By Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA (Bernie Sanders at Roosevelt High School) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA (Bernie Sanders at Roosevelt High School) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sanders made history by becoming the first non-Christian to win a state in a presidential primary.

History was made when Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, won New Hampshire primary, quietly achieving an important milestone in United States politics. He unwittingly became the first non-Christian to win any presidential primary of a large political party. Sanders was born in a Jewish family.

The milestone was reached when Sanders beat his competitor Hillary Clinton. He, however, is not the first American politician of Jewish faith to run for the presidency. Two former senators Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter of Connecticut and Pennsylvania respectively unsuccessfully made a bid for the White House in two separate years. Arlen Specter tried in 1996 and Joe Lieberman wanted to ascend to the highest post in 2004. Barry Goldwater of the Republican Party tried to president in 1964. He too was born in a Jewish family but became an Episcopalian.

Sanders however is the maiden Jewish American to win in the state presidential primary. If the Senator from Vermont is nominated, he will not be the first Jew in American political history to get votes in Electoral College. That distinction goes to Lieberman- the vice presidential nominee of Al Gore in 2000. Both were unsuccessful participants in the then presidential campaign.

Sanders, for his part, says that he grew up in a Jewish household and said he believes that there is a God. He also said that he does not participate in any organized religion. According him, a belief in God means that all human beings, and all living things are connected, and everyone and everything is tied together.

Only a small percentage of the New Hampshire population follows the Jewish religion. Rabbi Robin Nafshi, who works in Temple Beth Jacob is of the opinion that the popularity of Sanders has sent a different-albeit positive message- concerning Judaism in the U.S. She said that it had proved that there is diversity among Jews. The community is not homogenous in their thinking and practice and different Jewish people lead different lives.

Similar views have been echoed by Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He told the media that a noticeable aspect of the Sanders campaign is the minimal Jewish identity foisted on him. It is remarkable that a guy from New York speaking in a Brooklyn accent can be a potential presidential candidate and nobody is concerned about the Jewish ancestry of the candidate. This highlights the American Jewish community's success to be distinct and integrated at same time.


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