If I were not a Jew… and said that “I do not want a Jewish American President,” I would be labeled an anti-Semite and a racist. Fortunately no one can say that about me.
It was on my agenda to write about Bernie Sanders even before reading the Friday editorial in the Jerusalem Post about all the Jewish values he would bring to the office in spite of his not being observant, not being married to a Jewish woman and not mentioning his religion in his campaign.
Having a Jew become the President of the United States and hence, potentially the most powerful man in the world… has hidden minefields. While I suspect that a Jew is in fact electable in today’s US political environment, I try to consider the future ramifications for Israel and the Jewish populations world- wide.
Some twenty years ago I was invited to a luncheon in Los Angeles with Shimon Peres. For years I had been hearing stories on both my father’s and mother’s sides of our family of how we were related to him. The family’s stories from Vilna were the first to surface and my grandparents from there, were very proud of Peres’ accomplishments long before he became Prime Minister. I was surprised to hear that on my mother’s side of the family, that her Uncle had been a relative of, and close to Peres’ father in Europe. I was given a photograph of his father and my mother’s uncle in front of the palace in Hungary and was told an interesting story which I related to Shimon Peres when we met in person. Apparently Peres’ father was a good friend of the King of Hungary and was asked to serve as the head of the Treasury under the King. His father declined, explaining that in spite of his fondness for the King, should the economy move in a negative direction, that he as Minister of the Treasury and the rest of the Jews would then be blamed. He felt he could not take that risk. Instead, he offered, to remain a financial advisor to the King in a non-official capacity. I wrote up the story and gave it along with the photograph to Peres at the luncheon He confirmed it was his father in the photograph and that the story sounded correct. He took the written stories from me and told me he would look “into“ our family connections. He may have misplaced my contact information….. such is life!
The sad but true reality is that times have not changed as much as one might hope. With a Jew as President of the United States, Israel would be in a lose-lose situation. If he were to support Israel at any given moment, he would be judged as doing so simply because he was a Jew. If he was found to have more interest in the Arab cause than in Israel’s, he would be judged a self-hating Jew and a traitor to his own people. Bottom line: A Jew as President would at best be neutral on Israel’s fate, but could be far more damaging while bending over backwards trying to avoid his connection to the Jewish State.
In US politics, most truly successful Jews have to prove that they are “Americans-First” and “Jews-Second.” When John F. Kennedy was running for President and the public was very worried about his allegiance to Rome as an observant Catholic. No such barometer is applied to Evangelicals running for the same office. Their Christianity is not connected to another country…. But rather to their vantage point on issues of concern domestically. This puts any future President who is a Jew, into an invidious position.
There is a good reason why Bernie Sanders has not made a point of his Jewishness. It is , in his own mind, irrelevant. Whilst his human value system no doubt comes from those very Jewish roots that he ignores… they are no insurance policy. The very liberal Jews who stood in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement and helped it to reach success, were later vilified and forgotten. The Jewish proclivity towards helping the “underdog” can fluctuate depending on whom is perceived as the “underdog” of the moment. The very Jews who surround Obama and who flourish in the Democratic Party have proven themselves at best ambivalent on the future of the Jewish State. How there can even be organizations such as” J Street”…. boggles the mind.
How often do we hear conversations about the Jewish roots of some important world figure who is clearly a practicing Catholic , Christian or Athiest? Some feel pride that our genes are hidden somewhere in the background of great world leaders. These tidbits have never enticed me into a comfort zone. A leader is the product of his own choices in life and not those of his antecedents.
The ultimate prize for these same observers would be a Jew elected as President of the United States. This would in fact, be no feather in the cap of the Jewish world. A dear friend reminds me constantly; “Be careful what you wish for!”