A Jewish candidate won a U.S. presidential primary for the first time

Roundup
tags: election 2016, Bernie Sanders



Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at New York University. He is the author of “Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education.”

For the first time in American history, a Jewish candidate won a presidential primary election. And America yawned.

I'm talking about Bernie Sanders, of course, who thumped Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire's Democratic contest on Tuesday. Everyone is aware that Clinton would be our first female president, but most voters don't seem to know — or care — that Sanders would be our first Jewish one.

That's partly because Clinton plays up the first-woman deal, while Sanders downplays his Judaism. He has never belonged to a synagogue, his wife isn't Jewish, and he hasn't been to Israel since a volunteer stint on a kibbutz in the early 1960s.

But there's more to the story of our collective insouciance. Perhaps we can't see what a big deal Sanders' candidacy truly is because we've forgotten how much prejudice Jews encountered for most of our political history.

Consider the most prominent Jewish politician of the early 1800s, Mordecai Noah, who served as sheriff of New York City and also as U.S. consul to Tunis. Although Noah's father and grandfather had both fought in the American Revolution, newspapers routinely referred to him as “Shylock” or simply “the Jew,” to remind readers that he really didn't belong. ...




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