Being Jewish made me political
DEMOCRATPRESIDENTIALcandidate Bernie Sanders has opened up about his Jewish background.
The left-wing Mr Sanders, who has long been reluctant to discuss his roots, told the New Yorker in a recent interview that growing up in a less-than-wealthy Jewish family instilled in him the idea that politics mattered.
“There was tension about money,” Mr Sanders told the New Yorker. “I know what it’s like when the electric company shuts off the electricity — all that stuff.”
Mr Sanders’s father travelled to the US from Poland at the age of 17, and struggled through the Depression.
Sid Ganis, a Hollywood producer who grew up in the same building as Mr Sanders, said that their neighbourhood in Brooklyn was an enclave of “ordinary secular Jews”, adding: “Some of us went to Hebrew school, but mainly it was an identity in that it got us out of school on Jewish holidays.”
Sanders told the New Yorker that, following the Second World War, his family “got a call in the middle of the night about some relative of my father’s, who was in a displaced persons’ camp in Europe some place.”
Mr Sanders learnt that many of his father’s other relatives had been killed. Mr Sanders’s parents had been apolitical, but he took away a lesson: “An elec- tion in 1932 ended up killing 50 million people around the world.”
Richard Sugarman, an Orthodox Jew who teaches at the University of Vermont, is a close friend of Mr Sanders. He said: “He’s not what you would call rule-observant, but if you talk about his Jewish identity, it’s strong. It’s certainly more ethnic and cultural than religious — except for his devotion to the ethical part of public life in Judaism, the moral part.”