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The Schmooze

Bernie Sanders Insists That He’s Not A Grumpy Self-Hating Jew

In a quippy new social media video, Bernie Sanders cracks a joke, then talks about race, Judaism, abortion, and basketball. Not Elizabeth Warren. Not Cory Booker. Bernie Sanders.

In 2016, when Sanders faced off against Hillary Clinton, he enjoyed a cache of coolness, despite the two candidates’ matching papery white skin.

Now, with all the new candidates on the block, with their plans, and prosecutorial skills, and natural sources of collagen, Sanders comes off more than ever like an old man booting kids off his lawn with a claw-tipped cane.

And so, in a new video from sleek social-media storytelling account NowThis, Sanders, champion of workers, decides to work it.

Flashing a grin, movingly describing his wife as his “best friend,” and trying gamely to transition from talk about class disparity to talk about how race affects class disparity, this is Sanders, new and (perhaps not in his opinion) improved. Because he’s Bernie Sanders, and was right not to pursue a career as an actor, the attempt to appeal to skeptics is fairly transparent. And the strife that it clearly costs him to be anything other than sincerely himself is, perversely, charming.

His facade falls apart seconds into the video, as Sanders purses his lips and blinks in pain when asked “What Would It Mean To Be The First Jewish President?” Famously reticent to talk about his Judaism, he soldiers on.

“It’s another barrier broken down,” he grumbles, in the segment of the video that required the most cutting together of footage — the camera cuts away from Sanders five times during his answer, which quickly shifts away from his Jewish identity and to the importance of voting for the best candidate.

Seconds later though, Sanders cements, however stereotypically, his inescapable Jewishness.

“What’s your worst habit?” an interviewer asks.

“Thinking about bad things before I go to sleep,” Sanders says, instantly, looking haunted. “And worrying and not being able to sleep enough. I stopped reading the newspapers before I go to sleep.”

Sanders goes on to talk about his legislative accomplishments, his children, his grandchildren, and ever-so-briefly, Anti Semitism. Later in the video, asked what celebrities make him starstruck, he furrows his brow and says that the last people who made him feel starstruck were undocumented immigrants. And perplexingly, it sounds sincere.

Love him or hate him, it’s fascinating to watch a guy who always looks like he’s about to reluctantly hoist a kiddush cup and grunt “Vayom hashishi!” run for president. He may not know what those words mean, but he sure looks the part.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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