“A Big Jewish Hug” from Bernie

Bernie Sanders hugI was pretty appalled by this recent article in Moment Magazine.

In it, the author essentially criticizes Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders for not being “Jewish enough” to be the first Jewish presidential candidate of a major political party. The piece ends with a quote from a rabbi who said, “We need a Jewish hug from him every once in a while.”

Let me be clear–don’t need a “Jewish hug” from Bernie Sanders, whatever that means. And although I voted for him in the Michigan primary last month, it wasn’t because he’s Jewish. That being said, it makes me proud to be able to support a candidate for President who has a positive message vision for the country that I can support, and who also happens to be Jewish.

And it’s not as though he never talks about that fact:

Let me be very personal here if I may. I’m Jewish. My father’s family died in the concentration camps. I will do everything that I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism which has existed for far too many years. And let me tell you something. What racism is about is many many things. It is pent-up hatred, it is lashing out at people in uncontrollable ways, but it is something very different than that. For many years in this country you have had politicians, and I’m old enough to know this, who played black off against white. So they told white workers who are earning pennies an hour, you think you’re in trouble but you’re better off than the blacks who can’t drink at a water fountain or go to your school. And they told straight people, well you think you’ve got problems, but you’re off than those gay people right? And they held men against women. They played one group off against another. Rich got richer and everybody else is fighting with each other.

Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together as one people. And you are right, there is a lot of anger being generated, a lot of hatred being generated against Muslims in this country, that’s absolutely correct. There is hatred being generated against immigrants in this country. And if you stand for anything we have got to stand together and end all forms of racism, and I will lead that effort as president of the United States.

If I could hope for one thing, though, I wish that Sanders would give us a “secular hug” once in a while–although I understand the reasons why he doesn’t.

Is Bernie secular? He often seems deliberately vague on this front. When asked, he says things like, “I am who I am, and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together.” It’s beautiful, but the best we can say is that it “sounds like” humanism.

Forget having the first Jewish candidate–to have the first openly secular candidate for President on a major-party ticket would be a major accomplishment for our country. But if he said, “I’m a secular humanist,” it would likely be the end of his Presidential aspirations. A recent article in The Independent confirms that the distrust of atheists runs deep.

Still, whether he says it or not, Sanders “is who he is,” and he is correct in asserting that a Bernie Sanders victory “would be of some historical accomplishment as well.” Indeed, his candidacy already is.

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