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December 27, 2022 3:32 pm

Republican Jewish Committee Slams Congressman-elect Santos Over False Claims of Jewish Heritage


avatar by Andrew Bernard

U.S. Representative-elect George Santos, a New York Republican who acknowledged lying about his education and employment history while running for Congress, appears in an undated still image from a political campaign video in New York, U.S. George Santos campaign/Handout via REUTERS

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), a political group that supports Jewish Republicans, cut ties on Tuesday with Congressman-elect George Santos (R-NY) over revelations that Santos had fabricated significant portions of his personal history, including his supposed Jewish heritage.

“He deceived us and misrepresented his heritage,” RJC CEO Matt Brooks said in a statement. “In public comments and to us personally he previously claimed to be Jewish….He will not be welcome at any future RJC event.”

Doubts about Santos’ résumé and personal history grew after a 19 Dec. New York Times investigation could not verify his claims about his background. In an interview with the New York Post, Santos on Monday said that he had “never claimed to be Jewish.” “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish,’” Santos said.

While Santos had used the “Jew-ish” line previously, he also has repeatedly made statements claiming to be a member of the Jewish community. In a tweet on 4 Nov., Santos said at a Chabad in his district that “it was an honor to address fellow members of the Jewish community.”

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Santos Jewish heritage had been publicly feted by Republican politicians in the months leading up to his election.

At RJC’s annual leadership conference in Las Vegas on 19 November, Santos was introduced as being Jewish by Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN). Santos further claimed during his remarks that his election marked an increase in Republican Jewish members of Congress from two to three. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking later that day named Santos alongside Kustoff and Congressman-elect Max Miller of Ohio as being part of the “largest Republican Jewish caucus in more than 24 years.”

The Algemeiner was unable to reach Kustoff’s office for comment.

Santos also appeared at an RJC Hanukkah event with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) on 18 December wearing a yarmulke and lighting a menorah. “May this Festival of Lights bring peace, good health, and prosperity to all,” he said.

The basis of Santos’ claim to ‘Jew-ish’ heritage was his longtime assertion that that his maternal grandparents were Jewish Holocaust survivors who eventually fled to Brazil, where his parents were born. 

The now-deleted ‘About’ page on his campaign website said, “George’s grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.”

That claim, which he has made repeatedly in interviews and statements, appears to be false, with records indicating that Santos’ maternal grandparents were born in Brazil.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (Jewish Dems,) a pro-Democrat non-profit, joined elected Democrats in calling on Santos to step down. “If [RJC] had any integrity, they would join us in ensuring there’s no place for Santos’ lies in Congress by calling on him to not take the oath of office on Jan 3,” they said.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), who is Jewish, wrote Tuesday that Santos’ claims were “a slap in the face to the Jewish community and every single Holocaust survivor and their families.”

“It’s inexcusable that anyone would lie about having Jewish heritage and being a descendant of Holocaust survivors,” Gottheimer said.

Santos in his interview with the Post also revealed that other details of his background were the product of “embellishing.” Santos did not graduate from college despite having previously claimed to have graduated from CUNY Baruch, and had never worked for Goldman Sachs or Citibank. 

Santos has said he intends to serve his term in Congress.

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