Biden and the Jews

President Joe Biden has many Jewish relatives. In fact, as the Times of Israel reported, all three of his kids married into Jewish families, which means Biden is the grandfather of some pretty adorable Jewish kids. A majority of Jews celebrated his victory, and yet there are those worrying about the impact of his foreign policy on those Jews who live in Israel.

Social media is awash with posts with lists of the Jewish cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries, as well as the Jewish connections of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. When placed in the broad sweep of the nation’s history, it’s an important statement about the acceptance and the accomplishments of American Jewry. A century ago or even for several decades afterward, such a number would have been inconceivable. But it’s 2021, not 1921. Having Jews in positions of great influence is no longer such a big deal; in fact, it’s quite commonplace.

We need a comprehensive approach to battling anti-Semitism that takes seriously both the violence that accompanies it and the hateful and dangerous lies that undergird it. Sadly, anti-Semitism takes many different forms and cuts across ideology, political party, group and nation. So we must remain vigilant and speak out every time we see the persistent evil of anti-Semitism rear its ugly head. It’s incumbent on all of us to stand against those who traffic in pernicious stereotypes, or who seek to scare and divide us for political gain. Silence is complicity, so we must speak out — every time. We must call hate by its proper name, and condemn it.

The JCPOA is also incompatible with President Biden’s long-standing commitment to Israel’s security. At a 2015 gathering celebrating Israel’s independence, then–Vice President Biden said: “Israel is absolutely essential—absolutely essential—[for the] security of Jews around the world … Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.”Reviving the JCPOA will endanger that vision, ensuring the emergence of a nuclear Iran or a desperate war to stop it. Biden is a proven friend who has shared Israel’s hopes and fears. He must prevent that nightmare.

The Jewish Spouse

Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, is Jewish. The couple reportedly celebrate Jewish holidays together, and their wedding included the traditional Jewish breaking of the glass. Harris’ stepchildren gave her the nickname of “Momala,” a rhyme with her name that recalls the Yiddish term “mamaleh.”

“It’s striking,” said Ralph Richard Banks, a law professor at Stanford who has written about race, gender and family patterns. “In some ways they are at the frontier of different aspects of American families and how they’re changing.” Some might say they are reflective of where Americans already are. Today, the number of couples who are in an interracial marriage is around one in six, a figure that, along with the number of interfaith marriages, has been increasing since 1967, according to Pew.

That Emhoff is Jewish seemed to both surprise and delight many of Harris’s supporters this week, some of whom took to social media to celebrate their own mixed marriages. Jewish husband was, for a time, a trending topic on Twitter, and there were dozens of congratulatory posts from fellow spouses. “Jewish husbands of more impressive women – this is our moment,” tweeted the journalist Ben Hartman.

the Jewish community is a bit selective in celebrating interfaith marriage. If it brings us a Jewish second gentleman, we will cheer. But interfaith marriage is still taboo to many, and an Orthodox or Conservative rabbi would not have been allowed to preside over the Harris and Emhoff wedding. American Jews want to celebrate the Jewish ties of any famous person while still discriminating against the relationships that tie these individuals to the Jewish community.

The Jewish Cabinet

There are many Jews in Biden’s Cabinet, reported the JTA. Biden’s choices reflect a diverse cross-section of American Jewry and possess expertise gleaned from decades of experience in government, science and medicine and law. Some believe it is a good thing, or a bad thing, but many think it has little meaning.

In terms of their religious backgrounds, the Cabinet nominees are also diverse. Like the president-elect, the majority — at least eight — are Catholic.  But five Jews have also been nominated, two Black Baptists and, if the surgeon general is included (often not), two Hindus. (A handful of Cabinet picks do not appear to identify with any religion.) One group not represented? White evangelicals, the group most loyal to President Donald Trump.

It’s a “remarkable statement about the place of Jews in this society,” said Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s chief policy and political affairs officer in Washington. Amid the rise in antisemitism and its role underpinning the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, Isaacson added, the fact that so many well-known and engaged Jews will serve in the highest levels of the administration “and no one talks about that and it’s not an issue, that says a lot about how far American society has progressed.”

Turkish social media site that usually posts about armed conflict attacked Jews as “overrepresented in Biden cabinet,” part of a rising crescendo of antisemitism and anti-Biden media coverage in Turkey. The claim of Jewish overrepresentation comes on the heels of another antisemitic article in Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper which claimed in early January that the “great president” Donald Trump had been removed by “Jewish lords”.

Bernie Wearing Mittens

The photo of Senator Bernie Sanders donning mittens and a practical brown coat on Inauguration Day made waves across the internet, sparking thousands of photoshopped memes on social media. It has been transposed across time and place, dropped into historical moments, movie scenes, famous paintings and more. Hannah Miao of CNBC called it: “One of the most enduring and endearing photos from Joe Biden’s inauguration”.

Bernie Sanders — the long-serving, self-described democratic socialist, the scourge of economic inequality and now the powerful incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee — has inadvertently provided us with something we have been robbed of for the past four years, good old fashioned laughter.

But Bernie’s sartorial choices are more than cute outerwear. At an event all about seeing and being seen, Bernie did what he has always done — refuse to perform, and remain stubbornly himself. His mittens — made by a constituent — are a reiteration of his politics, a reminder of his suspicion of big money and showy displays dominating politics. He is there to focus on the important thing, the actual work of governing.

Ellis was inspired to give a pair to Sanders when he lost the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and she wanted to lift his spirits. “I didn’t think he was going to run again,” she said. “But I wanted him to.” At the time, Ellis’s daughter was attending a pre-school directed by Sanders’s daughter-in-law, Liza Driscoll, so the opportunity was right to slip him a pair. “I was making mittens for holiday gifts for the preschool teachers,” Ellis said, “and I made an extra pair for Bernie. I gave them to Liza to give to him, just as a thank you.”

Today’s Hot Issues

Biden and the Jews The Jewish Spouse The Jewish Cabinet Bernie Wearing Mittens