Bernie Sanders’ universalism

Haaretz reports: One of [Richard Sugarman’s] duties seems to be explaining Sanders’ Jewish identity – or lack thereof – to the media. [Sugarman is an Orthodox Jewish academic and longtime friend of Sanders.] In October, Sugarman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that his friend is not “embarrassed or ashamed” of being Jewish, but he is a “universalist” and “doesn’t focus on those issues.” In November, Sugarman made a similar point to NPR – that Sanders is “not into identity politics, and I don’t think … this campaign is going to change him.”

His prediction has held true. Sanders has never referred to his Judaism except in jest – as in his Saturday Night Live appearance – or when asked directly about it by a reporter. In the latter circumstance, he usually refers to his family’s history with the Holocaust and his commitment to social justice and economic equality, but avoids talk of theology or observance.

When, last fall, Sanders was asked on-camera whether he believed in God – by, of all people, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, he avoided directly answering the question, and invoked none other than the Pope in his answer: “I am who I am, and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. I think it is not a good thing to believe as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people, And this is not Judaism. This is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money.”

More recently, Sanders shook off the whispers that he may well be an atheist simply afraid to say the word, by telling the Washington Post that “I think everyone believes in God in their own ways,” he said. “To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.” [Continue reading…]

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