How Trump Adviser Stephen Miller Divided a Santa Monica Synagogue

Hollywood Reporter:

Members of the progressive temple, where Miller learned Hebrew, and L.A.’s Jewish community struggle to come to grips with a native son who forcefully champions the Muslim ban and the wall on the Mexican border. Says one Rabbi, “Miller is not the only Jew who is supportive of these policies, but he’s in a position of great influence.”
The Miller family belonged to the Santa Monica Synagogue only for two or three years — enough time for their eldest son, Stephen, to graduate Hebrew school in 2001. Miller’s young face, with a grin, peeks out from the corner of that year’s confirmation class photo, which hangs on a back wall of the temple, near a toilet and rec room. “We did our best here to teach Stephen the ethical standards of Judaism,” says Jeff Marx, the Reform synagogue’s longtime rabbi, who tutored Miller and appears with him in the class portrait.

Sixteen years later, Miller’s picture is all over the place, but the progressive Jewish community that helped raise him is struggling to fathom how a native son found an intellectual home with President Donald Trump and his allies. “He certainly grew up here having a knowledge base” of Judaism, says Marx, a bearded, kindly man who shrugs and lifts his hands in a gesture of helplessness, unwilling to say more.

As a senior White House adviser, Miller, 31, is one of Trump’s policy wonks and a regular surrogate for the leader of the free world on talk shows. He’s also a key architect of some of the administration’s most exclusionary initiatives, including the yet-to-be-implemented Muslim ban and the proposed border wall with Mexico. For a Jewish community already wary about anti-Semitic attacks and an uptick in hate speech, Miller’s positions have struck a nerve. Roughly two-thirds of Jews vote reliably Democratic, according to polls. And while millions of Jews went for Trump, Miller’s push to target specific ethnic or religious minorities has Jews in both parties nervous…

Although recent media reports have suggested that Miller’s parents were liberals typical of the progressive enclave of Santa Monica, members of the Jewish community insist otherwise. Steven Windmueller, a professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion who has known the Millers for many years (“a lovely couple”), says their political leanings align closely with their son’s. “They have been and are conservative Republicans,” he says. One person acquainted with the Millers says they departed the Santa Monica Synagogue when it became clear they “weren’t a good fit” with its reform-minded congregation.

The Santa Monica Synagogue on 18th Street.

Miller (far left) in his confirmation class photo. Marx is seen top center.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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