The 2020 Democratic race is the first presidential race to include more than one Jewish candidate. This means there’s a higher likelihood of the Democratic Party having its first Jewish presidential nominee.
It’s about time we have a president that represents a religious minority that has been historically pushed aside.
Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are both 78-year-old white, Jewish New Yorkers. For better or for worse, both men are using their Jewish backgrounds as a key factor in their presidential campaigns.
That being said, it is still incredibly significant to potentially have a U.S. president be something other than a Christian, even if the president is still an older, white male.
Considering the fact that almost every United States president has been Christian, specifically Protestant, having a Jewish president in the White House would give acknowledgment to a small, and often neglected, population.
Given that the vice president has let his evangelical Christianity repeatedly influence his public policy, it is even more necessary to veer away from the predominantly Christian presence on Capitol Hill.
Because these Christian politicians are practically unable to separate their religion from their politics, our country is becoming more and more ideologically polarized.
The only exception to the Protestant pattern in the White House was President John F. Kennedy, who was Roman Catholic. Kennedy faced severe backlash as a presidential candidate due to concerns he would pledge loyalty to the Pope rather than the U.S.
So, if a slight variation in Christianity can provoke this strong of a reaction from the American people, imagine the pushback that a Jewish president would get. Seeing two politicians who are outside of the protestant bloc make it this far in a presidential election is empowering.
Having two Jewish frontrunners in the same presidential race is unheard of. So is seeing two New York Jews potentially going head-to-head for the Democratic nomination.
As a person of Jewish descent, it is refreshing, to say the least, to see two prominent Jewish figures come this close to the presidency.
Considering that my grandfather’s parents fled from Lithuania to the U.S. to escape anti-semitism, this is a real landmark moment for Jewish-Americans.
Sanders and Bloomberg have both made an effort to discuss their Jewishness in their recent campaign efforts.
This past holiday season, Sanders was seen lighting a menorah during a Hanukkah celebration in Des Moines. Bloomberg recently gave a speech in Miami in which he quoted a passage from a Jewish holy text.
Critics have claimed the two candidates to be disingenuous, as they attempt to cling to the Jewish faith without having strong religious ties to their Jewishness.
In other words, critics believe that while Bloomberg and Sanders may be Jewish ethnically and culturally, they do not necessarily practice Judaism regularly enough and are pandering to Jewish voters.
I don’t think this matters considering the fact that Jews have always been considered more than a religious group. And, as times are changing, younger voters are less concerned with religious affiliation.
Although a presidential candidate’s religious affiliation may matter to older generations of Americans, younger generations are more likely to separate the candidate from their faith. Instead, young Americans are more concerned with the candidates’ plans for healthcare, college and the climate crisis.
Despite two people of Jewish descent being some of the major candidates of the 2020 presidential race, discrimination in Trump’s America is undoubtedly on the rise again.
Just a few weeks ago, masked neo-Nazis part of a white supremacist group marched in Washington D.C., chanting phrases like “Reclaim America” and “Life, liberty, victory,” according to Reuters. Representation in leadership, like Sanders and Bloomberg is critical in times when oppressed peoples are under attack.
Needless to say, Sanders or Bloomberg landing the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination would be a major moment in history for Jewish-Americans, and it would be a huge step forward in giving a voice to a repressed community.