Nancy Goodman
A maverick Jew living in the Wild West

An open letter to Bernie Sanders on Mitten Day

Hi Bernie, I have to say I am pretty mad at you right now.

On January 21, 2021, my digital world was filled with your mittens that you wore on January 20 at President Biden’s inauguration. You weren’t aware in the moment, how you gave us Americans a chance to laugh and cry as some basic sanity was restored to our nation.

Like a Pokémon champion, I think I collected all the mitten memes that day. Your mittens at sunset on the Titanic. At Loehmann’s. You and your mittens on the Iron Throne, at the bowling alley with The Dude, selling Girl Scout cookies, flying past Dorothy’s window, and chillin’ with Jay and Silent Bob at the Quick Stop.

I used to really enjoy those January 21 anniversary mitten memories on my social media feed. And Bernie, I used to really dig you, and was really excited about lots of things you had to say.

But that was before October 7. This January 21, over 100 days into this horrible hostage crisis and war, when your mittens showed up in my social media feed, I felt sick.

As a Zionist American Jew, historically I’ve had to accept lots of discomfort from my Jewish peers and leaders like you, Bernie. In my bones I feel pretty progressive — I support and appreciate all sorts of modern notions. I’ve guiltily swallowed, like a lovingly offered homemade gefilte fish that has a weird smell, the bad Jewish juju in lots of progressive US leaders and circles. But that same angle, Bernie, has no place in a post-October 7 Jewish world.

I’m mad you are getting in the way of a rise in our Jewish narrative at the most basic, biological level — little vs. big, and our right to survive in peace on a scrap of historic homeland. Instead, you’re throwing sucker punches at David while he figures out what to do with Goliath.

Bernie, you were in Israel during the good old days—1963, wow! Back then, Israel was Israel, Jordan was Jordan, Egypt was Egypt, and Palestinian sovereignty wasn’t a thing. The Arab League erased the idea of Palestine on a map in 1948, and there weren’t international protests, suicide bombings, or massacres because of it. You were there, during the original status quo. That’s some privilege, I’d say.

Were you the first-gen of Jews who started to drink the anti-Israel Kool-Aid during the ’60s and ’70s? Were members of the PLO rubbing elbows with your peers at the best radical underground fêtes, with all the turtlenecks, manifestos, anarchy and cigarette smoke? Did they get into your head? Even if you somehow didn’t see it before October 7, the depth of antisemitism in the Middle East and the world should be clear to you now. Crystal clear.

Bernie, instead of giggling at happy little mittens, this January 21 you just make me sad. Frustrated. You do have the choice as a Jewish leader to stay out of the way if you aren’t going to help, and these days I wish, with the heat of a thousand Berns, that you would do one or the other.

About the Author
A Chicagoland native, Nancy is a licensed counselor and writer living in her own private Idaho. There is something about the arid summers and making latkes in the potato state that connects Nancy to her Jewish roots. She believes Jehovah forgives Jews who don't attend services or keep kosher, if they stand for Israel.
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