holocaust centers” during a briefing, in which he also claimed that Adolf Hitler hadn’t gassed “his own people.”
In January, the White House omitted specific mention of Jews in its statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trump was also criticized for failing to denounce vandalism at Jewish cemeteries earlier this year, though Vice President Mike Pence subsequently traveled to one in St. Louis, Missouri, to help with cleanup.
“All Trump has to do tomorrow is obviously not repeat any of the previous gaffes, mistakes and simply display an accurate understanding and sensitivity to this monstrous nightmare in Jewish history,” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. “He doesn’t have to apologize, just say what’s correct now.”
On Sunday, Trump delivered ato the World Jewish Congress. “We mourn, we remember, we pray, and we pledge, never again, I say it, never again,” Trump said in his remarks.
The Holocaust Memorial Council was chartered by Congress in 1980. The council’s chairs, appointed by the president to five-year terms, have typically been prominent Jewish leaders with close White House ties. President George W. Bush chose Houston businessman Fred Zeidman, a prolific Republican fundraiser, for the council chairmanship. The current chair, developer Tom Bernstein, was appointed to consecutive terms by President Barack Obama.
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