JERUSALEM (JTA) – Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived White House communications director, is not a member of the tribe. But he came close to declaring himself one during a visit to Israel this week.
“A few more days here and I’d probably convert to Judaism,” Scaramucci joked to JTA on Tuesday. “They already did the circumcision back in ’64. There just wasn’t a mohel present.”
When he was not touting his Jewish ties on the trip, Scaramucci talked up the pro-Israel bona fides of his former boss, President Donald Trump. He revealed that he hopes to work for him again – and in fact never really stopped.
Scaramucci, 53, had come to Israel two days earlier as a guest of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, a U.S.-based group that promotes business opportunities and aims to influence public policy. A former Wall Street financier and accomplished entrepreneur known as “The Mooch,” he has scoped out investment opportunities in Israel’s renowned high-tech industry.
While that work has been done in private, Scaramucci repeatedly spoke out about his fond feelings for the Jewish people. At a news conference Tuesday morning at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, he described Judaism’s culture as “unbelievable” and “beautiful,” and credited the mother of his Jewish high school friend with putting him on the path to success.
“His mom forced us to study before we could eat, before we could play sports, before anything else,” he recalled. “I can tell you I grew up in a neighborhood where none of the Italian kids were studying, and without her help, I don’t think I ever could have gotten to Tufts University.”
At Tufts, Scaramucci said, he took a course on Yiddish literature.
“And I can tell you, I am one of the few goys out there that knows the difference between a ‘sheigetz’ and a ‘shiksa,’” he said, using three derogatory Yiddish terms for non-Jews.
He later reeled off works from the course list to JTA, from the short stories of Sholem Aleichem to the Philip Roth classic “Portnoy’s Complaint.”
At the news conference, Scaramucci went on to call Israel a gift from “Hashem himself” and the Jew’s promised land. Despite not being Jewish, he said, this is his third trip to the country, which he supports on principle.
“So I know that this is God’s land for God’s Chosen People. I know that the State of Israel will exist today and forever in the future, and it’s important for anybody who believes in the concept of liberty and anybody in the West who believes in the individual spirit to protect the State of Israel,” he said.
A longtime defender of Trump, Scaramucci on several occasions pitched the president as a godsend for the Jewish state, telling the crowd at the King David that Trump’s election marked a “new era” in U.S.-Israel relations.
“He’s a great friend of Israel, and he will be a great friend of Israel,” Scaramucci said to applause from Israeli government ministers. “And I think that all of the political parties here, regardless of what your political philosophy is, if you’re an Israeli, you’re happy that Donald Trump is in the White House.”
Scaramucci wrapped up the news conference with a rendition of the Hebrew Shehecheyanu prayer for special occasions, which he told JTA he had rehearsed for “about half an hour with all my Jewish friends before I got up there.”
A day earlier, Scaramucci visited the nearby Yad Vashem-The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, where he donned a kippah and vowed to do his part to make sure a Jewish genocide never happens again.
“Never can there be this kind of atrocity, this injustice to humanity, this lack of proactivity to prevent something like this,” he told Arutz Sheva, an Orthodox Israeli news outlet. “I have five children, varying ages, I hope to bring them all here so they can see this as well.”
Speaking about how the Holocaust is viewed today, Scaramucci warned of the spread of misinformation about the tragedy — something both he and Trump have been accused of.
Scaramucci, a native Long Islander, joined Trump’s team in July after a career in capital management. He quickly drew attention — and ridicule — for his brash rhetoric and threats to crack down on White House leakers. His term ended before he could be officially installed after he gave a foul-mouthed, on-the-record interview to the New Yorker in which he maligned White House strategist Steve Bannon and other staffers.
Although Scaramucci was fired from his White House job after just 11 days, he said he remains friends with many members of the administration — including U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew — and keeps in touch with them. He said he does not consider himself a representative of Trump, just a supporter.
“It wouldn’t be fair to say I’m a shadow member of the Cabinet,” he told JTA. “But as a private citizen, I’m happy to share my opinions on the administration, and when I’m asked for my opinion from within the administration, I offer it.”
Elaborating on comments he made Monday to The Associated Press, Scaramucci told JTA he plans to return to politics next year by helping Trump with his re-election campaign. He said he does not expect that work to lead to a role in the administration, but he dismisses the suggestion that he should put his rhetorical skills to work for a political career of his own.
“I don’t know, I would never rule anything out,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m not running, and I end up running, and you say he’s one of those BS politicians. I don’t see it now, but that doesn’t mean a decade from now I wouldn’t considering doing something if I thought it could help, and provide some level of public service.”