As the previous Part 1 article indicated, Bernie Sanders is not a stranger to his Judaism. He set the precedent for a civil liberties case allowing Chabad, the orthodox outreach organization of the Lubavitcher Jews, to be allowed to erect menorahs during Chanukah as an educational effort. True to his early Jewish education, he also read the Hebrew blessings flawlessly.
The Forward, a Jewish liberal newspaper, has puzzled whether or not he was a “Kiddush” Jew, which is one who religiously appears at the end of the Sabbath morning services just in time for Kiddush, or lunch. It is known that his best friend is an Orthodox Jewish professor, who is an expert on Hebrew poets, and that he, Bernie, jokes with him over the annual Passover Seder. But what else? Sanders does not disclose much about his personal life, but does credit his social action predisposition to be rooted in his Judaism, which quotes Deuteronomy 15:20: “Justice, Justice thou shalt pursue,” to be one of its main dictums. These values motivated Sanders’ involvement in Hashomer Hatzair, (translated as “The Young Guard,”) a still intact Socialist-Zionist group whose earlier members numbered strongly in the Jewish resistance to WWII Nazis. This movement encouraged its youth to move to Israel and contribute to communal living there, where it historically advocated a bi-national state in Palestine, not a Jewish state until the 1947 UN General Assembly motion to partition the land. An idealistic young Sanders, fresh from his civil rights advocacy as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, travelled there with his new wife to settle, however briefly, on the kibbutz Sha’ar HaAmakim (Gateway to the Valleys). Today it makes solar water heaters. perhaps this influenced his movement, with many outlier Jews, to move to the open country in Vermont.
A.Daniel Roth’s article in The Jewish Forward entitled “Bernie Sanders Should Embrace His Kibbutz Past –Not Shrink From It” argues that this involvement, “which in its early decades established a socialist Worker’s Party seeking a bi-national state for Jews and Palestinians, is a perfect fit for Sanders.” However, Roth’s assertion that Sanders “has been less forthcoming on the Israel-Palestine front,” does not seem accurate. In an extensive interview on Vox with Ezra Klein, he is directly asked if he is a Zionist. Here is his answer:
“A Zionist? What does that mean? Want to define what the word is? Do I think Israel has the right to exist, yeah, I do. Do I believe that the United States should be playing an even-handed role in terms of its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel? Absolutely I do. Again, I think that you have volatile regions in the world, the Middle East is one of them, and the United States has got to work with other countries around the world to fight for Israel’s security and existence at the same time as we fight for a Palestinian state where the people in that country can enjoy a decent standard of living, which is certainly not the case right now. My long-term hope is that instead of pouring so much military aid into Israel, into Egypt, we can provide more economic aid to help improve the standard of living of the people in that area.”
To see the entire article go to: http://www.vox.com/2015/7/28/9014491/bernie-sanders-vox-conversation
At another time, when he was queried by a woman wearing a Muslim head scarf at a open meeting in Vermont, he was most forthright when asked a direct question. His answer, however, received a mixed response, which included shouting and booing hecklers. He told these hecklers to quiet down, and realize that everyone is entitled to their opinion. If he is asked a direct question, he was answering it and he “didn’t want to be disturbed” during that response. He said that Israel has a right to exist and to use means to defend its existence. He also emphasized that “the Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own with full economic and political power.” He continued by also saying that Hamas is using funds donated for road construction, which Sanders said “God knows they need,” to engineer sophisticated tunnels into Israel “for military use.” At this point a heckler screamed, “for its survival!!” That’s when Sanders gave a short lecture on what a democracy is, and how a discussion should be courteously run. Hecklers still continued harassing him during his statement about Israel’s over- reaction to the rockets. It seems that he has advisors from J Street and an expert Arab consultant. He does not claim to have a “magical solution” to the Middle East, but he will fight for the ideals and the integrity, not the militant reactions, of both sides. And he does seem to forthrightly answer any direct question he is asked.
In the course of Sanders’ visits to late night talk shows, Jimmy Kimmel cut right to the heart of Sander’s Jewish background when he asked Sanders if he believed in God. Sanders answered without guile:
“What I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in together. I think it is not a good thing to believe that . . . we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people; . . . we are living in a nation today which has seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires’ massive income and wealth inequality, and you know what? We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth we are the only major country under that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right; the only country that doesn’t have paid Family and Medical Leave. Many other countries are providing free tuition in their public colleges and universities. So essentially what I think is we do best as human beings [is that] we fulfill our lives when we were together, rather than say hey I wanted all and I don’t care about the hungry kid down the street. I don’t think that’s what America should be about it.”
He used the same ideas in his talk at Liberty University, the world’s largest evangelical university, when he described about the immorality of these inequalities with Biblical references:
“And that vision is so beautifully and clearly stated in Matthew 7:12, and it states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the war and the prophets.” That is the golden rule. Do unto others, what you would have them do to you. That is the golden rule, and it is not very complicated.”
He used a quote from the prophet Amos: Amos 5:24,
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” Justice treating others the way we want to be treated, treating all people, no matter their race, their color, their stature in life, with respect and with dignity.”
Bernie Sanders is a cultural Jew crediting his Hebrew School values with his views on social injustice. He declared these values to believes the Liberty University community:
“I am far, far from being a perfect human being, but I am motivated by a vision, which exists in all of the great religions, in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam and Buddhism, and other religions.”
A cultural Jew, according to New Zealand commentator Michelle Boorstein, is exactly what most American Jews are. She writes: “as an unaffiliated person who talks about faith in spiritual terms and seems reticent about the explicit blend of religion and politics, Sanders is a very common American. Americans who are unaffiliated are now 23 percent of the population – second only in size as a “faith community” to evangelicals, who are around 25 percent.” According to her sources religion in America is at a transformational point, with many with unaffiliated views on faith, and on politics. The issues in America are about relationships, and our responsibility to one another. So when Bernie Sanders says that “we are all in it together,” he may be speaking to more sympathizers than is currently recorded in the polling charts.
As comedienne Sara Silverman said when she introduced Sanders: “He is a man of the people, because, after all, his name is Bernie.”
For Part 1 of this article see:http://byteclay.com/article/breaking-story-bernie-sanders-and-an-unlikely-possibly-endorsement-part-1