Sunday, February 09, 2020

  • Sunday, February 09, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
People say they were touched by Bernie Sanders' answer at a CNN town hall on how his Jewish heritage has impacted his politics.


"I remember as a kid looking at these big picture books of World War II and tears would roll down my cheeks," Sanders said. "How horrible people can be to other people in the name of racial superiority or etcetera has certainly been with me my entire life, and that is why I will do everything I can to end the kind of divisiveness that Trump is fomenting in the country. The pain that my family, my father's family suffered in Poland is something that has impacted my life absolutely."

The only other time Sanders addressed the issue was in an op-ed for Jewish Currents titled "How to fight anti-semitism."

I am a proud Jewish American. My father emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1921 at the age of 17 to escape the poverty and widespread antisemitism of his home country. Those in his family who remained in Poland after Hitler came to power were murdered by the Nazis. I know very well where white supremacist politics leads, and what can happen when people do not speak up against it. 
Apparently, Sanders' entire view of Jewishness is in context of Jew-hatred.

To Sanders, there is no actual Judaism. No rituals, no study, no Torah, no customs. He sees not an iota of impact from thousands of years of Jewish thinkers and writers and theologians and philosophers. Jews are inert victims that must be saved by his flavor of politics but they are not actors in their own story.

His only other connection to Judaism is by going to an anti-religious kibbutz in the 1960s where the only faith was socialism. In 2016, he said, "I am not actively involved with organized religion."

Yet one does not have to be involved with Jewish institutions to want to learn about one's heritage. Sanders' doesn't have to put on a kippah and tzitzit to read about Philos or Spinoza or Judah HaLevy or Maimonides. He doesn't have to agree with any or all of them, but he should be a little conversant in some Jewish thought (beyond that of a Jew who converted and had antisemitic writings.)

Doesn't anyone find it strange that he seems so disinterested in (or perhaps hostile to)  his own people's history and heritage?

Sanders' life was not impacted by Judaism. It was impacted by antisemitism. Judaism is not a response to antisemitism. One lives a Jewish life with or without persecution. Viewing Judaism only through the lens of those who hate Jews is not Judaism.

Any Jews who felt proud at Sanders' answer should look a little closer at their own relationship with their heritage. Because his answer was nothing to be proud of.







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