Teens weigh in on Jewish Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during the primary night rally in Concord, N. H., on Feb. 9. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images 

Sophie Baron, Sophomore, Parkway Central

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, is sparking interest among teens everywhere, even among some who are unable to vote.

Despite the involvement and excitement the Jewish community has for Sanders, many people have spoken out against him. Debate over whether he has addressed his Jewish background enough is an ongoing topic of discussion among potential voters as well as the media. 

“I try to keep my religion out of politics unless I believe that someone’s views involve pushing their own religion onto me,” said Abby Miller, former Ohr Chadash editor in chief, first-time voter, Ladue Horton Watkins High School graduate and freshman at Vanderbilt University.

“I don’t feel like Sanders does that at all. I mean, it’s fun to say that he is Jewish just as it’s fun to say that Zac Efron is half-Jewish, but otherwise I don’t think too much about it.”

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Although the enthusiastic reception of a Jewish candidate shows the country’s tolerance of the Jewish people, many still say that religion shouldn’t have anything to do with politics. Nevertheless, the future of Israel is a very important issue among many Jews and often affects their opinion of a candidate.

“Sanders believes in a two-state solution, and that is not really my personal belief,” Parkway Central High School sophomore Zoe Rosenberg said. “I obviously respect that opinion, but I don’t think it would work. Israel is a big issue for me as a Jew, so it does lower my opinion of Sanders.”

The conflict in the Middle East is always a polarizing issue; this polarity is only exacerbated by the current election cycle. Although Zoe doesn’t necessarily agree with the Sanders policy, many Jews and Israel supporters do.

Marquette High School junior Brandon Bleyer said, “I, like Sanders, am pro-Israel, yet recognize that the current quagmire in the Middle East isn’t going to end unless people look at the situation objectively, peacefully and with recognition that both sides have done wrong.”

While Judaism isn’t the focus of Sanders’ campaign, people may argue that his values growing up as a Jew have affected his views on many of the controversial topics important in this election.

“He brings up his Jewish background frequently when discussing the current question of accepting Muslim immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan and North Africa,” Brandon said. “He cites how his family, like millions of other Jewish families, were victims of the Holocaust and how he understands from the lessons of history how we must act preventatively to open our arms to Muslim refugees like the United States did not do for the Jewish refugees before and during World War II.”

Zoe said: “The fact that Sanders is Jewish for sure impacts his decisions because Judaism is a religion with a strong moral code that impacts most people who grow up with the ethics put in place by Judaism.”

The 2016 election cycle has been heavily covered, piquing the public’s interest and getting more people involved in the political process. Because the race has been close, at least between Sanders and his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it is hard to predict the outcome.

 “A lot of people can’t even make up their mind right now because this whole thing is absolutely insane, and everyone seems like a caricature of people,” Miller said. “Instead of involvement, I hear a lot of talk. Instead of participating, it is more of a spectator sport as people are waiting for the primaries to be over.”