Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Santos invites Jewish Democrat he met in 2021 as guest to the State of the Union

Michael Weinstock said he accepted the invitation to bring attention to firefighters with neuropathy

Republican Rep. George Santos, who has been caught in a web of lies about his Jewish background, invited a Jewish Democrat from New York who volunteered as a first responder on 9/11 as his guest to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. 

Michael Weinstock, a former Brooklyn prosecutor, was a volunteer firefighter on Sept. 11, 2001, after two planes hit the World Trade Center. In 2020, Weinstock ran in the Democratic primary, challenging then-Rep. Tom Suozzi, for the House district that Santos now represents. 

Members of Congress get one extra ticket to bring a guest to the State of the Union. Weinstock said he accepted the invitation to bring attention to firefighters with neuropathy. 

Santos has come under fire for lying about having Jewish grandparents who fled persecution during World War II and calling himself a “proud American Jew” during the campaign. He reportedly posted offensive remarks about the Holocaust and made jokes about Jewish stereotypes before he ran for Congress. He also fabricated a story that his mother, Fatima A.C.H. Devolder, was in the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

A recent poll showed that 94% of Jewish voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District think their freshman representative should resign from Congress. 

Weinstock faced issues related to his Jewishness during his congressional campaign. 

One of his opponents, Melanie D’Arrigo, challenged Weinstock’s petition signatures in court. Weinstock tried to get the lawsuit thrown out because it was delivered to his home on Shabbat — in New York, it is illegal to serve someone with legal papers on their day of rest. 

D’Arrigo’s lawyer,  Arthur Schwartz, said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the law should not apply to Weinstock because he is not a “super observant Jew.” 

The New York Post quoted Weinstock as saying that he was “plenty Jewish,” and at a hearing, he told the Albany Supreme Court judge: “I’m not a perfect Jew, but I am observant.”

Appellate judges ultimately ruled in Weinstock’s favor.

Santos, who ran against Suozzi in the 2020 general election, got to know Weinstock after exchanging Instagram messages about comments Santos made during his second campaign. 

Santos visited Weinstock in the summer of 2021, after hearing that he had broken his foot. On Sept. 11, 2021, marking the 20th anniversary of the deadly terror attacks. Santos posted a photo of Weinstock on his campaign’s Instagram account. 

“I can’t thank Michael enough for his brave actions and for having been a first responder,” Santos wrote. “Michael also happens to be a Democrat and former congressional candidate in 2020 who believes in serving his country.”

Weinstock said he didn’t vote for Santos.

In a recent interview on The Howard Stern Show, the host asked Weinstock whether Santos did “any of the Jewish prayers over you?”

Weinstock did not respond to a request for comment about how he feels about Santos’ lies.  After the initial publication of this article, he said that he was misquoted by the New York Post and never said he was “plenty Jewish.”

Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this article inappropriately characterized Michael Weinstock as having exaggerated his Jewish observance or exploited it for political gain. It also mischaracterized Weinstock’s relationship with Santos; they were not friends. 

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.