Jewish commentators were quick to weigh in on Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire win on Wednesday, which made him the first American-Jewish candidate ever to win a primary.
National Jewish Democratic Council Chairman Greg Rosenbaum called Sanders’ victory and the fact that he is the first Jewish-American to win a presidential primary a “great pride.”
“We congratulate Senator Sanders on his victory … it should come as no surprise that the Jewish-American who won that victory is a Democrat, as the stark contrast between the parties’ primary campaigns highlights with each passing day … As Jewish Democrats, we look forward to a continuing, spirited campaign for the Democratic nomination where Jewish values are indeed valued,” he said, according to Jewish Insider.
President of the American Health Policy Institute Tevi Troy, who has commentated on support for Israel among Democrats and the GOP, said Sanders’ win demanded supporters of Israel on both sides of the aisle start paying attention.
“On Sunday, he revealed that he gets his foreign policy advice from Israel critics J Street and James Zogby; on Tuesday, he won a resounding victory in New Hampshire,” said Troy, referring to the controversial advocacy group and the founder of the Arab American Institute.
Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith predicted for the Jewish Insider that Sanders’ campaign trail could lead the liberal Vermont senator into antisemitism territory.
“I think if people start taking the idea of his presidency seriously, I think you’ll see both more serious chatter about what the first Jewish president would mean (and in particular what a president who comes from this part of Judaism would mean to Jews) … and also, inevitably, more ugly antisemitism directed at him in an election that has already seen more overt bigotry than I’ve ever seen in national politics,” he said.
On a similar note, Chemi Shalev of Haaretz wrote that, “to assume that the conservative right, in general, and the Tea Party and/or Christian right, in particular, will allow a secular, liberal, self-professed socialist radical to become President of the United States without making a fuss over his Jewishness is more than a stretch: it beggars belief.”
Still, others said they felt Sanders should discuss his Jewish background more openly. These included Steve Rabinowitz of publicity firm Bluelight Strategies, and a former press aide to president Bill Clinton.
“Nobody cares that Bernie is Jewish and that’s great,” he said. “I just wonder some days if I enjoy more Jewish pride in Bernie’s successes this election cycle than he does. For me, Bernie doesn’t need to be more Jewishly observant or more communally involved; I only wish he showed more of a willingness to talk about his Jewish identity except when asked. He doesn’t hide from it and for my money never says the wrong thing – he just doesn’t seem to ever like or want to talk about it. Maybe it’s a refreshing change from all the other Jewish politicians who pose for our community far beyond who they really are. I was only hoping there might be a space somewhere in between.”