Bernie Sanders: Nonbeliever or Ultimate Jew?


Justin Leff

Wildlife Editor

Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for President, has been making headlines lately with his socialist ideas that would bring this country into a political revolution. He’s also Jewish. Or is he? Sanders’ Jewish identity has been questioned throughout his campaign as he rarely brings up his Semitic roots. While he has avoided designating himself as a practicing Jew, some of his main ideas and values stem from a key principle of Judaism.

During a town hall with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Sanders was asked about his spirituality and religion. You can watch his response in the video or read it below:

“Everybody practices religion in a different way. To me I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings. I believe as a human being that the pain one person feels– if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can’t afford their prescription drugs– you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me, and I worry very much about a society where  some people spiritually say, It doesn’t matter to me, I got it, I don’t care about other people.  So my spirituality is that we are all in this together. And that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, that impacts me. That’s my very strong spiritual feeling.”


Bernie claims that religion is very important to him, and it has given him a spiritual feeling that, “We are all in this together.” People familiar with Sanders’ stance on the economy and social issues can see that he is trying to make America into a community that supports one another. This form of social democracy embeds many traditional Jewish commandments such as Tzedakah. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 tells us “You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.” One of Sanders’ talking points is on minimum wage. Millions of Americans and their families are starving, and cannot live off of an $8 minimum wage. Bernie wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help the poor provide for their families.

Another burning issue that Bernie has taken a Judaic stance on is welcoming Syrian refugees into the country. Abraham famously took in three strangers into his home and provided them with food and water. Similarly, Bernie wants to allow some of these refugees into the United States to provide them with a better and safer life. Unlike some of the Republican presidential candidates, who have had a closed border policy when it comes to these refugees (even all Muslims), Sanders wants America to remain a place for people to escape persecution.

Bernie’s progressive ideas of “fixing a rigged economy and a corrupt election system” won’t be carried to fruition without the help of the people. As an AP U.S. History student, I inevitably made the connection between the progressive ages of Theodore Roosevelt and Taft to what Bernie Sanders is trying to accomplish: getting rid of the big trusts that steal from the common man, along with fighting for workers rights. If he were living in the 1800s, Sanders would fit right into the Populist party.

The election of Sanders would break at least two presidential records: he would be the first Jewish president and the oldest president ever elected. That’s why many people are surprised to hear that young people make up a huge part of his support. Two weeks ago, a huge student rally for Bernie was headlined by Vampire Weekend, Foster the People, and a speech from the Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson; just this week, the Red Hot Chili Peppers held a fundraiser for the candidate in Los Angeles. Sanders was also a guest star on Saturday Night Live with his doppelgänger Larry David. You can watch his sketch below.

After finishing virtually tied with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and winning by a 20 point margin in New Hampshire, Sanders will look to take his momentum to Nevada on February 20th. This 74-year-old candidate with no super PAC, no Wall Street donors, tons of student supporters, and traditional Jewish values is not too far from being the next President of the United States.