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‘He needs to go’: Long Island Jews react to George Santos’ indictment

Republicans in Washington, however, are not eager to oust him in fear of losing the seat

Elected officials and Jewish constituents of Rep. George Santos repeated their call for his immediate resignation after he was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with wire fraud, money laundering and lying to Congress. 

“It is clear that George Santos cannot continue to represent the residents” of his district, said Bruce Blakeman, Nassau County’s executive and a Republican. 

Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the 13 criminal counts unsealed in federal court on Long Island seek to hold Santos accountable “for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations.” He could face 20 years in jail if convicted.

The scandal-plagued freshman Republican also fabricated his family’s Holocaust history and repeatedly referred to his Jewish ancestry during last year’s campaign, among other audacious lies about his past.

Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat who lost to Santos by almost 8 points in November, said he “feels encouraged” by today’s developments. “It shows the system of justice is working.” He said residents in the district must keep up the pressure on House Republicans to force him to step down or expel him or else “they’re accomplices to his crimes.”

Santos called it a “witch hunt” speaking with reporters after his arraignment.

The Republican House leadership is unlikely to force Santos to resign as he fights the charges for fear it would endanger its razor-thin majority. In a special election, Democrats could regain a seat they held for 22 years until Santos’ November victory in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Long Island’s Nassau County and the New York City borough of Queens. It remains a swing district, according to many who have studied its most recent voting patterns.  

Local Republicans are not waiting for Congress to act. Santos “has been thoroughly untruthful about his biography and has fabricated stories that are blatantly untrue,” said Blakeman. “He needs to go.”

In January, after Santos came under scrutiny for lying, Blakeman, the county’s first Jewish executive, and other Jewish Republican elected officials called on Santos to submit his immediate resignation for deceiving the people in the district “who identify themselves legitimately as being Jewish.” Jewish organizations, including the Republican Jewish Coalition, also denounced Santos for trying to pass himself off as Jewish.

About 13% of the electorate in the 3rd District is Jewish, and a January poll showed 94% of Jewish voters in the district wanted Santos to resign.

“The real victims of George Santos’ indictment are his constituents,” said Steve Israel, a former Democratic congressman who held the seat until his retirement in 2016. “We will continue to pay his salary while he is consumed with his legal defense instead of the needs of Long Islanders.”

Israel, who is Jewish, said he has no expectations from Santos to step aside. “He’s proven to have no dignity,” he said.

Rabbi Deborah Bravo from a Reform synagogue in Bethpage, Long Island, called MakomNY, said she’s “glad” about the recent development and “hopefully optimistic” that it will lead to Santos being removed from office after a number of “frustrating” months with a paralyzed and isolated congressman unable to truly represent or engage with his constituents.

She said she wasn’t holding her breath in Santos taking responsibility for his actions unless House leadership intervenes.

In an interview on Sunday, Santos resisted calls to resign and vowed to fight until the bitter end. He recently announced his reelection. In a recent podcast interview, Santos doubled down on his Jewish ancestry claim and said he was “plenty Jewish friends” in the district and that he goes to Shabbat dinners “more often than most.”

“From everything I’ve read and seen, it seems like he completely made it up for personal political gain, and nothing that I’ve seen has convinced me that he has any true connection to Jewish roots,” Bravo said.

Several candidates have already announced their bids for the seat. Among them is Anna Kaplan, a former Democratic state senator from Nassau County, who filed papers last week to challenge Santos next year. Some have noted how the personal history of the Jewish former state senator, who fled persecution in Iran as a girl, starkly contrasts with the incumbent’s lies about his grandparents fleeing anti-Jewish persecution during World War II.

This post was updated.

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