It was a historic moment when Bernie Sanders became the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary in February 2016. But, in an odd move for a politician, it was an achievement that Sanders himself declined to recognize.
In his victory speech over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, the Vermont senator made no mention of his ethno-religious roots when describing his background, calling himself “the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.”
His avoidance of mentioning his historic first and his description of his father as being simply “Polish,” with no reference of fleeing anti-Semitism as the reason he sought haven in the United States in the 1920s, raised eyebrows in the Jewish community and among pundits — present company included — in the Jewish and Israeli media.
The sense that he was deliberately trying not to use the “J word” was reinforced a few days later when he debated Clinton and referred to “somebody with my background,” instead of simply calling himself what he so clearly looks and sounds like: a Brooklyn Jew.
– Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders – דלג
With such efforts to appeal to groups who feel strongly about the Trump administration’s behavior on immigration issues, it surely doesn’t hurt for Sanders to remind them that he too grew up in an immigrant household. And for those who feel oppressed by the rise in racism and racist violence in the Trump era, Sanders can similarly remind them that he understands what it means to be a member of a minority that has suffered tremendous loss at the hands of an authoritarian leader.
In order to do so, however, he seems to have learned that he must be open to using the “J word.”