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Why Jews are Not ‘Feeling the Bern’ February 11, 2016

Posted by usdiaspora in 2016 Presidential Race, US Politics.
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bernie sandersSenator Bernard Sanders (Soc.-VT) was raised in a Jewish family… but is he himself a Jew?  Let’s examine his statements on the matter, and, of course, his halakha.

His Family

Brooklyn-raised Sanders was born to a Polish Jewish immigrant father whose family was mostly wiped out during the Holocaust, and a mother who was the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants.[1] His brother Larry, however, says that his nuclear family was “basically secular” and did not frequently attend synagogue.[2]  Bernie Sanders has been married twice.  With his first wife, he had a son, Levi.  His second wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, came with 3 children already in tow.  She is a Roman Catholic and she raised both her own children and Bernie’s son as Roman Catholics.[3]

His Faith

Sanders has stated, “I am not actively involved with organized religion.” His brother Larry reveals further, “He is quite substantially not religious.” At his bar mitzvah, his brother recalls, “He could read a prayer in Hebrew, but not with a great deal of understanding.”[4]  Though a self-described atheist, Sanders said he finds himself “very close to the teachings of Pope Francis.”[5]  It is not the Pope’s faith, however, that Bernie feels close to, but rather his socialistic political agenda.  When Jimmy Kimmel asked Sanders, “Do you believe in god?,” Sanders’s immediate and unamplified reply was a firm “No!”[6]

His Politics

He scored a solid 0 on a Faith & Freedom Coalition report card, but a perfect 100 from the Pro-Abortion lobby NARAL.

His Record regarding Israel

Sanders joined with the Democrats in boycotting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in fall 2015. Read more here.


In Sanders’s own words: “I’m not particularly religious.”[7] Also noteworthy is that he does not wear a kippa or tallit in public.


  1. New York Times (2007).
  2. Larry Sanders (Jan 2016).
  3. Carol Felsenthal, “Jane O’Meara Sanders: Future First Lady?,” The Hill (9 Oct 2015).
  4. Washington Post (27 Jan 2016).
  5. Bernie Sanders; in USA Today.
  6. Jimmy Kimmel Live.
  7. Bernie Sanders; in Linda Feldmann, “Bernie Sanders,” Christian Science Monitor (11 Jun 2015).