Politics

The Other Reason Bernie Sanders Just Made History

February 10th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' victory in Tuesday night's New Hampshire Democratic primary marks the first primary won by a Democratic socialist, but Sanders' radical message and calls for revolution aren't the only reason his win just made history. Sanders is also the first non-Christian candidate to win a state primary.

Sanders' victory was foreshadowed at last Monday's Iowa Caucus, when Sanders was the first non-Christian candidate to win a delegate. Though fellow chosen-person Joe Lieberman sought the Democratic nomination in 2004, he failed to win any delegates and his campaign fizzled quickly despite the "Joementum" the Connecticut Senator described to CNN's Wolf Blitzer shortly before his New Hampshire defeat.

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While Sanders is a secular Jew, he also has also said he doesn't participate in organized religion.

Sanders described his Judaism at a forum in Derry, New Hampshire, last Wednesday night. "It's a guiding principle in my life — absolutely it is," Sanders said, adding that, "everybody practices religion in a different way."

When he was asked about his faith on Jimmy Kimmel's show in August, Sanders didn't give a direct answer about whether he believed in God or not, but stressed his humanistic spiritual views.

"I am who I am," he said. "And what I believe in and what my spirituality is about, is that we're all in this together. That I think it is not a good thing to believe that as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people."

At slightly over 10,000 in 2014, New Hampshire doesn't have a huge Jewish population, but some New Hampshire Jews have identified a kinship with Sanders religious background.

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"It has provided real education to America about the fact that Jews come in all shapes and stripes," Rabbi Robin Nafshi of Temple Beth Jacob told the Huffington Post last Thursday. "That no, we are not all keeping kosher or observing the Sabbath — that the way American Jews live our lives is as diverse as any group of people, perhaps even more diverse. I think that's one of the things that has been really quite educational with his candidacy."