From the NYT:
Lots of explanations have been put forward as to why Mr. Kushner seems to operate as though the rules don’t apply to him. Perhaps there’s one more factor to consider: his New Jersey upbringing.
Anyone who has ever driven on the New Jersey Turnpike knows that, at a certain point in the road, the entire Manhattan skyline appears to rise from the surrounding marshland like a close-yet-so-far Land of Oz, both tempting and terrorizing with its mysterious jutting cutouts. To traverse this roadway, as Mr. Kushner surely did as a young man, was undoubtedly to exist in a constant state of aspiration and alienation. No matter one’s personal glories, for those who call New Jersey home, and especially those who reside in Northern New Jersey, it’s difficult to forget that one is still not from “the city,” as the landmass across the river is known. Overcompensation tends to follow. Blind arrogance is an occasional byproduct.
I know because I remember experiencing such feelings myself while growing up in Bergen County in the 1970s and ’80s. While Mr. Kushner was raised in Livingston, an upper-middle-class town of 30,000 in neighboring Essex County, he attended school in Paramus, a middle-class town a dozen miles from the edge of Manhattan that, with its surfeit of malls, has long held the status of a punch line. How an intelligent young man could have spent his formative years in such a place — never mind at an Orthodox yeshiva — and not come away feeling humbled in some way remains something of a mystery.
But then, while New Jersey has become increasingly diverse, it’s also a place where dollar signs largely determine status and conspicuous consumption is celebrated as an inalienable right. “Fast Cars, Women, Money!” read the poster that the guy from Alpine (an enclave of celebrities and multimillionaires), who lived next door to me in my freshman dorm at college, unabashedly pinned to the wall over his bed. Naturally, it featured a bikini model sprawled across a Porsche.