Skip To Content
Forward 50 2015

Bernie Sanders

The only serious challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination has a Brooklyn Jewish accent that makes even the most comfortably assimilated Jews ask: “Hold on, that guy is running for president? Of the United States?”

Bernie Sanders, who pronounces fewer r’s than Uncle Leo on “Seinfeld,” is polling surprisingly well after nearly six months of campaigning. Much has been made of how surprising pundits have found this support for Sanders, who is 74 and a self-proclaimed democratic socialist senator from Vermont.

Less has been made of just how jarring it is to see someone who is so clearly Jewish making a serious presidential run. Sure, Joe Lieberman shared the 2000 Gore ticket, and briefly polled ahead of John Kerry in the 2004 cycle. But Lieberman talks like he’s from Connecticut. Bernie Sanders talks like Abbie Hoffman.

“Ninety percent of the children on the street were Jewish,” Sanders’s brother Larry, who now lives in England, told the Forward of the brothers’ childhood in Brooklyn. “It was an uncontested Jewishness. It was just part of the air; it was what we were.”

That experience informed Sanders’s politics, which focus on class-based critiques of the widening economic gap between rich and poor. Jews factor much more heavily on the “rich” side of that equation than they did when Bernie was a Brooklyn boy, and it’s unclear how attractive his message will be to the Jewish mainstream, especially given their decades-long history of backing the Clintons.

On the other hand: How cool would it be if a guy who sounded like that were president? Of the United States?

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

In this age of misinformation, our work is needed like never before. We report on the news that matters most to American Jews, driven by truth, not ideology.

At a time when newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall. That means for the first time in our 126-year history, Forward journalism is free to everyone, everywhere. With an ongoing war, rising antisemitism, and a flood of disinformation that may affect the upcoming election, we believe that free and open access to Jewish journalism is imperative.

Readers like you make it all possible. Right now, we’re in the middle of our Passover Pledge Drive and we still need 300 people to step up and make a gift to sustain our trustworthy, independent journalism.

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.

Only 300 more gifts needed by April 30

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.