By Hannah Berman
It appears that Bernie Sanders does not consider himself to be a Jew. To the best of my knowledge, he has not declared himself a convert to another religion but chances are good that, in his addled mind, he does not think of himself as Jewish. Currently, as Hamas is launching thousands of rockets at Israel, the illustrious, mitten-wearing Sanders has called for restriction of United States aid to Israel. If that does not classify him as a non-Jew, it is hard to imagine what would. The man is a disgrace.
There is nothing new here. Sadly, over the years, there have been instances of people of the Jewish religion declaring their conversion to Christianity or to the Muslim faith. While this is not one of those times, it does appear that, subconsciously, Bernie has done just that. In his mind and in his heart, he has opted out of being Jewish. But be that as it may, I remember learning that a Jew remains a Jew. One is born Jewish and dies Jewish, even if one proclaims that he has converted and has left our tribe. Therefore, should such a misguided soul eventually decide to return to his roots, he does not need to convert back to Judaism.
Unfortunately, I was never an attentive student, so despite my having gone through school, school did not always go through me! As a result, despite the best efforts of my teachers and rabbis, my education is somewhat limited and knowledge of halachah is not my strong suit. At the day school I attended, my specialty was daydreaming. And as one who occasionally still engages in that pastime, I cannot help but think how wonderful life would be if I were put in charge of some things. Only the president gets to issue executive orders, but I do not dream about being the president. Being a rabbi is another story, however, and I would enjoy, if only for a brief time, being a well-respected and revered rabbi, one able to make important decisions. The first one would be to put the Vermont senator in cherem. Despite the fact that he has made no formal declaration of having converted, it is clear that he should not, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a Jew. His concern is not for the state of Israel or for the Jewish people.
The Amish practice shunning, Christians excommunicate, and we put people in cherem, which is the highest censure in the Jewish community. It is likely that the term originates from Arabic and is synonymous with forbidden, taboo, off-limits, immoral, and set apart. Unfortunately, the “mitten man” that we know as Bernie Sanders deserves all of these descriptions. In both attitude and philosophy, he ranks right up there with the early Russian communist Trotsky and other Jewish Bolshevik leaders, all of whom were put in cherem by the rabbis of Odessa.
In my vision of a perfect world, this shameless man would never be allowed to enter a Jewish house of worship or to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. The fact that he was born to Jewish parents seems like nothing more than an accident of birth.
Lest anyone be put off by my daydreams, let me make it clear that not all of my wishes fall into the category of negativity. I do have some positive wishes for Bernie. Because my heart is in the right place, I would bestow several heartfelt blessings upon him. May he be blessed with the knowledge that some of his children or grandchildren will pick up the reins that he dropped. May his offspring rediscover the Jewish roots that “Gramps” chooses to ignore.
Of course, there may be some downsides to my blessings. One would be that the outspoken and altogether crotchety senator might be both astonished and displeased by such a turn of events. But it remains a delightful thought to imagine some of his progeny becoming Jewish activists, rabbis, Jewish scholars, and community leaders. I wish for Bernie all of the above. It would give new meaning to the term “poetic justice.” That’s just the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435. Read more of Hannah Berman’s articles on 5TJT.com.