Bernie and Me

Waiting at a Jerusalem busstop on a weekday morning, I can’t help but overhear
A loud elderly American man, Haredi, who is speaking, actually more like ranting on his cellphone, as if he were on a soapbox. He explains to the recipient of his diatribe that he is actively campaigning against Bernie Sanders should he win the democratic nomination in the coming US election. He is fairly agitated as he yells into the phone all the typical cliches that are currently being thrown around. That Bernie is dangerous for the Jews. That Bernie loves Palestinians and Arabs. Culminating with that ultimate generic insult that Bernie is a “self-hating Jew”. “What a crock” I say to myself, almost out loud.

I am afraid to turn around and look at him because my “lower spiritual self” wants to scream at him about his ignorance. And hey, I am not an especially avid Bernie supporter, but this is not the point. This man next to me speaks with such venom and vitriol that I am becoming viscerally upset. Bernie Sanders is so clearly not the evil monster that my mobile phone neighbor and some other Jews like to depict. And Bernie is definitely VERY JEWISH. Just watch him speak, in comparison to the other candidates. He is merely another kind of Jew.

I also realise that I feel personally attacked. Because altho Bernie is not my first choice for a Democratic candidate, I would have no trouble voting for him. Surely, compared to Trump, this is a no brainer. And like Bernie, I suppose that I would also be considered a “secular” Jew. I am not religiously affiliated. (Self-hating? Certainly not. I live in Eretz. My kids did army here. Does he live here? Did his children defend the state of Israel? Or is he just visiting.) Like Bernie I also believe in diversity and pluralism of all kinds, even WITHIN the Jewish community. I also happen to believe that Bernie’s life-long commitment to humanistic causes is characteristically Jewish. Bernie is, and has always been a champion of the underdog. Pure and simple. He is a decent human being. In Jewish lexicon Bernie is first and foremost a mensch. And so I can’t help wondering if this man knows anything about the history of Jews and social activism in the US, where he is obviously from. A place where Jews like Bernie have for years been at the forefront of important American social causes. A place here Jews have given their souls and lives to the civil rights movement. Does he know anything about the civil rights movement in the US? Does Mississippi and ritual lynching ring any bells? Personally, I have always felt incredibly proud of the disproportionate number of American Jews who have been leaders in important social movements, regardless of whether it is specifically “good for the Jews” or the state of Israel.


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