mm051.1: Bloomberg: US’s First Jewish President?

Bloomberg 7/6/07 “hat trick:” part 2 of three, from the Associated Press via ABC News.

ABC News

Bloomberg: US’s First Jewish President?

Could Bloomberg, Not Known in NYC as the Jewish Mayor, Be America’s First Jewish President?
By RACHEL ZOLL
The Associated Press

NEW YORK

Michael Bloomberg isn’t known here as the Jewish mayor.

In fact, his religion is a non-issue in a city that had its first Jewish chief executive, Abe Beame, three decades ago. The New York Jewish community is so large and active that even non-Jewish mayors take counsel from rabbis. So when Bloomberg won the 2001 mayoral race, Jews saw no significant advantage in having one of their own in City Hall.

But if the billionaire businessman decides to run for the White House, his faith will become much more than an afterthought: He would be on a path toward being elected the first Jewish president of the United States.

“I think it’s a great commentary on American political life when a person who happens to be Jewish is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis, who speaks regularly with Bloomberg and has hosted the mayor at a Passover seder and other events.

Bloomberg denies any plans to run, but recently switched from Republican to unaffiliated, clearing the way for a possible independent bid in a field where none of the announced candidates is Jewish.

Still, there is no evidence that Jews will support Bloomberg because of their shared faith.

American Jews vote overwhelmingly Democratic, with a small minority loyal to the Republican Party. Even when Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew and a Democrat at the time, became the first Jewish vice presidential nominee in 2000, there was little change in Jewish backing for the party. Between 1996 and 2000, the proportion of Jews that voted Democratic increased by only 1 percentage point to 79 percent, according to exit polls.

“People thought every Jew in America would run out and vote for Lieberman,” said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, interreligious affairs director for the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy group based in New York. “But Jews are fairly sophisticated voters. They don’t vote along the lines of, ‘I’ll vote for the Jew because I am one.’ They tend to vote issues. They tend to vote politics.”

Bloomberg would also be competing against two other New Yorkers Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Each of those candidates has built strong ties to the Jewish community.

And in a campaign season when Democrats are speaking out as much as Republicans on the importance of faith, the mayor may be at a disadvantage.

Bloomberg, who declined to comment through his spokesman, has said he is not very religious. Other than mentioning that he plans to celebrate a few major Jewish holidays with his family, he almost never discusses his faith. He joined a prominent Upper East Side synagogue, Congregation Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue, which is part of the liberal Reform branch of Judaism, but only occasionally attends worship, Potasnik said.

“Don’t pull out his attendance record” the rabbi joked.

In a 2005 interview with The New York Times, Bloomberg made a rare comment on his religious views. “I believe in Judaism, I was raised a Jew, I’m happy to be one or proud to be one,” he said. Then he paused and added: “I don’t know if that’s the right word. I don’t know why you should be proud of something. It doesn’t make you any better or worse. You are what you are.”

Bloomberg, 65, had a fairly typical religious upbringing for American Jews of his generation.

He was raised in a kosher home in Medford, Mass., just outside Boston, had a bar mitzvah, and, according to Potasnik, still remembers a few Yiddish words. Jewish leaders who speak with him regularly say they haven’t heard him mention facing anti-Semitism as a child.

After the media mogul earned his fortune, he created an endowment for his hometown synagogue, which was renamed for his parents: Temple Shalom, the William and Charlotte Bloomberg Jewish Community Center of Medford. The congregation belongs to the Conservative movement, which emphasizes traditional observance while allowing some changes that adapt to modern times.

Bloomberg has given millions to Jewish causes in the United States and in Israel. He emphatically supports the Jewish state and has traveled there numerous times.

This past February, he dedicated a $6.5 million emergency rescue service facility in Jerusalem named for his father. On the same visit, he toured the southern Israeli town of Sderot, expressing solidarity with a small community that has been a frequent target of Palestinian rocket fire.

“I think there’s a comfort level that he has with his identification as a member of the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Michael S. Miller, chief executive of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Every year since he was elected, Bloomberg has hosted a reception with kosher food at Gracie Mansion, the city’s official mayoral residence, commemorating the council’s Jewish Heritage New York project.

