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Scoop: Politician who said he never claimed to be Jewish once called himself ‘a proud American Jew’
The latest: George Santos, a Republican who won a Long Island House seat in November, told Jewish leaders and pro-Israel groups that he was “a proud American Jew” in a document uncovered Tuesday by our senior political reporter, Jacob Kornbluh.
The deception: The very first line of Santos’s campaign biography was about how his grandparents escaped anti-Jewish persecution in Europe during World War II. That was a fabrication, according to genealogy records we revealed last week that showed they were in fact born in Brazil in 1918 and 1927. He admitted on Monday that he is Catholic but added, oddly, that he considers himself “Jew-ish.”
The response: Santos was a featured speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s conference in November and participated in a menorah lighting ceremony with the group on the first night of Hanukkah. Since our reporting about his falsely claiming family connections to the Holocaust, the coalition said Santos is no longer welcome at its events.
The future: The lie about his Judaism followed a laundry list of falsehoods uncovered in a New York Times investigation that showed a résumé riddled with jobs he never held and a college degree he didn’t earn. But Republican leaders have largely ignored the public outcry, and Santos is still expected to be seated as part of the 118th Congress being sworn in on Tuesday.
Read the story ➤
How ‘Jew-ish’ went from warm inside joke to national flashpoint: Santos isn’t the first public figure this year to use the term “Jew-ish” — Kanye West also spoke about it dismissively. Our language columnist, Aviya Kushner, asked what it means for two figures who have falsely claimed Jewish connections to also claim ownership of a term that has come to celebrate the vibrant range of ways people express their Jewishness — using it, she writes, “as a weapon to claim an identity and use it to gain some kind of power.” Read her essay ➤
Opinion | Santos exploited Jewish trauma to win an election: The 34-year-old politician is not the first person to claim an ethnic identity they have not lived. “Having one’s identity fetishized is dehumanizing,” wrote Brandy Shufutinsky, a Black Jewish woman. “It also trivializes those who experience discrimination.” She added: “Jewish identity is under assault enough as it is, without someone weaponizing our greatest trauma for political gain.” Read her essay ➤
Stan Lee created dozens of superheroes, including Spider-Man, the Hulk, Black Panther and the Avengers. (Getty)
Stan Lee, who would have turned 100 today, created the most Jewish of superheroes: Born to immigrants from Romania, Lee co-created the Marvel Universe. “His stories had the flavor of Yiddish theater plays,” Roy Schwartz, who authored a book about Superman’s Jewish history, wrote in an appreciation. Lee’s characters “saw their superpowers as a burden rather than a gift,” he added, “a power they never asked for that came with a responsibility they never wanted, placing them in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, like Abraham and Moses and David.” Read the story ➤
Jew vs. ‘jew’ | Google’s offensive definition causes a brief online stir: If you typed “Jew” into the search engine Tuesday morning, the top result was “to bargain with someone in a miserly or petty way.” Google had it fixed by the afternoon, but our digital culture reporter, Mira Fox, was nonplussed. “Why,” she wondered, “was the offensive verb the top result instead of, you know, the religion and ethnicity that’s been around for thousands of years?” Read the story ➤
And one more: Behind the swankiest new hotel on the Lower East Side is a swanky Jewish history.
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WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
‘In this time of rising antisemitism, I want to be very clear when I say that I always stood with the Jewish people and always will,’ said Whoopi Goldberg. (Getty)
🙏 Whoopi Goldberg apologized again on Tuesday for suggesting the Holocaust was not rooted in racism, and insisted she was not “doubling down on hurtful comments” when she repeated them in a recent interview, only trying to convey to the reporter what she had said back in January. “I believe that the Holocaust was about race,” Goldberg said Tuesday, “and I am still as sorry now as I was then that I upset, hurt and angered people. My sincere apologies again, especially to everyone who thought this was a fresh rehash of the subject. I promise it was not.” (Hollywood Reporter)
Jewish women in Indiana and Kentucky are suing to overturn their states’ abortion bans, which they say violate their freedom of religion. “That has to mean protecting all religions,” said Berg Raunick, a member of Hoosier Jews for Choice, “not just Christianity, and not just the majority.” Similar lawsuits are pending in Florida. (AP)
🐭 In a new interview, Art Spiegelman reflects on “a wild year” in which a Tennessee school district’s ban of his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, Maus, led to countless interviews, speeches, webinars and, eventually, exhaustion. “I’ve been having to deal with a 500-pound mouse chasing me,” he said. Maus sold triple the number of copies in 2022 as the previous year, and Spiegelman’s publisher also released a new edition of an anthology of his early work. (New York Times)
💰 Secular Israelis pay up to six times the taxes as the ultra-Orthodox, according to a new report released Tuesday. Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid called it a “wake up” call ahead of the Thursday takeover by Israel’s most religious and right-wing government yet. (Haaretz)
✝️ Pope Francis announced this morning that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, is “very sick,” and asked the faithful to pray for the retired pontiff so God will comfort him “to the very end.” Benedict, 95, lives in a convent on Vatican grounds. (CNN)
👶 Biblical boys topped the list of New York City’s most popular baby names in 2022: Benjamin, Daniel, David, Ethan, Jacob, Joseph and Noah all made the top 10. Meanwhile, Faith came in at No. 97 on the list of girls’ names. (NY Post)
Quotable ➤ “I’m too relaxed, too laid-back. Most of the time I feel like a flat tire, unmotivated, positively lifeless. It takes a lot to get me stimulated, and I’m an excessively sensitive person, which complicates things.” – Bob Dylan, in a wide-ranging interview to promote his new book, The Philosophy of Modern Song.
What else we’re reading ➤ The best biblical archaeology news stories of 2022 … The French celebrity whose embrace of antisemitism anticipated Kanye West’s … An upstate New York synagogue turned its social hall into a pickleball court.
Joseph Gluck tells reporters how he lured a machete attacker away from a Hanukkah party in 2019. (Getty)
On this day in history (2019): A man stabbed five Hasidic Jews at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York, killing 72-year-old Josef Neumann. On the suspect’s phone, investigators found searches including “Why did Hitler hate the Jews,” “prominent companies founded by Jews in America” and “Zionist Temples.” In April 2020, he was deemed unfit to stand trial and confined to a psychiatric facility.
Last year on this day, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the former Democratic majority leader with deep Jewish ties, died at 82.
In honor of National Short Film Day, spend three minutes and 24 seconds watching The Critic, a hilariously weird 1963 animation from Mel Brooks. It won the Academy Award for Short Subjects – we assume the Academy meant the length of the film and not the fact that Brooks is 5-foot-5.
Thanks to Nora Berman, PJ Grisar, Matthew Litman and Talya Zax for contributing to today’s newsletter. You can reach the “Forwarding” team at [email protected].