Those who delight in counting Congressional Jews have a reason to rejoice: Another Jew has joined the U.S. Senate.
The Rocky Mountain News reports that the Colorado’s new senator, Michael Bennet has a Jewish mother — thus making him a Member of the Tribe, as far as Jewish law is concerned
Still, that might not be the way Bennet, whose father is Christian, views himself. “I was raised with two different heritages, one was Jewish and one was Christian,” Bennet, who recently filled the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, told the newspaper. “I am proud that both heritages are part of me, and I believe in God.”
The freshman senator, whether he defines himself as Jewish or not, comes from a family of Polish Holocaust survivors. After the Nazi takeover of Poland, his maternal grandparents were taken to the Warsaw ghetto. His grandmother, Halina Klejman, smuggled Bennet’s mother to a safe house, while his grandfather hid in another part of the ghetto. After the war, the Klejmans reunited — only to discover that most of their extended family members were killed by the Nazis.
The family arrived in New York, via Stockholm and Mexico City, in 1950. Stateside, the senator’s grandfather John Klejman opened an art gallery, a business he had began in Warsaw before the war.
So here is where the Senate count stands now: 12 seated Jewish senators; 1 disputed Jewish seat (Minnesota’s Al Franken or Norm Coleman. No difference for the Jew-count), and one Colorado senator who Wikipedia defines as “Jewish (non practicing).” Grand total: 14 Jews. Almost.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Colorado's Michael Bennet: America's Newest Jewish Senator