“He’s an ardently strong supporter of Israel,” Miller said.

However, neither of the mayor’s two daughters celebrated a bat mitzvah, and Bloomberg, who is divorced, officiated at his daughter Emma’s wedding, which was a civil ceremony.

“He’s a fairly assimilated Jew,” Greenebaum said. “I don’t think it will be a big thing.”

Associated Press Writer Sara Kugler contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Bloomberg: US’s First Jewish President?

This, like the one just posted below, is an interesting angle regarding a person who has not yet declared for the presidency. What is going on? we wonder.

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6 Responses to mm051.1: Bloomberg: US’s First Jewish President?

  1. Tristan says:

    Take a gander at the New York’s Jewish Mayor and Kalifornia’s son-of-a-storm-trooper Governor displaying a Nazi Totenkopf symbol on the cover of Time Magazine.

    http://raumfahrer.wordpress.com/2007/07/20/schwarzenegger/

  2. mudge says:

    Quite stunning, actually, Tristan. Thanks for sharing this; I never spotted the buckle. And, thanks for reading! –MUDGE

  3. Tristan says:

    Mudge, it’s baffling to me that there has not been a significant public reaction. I think it must be because many Americans don’t know what kind of allusions can be made with that symbol and because skull and cross bones like this have many other meanings. I think, though, that Schwarzenegger knows quite well what the meaning can be and did it to be provocative. He also displayed a Totenkopf ring recently on a trip to his home town of Graz, where people definitely know what it means. To me what the Totenkopf in the Nazi context stands for is nothing that should be dismissed lightly and especially not by the Governor of California in the mass media. That begs the question, how did Bloomberg let himself by associated with that symbol on the cover of Time Magazine? Doesn’t he realize what the symbol can mean?

  4. mudge says:

    Tristan,

    I’m not going to try to figure out what Michael Bloomberg was or was not thinking about this photo — his first view of it may have been when a lackey showed him the cover, and even then he might not have noticed the buckle — I know I didn’t until you pointed it out to me.

    It doesn’t so much reflect poorly on Bloomberg as that it reinforces every scary stereotype of the Austrian governor I’ve ever countenanced. Help! My children live in California!

    Thanks for staying in touch.
    –MUDGE

  5. Tristan says:

    Mudge, I usually get cursed and sometimes death threats, because I write about it and am trying to keep the issue alive. So, I’m glad to find someone that thinks it is also not a good thing. I don’t know much about Bloomberg. I think he should have known better, but can’t really fault him for it. It may well be as you say. It may be embarrassing for him though, if it becomes widely discussed. To be honest, I’m hoping it will become an issue among his supporters, so that he has to say something about it.

    I never liked Schwarzenegger, because he seems arrogant, under qualified for the job and completely without principles, but didn’t really take all the accusations about him seriously. However, it looks like he is showing this Totenkopf on purpose, knowing what the allusions can be. I think the most likely explanation is that he is trying to push the envelop of tolerance for this type of thing. It has been three generations and people are forgetting what happened. Some people want to rehabilitate these symbols and ideas, I’m afraid.

    At least people should put enough pressure on him to disavow that he meant the symbol to allude to what we think it does. Quite a few people are shocked when I point it out to them, but the shock seems to wear off quickly and they forget about it after a while.

  6. Ronnie Ronne says:

    Thanks for the nice article, I’m eagerly awaiting my Samsung Captivate coming from T-Mobile as soon as they legally confirm that they’re carrying it. I was in my neighborhood shop today and experienced a hold of their dummy unit. It appears as well as feels very much better than I imagined. This is actually going to be the cell phone to have. Never mind the iPhone 4g, the Galaxy S is where it’s at. As for me, I’m upgrading from a Samsung Pixon after an 18 month contract and am pleased to have finally settled on the Galaxy S. The decision process was fraught with many, many hours of study on the internet. I was close to an HTC Desire and even closer to an Xperia X10 but then, from out of nowhere, I came across the GSMArena.com review of the Galaxy S and it just does everything so well.

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