If someone calls Bernie Sanders a “class warrior,” he would agree. The Vermont senator and current Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States of America has made no secret of his disgust over widening inequality in the United States. In fact, he has based his entire presidential platform on building a “future to believe in” that relies heavily on taxing the billionaire class in order to fund such opportunities as free college tuition and healthcare for all.
Likewise, Bernie Sanders has certainly made no secret about the fact that he is Jewish, but his faith has taken a backseat to what the candidate considers the more urgent, pressing matters of income inequality and the disappearance of the middle class.
But in Tuesday’s Democratic town hall, aired on CNN, Senator Bernie Sanders eloquently and movingly tied his faith and spirituality to his lifelong fight against inequality, as well as his deep belief in the importance of caring for others. The speech was personal, telling and poignant, and well worth a listen.
“Every great religion in the world — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism –essentially comes to do unto others as you would like them to do unto you,” Sanders explained.
Pointing to his early support for the civil rights movement, Sanders underscored his deeply held belief that, by the simple virtue of being human, people are deeply connected.
“I believe that in my whole life, that we are in this together. The truth is, at some level, when you hurt, when your children hurt, I hurt. And when my kids hurt, you hurt.”
Sanders was raised Jewish while growing up in Brooklyn, and he believes in God. However, he says he identifies as a secular rather than a religious Jew and doesn’t often address his religion. In fact, the New York Times recently noted that Bernie Sanders rarely refers to himself as Jewish, explaining the history of Sanders’ religious beliefs.
“Mr. Sanders, those who know him say, exemplifies a distinct strain of Judaism, a secular offshoot at least 150 years old whose adherents in the shtetls of Eastern Europe and the jostling streets of the Lower East Side were socialists, anarchists, radicals and union organizers focused less on observance than on economic justice and repairing a broken world. Indeed, he seems more comfortable speaking about Pope Francis, whose views on income inequality he admires, than about his own religious beliefs.”
But despite Sanders’ perceived reluctance to discuss his Jewish faith, it is his family’s history and the horrors of the Holocaust that led Sanders to politics. Three of his father’s siblings perished during the Holocaust. Because of that, Sanders himself once said that he was “forever mindful” that the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in 1933 directly resulted in the deaths of 50 million people around the world, six million of them Jews.
His brother Larry Sanders said, “Bernie learned that politics is a very serious matter.”
Neither his father nor mother were very religious, going to synagogue basically for Passover, and Bernie Sanders has simply chosen not to make his faith central to his political platform as other politicians have done.
But when asked about his faith during the Democratic town hall on Tuesday, Sanders condensed his own views to a simple belief in working together, as people, and taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves.
“It’s very easy to turn our backs on kids who are hungry or veterans who are sleeping on the street, but I believe that what human nature is about is that everybody in this room impacts everybody else in all kinds of ways that we can’t understand. That’s my religion. That’s what I believe in.”
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News]