Jewish socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been overtaking Hillary Clinton in polls during the Democratic presidential race between them, and his wife resorted to citing a famous Jewish sage to explain her husband's surprising success.
Some polls show the 73-year-old Sanders outpacing Clinton, and he has been drawing tens of thousands of supporters to speeches on the West Coast, in Iowa and Nevada, reports the New York Times on Thursday.
Touting his "political revolution," the socialist candidate has been calling to break up big business, banks, and shake up the system. His plan is big government spending in infrastructure projects to create jobs, expanding Social Security, and introducing a single payer health care system – in short, socialism.
Jane Sanders, the wife of the Independent senator, said, "he’s feeling the weight of ‘wow, people really need this.'" She said her husband "doesn’t believe in the cult of personality."
But when asked why he is attracting such large crowds, she said, "because if not now, when? And if not him, who?"
While Jane Sanders didn't reference her source, her words paraphrase the famous Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, who taught in Israel roughly 2,000 years ago before the Roman occupation exiled Jews from their land.
Rabbi Hillel is famously quoted in Pirkei Avot 1:14 as saying: "If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
The New York Times report added that Sanders is close friends of Richard Sugarman, a professor of Jewish philosophy at University of Vermont who describes himself as a "biblical socialist."
Socialism, not Judaism
However, Sanders has made clear any possible connection of his to Judaism and Israel is not relevant to his campaign.
When a radio host assumed he had dual citizenship in Israel in June, he was deeply offended, saying, "you know, my dad came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket. He loved this country."
"I am, you know, I got offended a little bit by that comment, and I know it’s been on the Internet. I am obviously an American citizen and I do not have any dual citizenship."
Sanders made waves by being the first senator to announce he would not be attending Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress in March warning about the Iranian nuclear deal. Unsurprisingly Sanders supports the Iran deal and vowed to vote for it.
Ironically as Sanders continues to gain influence, the Democratic party has shown itself unable to clarify its stance vis-a-vis his overt socialism.
Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) has repeatedly been unable to state the difference between a Democrat and a socialist on national TV.
A June Gallup poll found that 50% of Americans said they would not vote for a socialist, making it the demographic group with the least support, in a troubling sign for Sanders.