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In Democratic race for Illinois governor, the two top candidates are Jewish
It just isn’t clear what kind of Jewish Democrat he will be. Two Jewish candidates are the front-runners in the Illinois Democratic gubernatorial primary in March, and both are favored to defeat the unpopular Republican governor, Bruce Rauner ...
In this effort, Pritzker has maintained his establishment ties, scoring endorsements from both of his state’s senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both DemocratsHe is campaigning on Democratic touchstones, pledging more funding for education, health care, and social services.
Biss has purposefully aligned himself with Bernie Sanders-style Democratic politicsHis ads rail against a “rigged system,” and he pledges to “make billionaires pay their fair share in taxes.” He is campaigning for key Sanders policies like Medicare for all, universal health care, and free higher education.
Biss also has made inroads among the Sanders activist baseHe was endorsed recently by Our Revolution, the successor group to Sanders’ 2016 campaignAnd his initial running mate was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, but that didn’t work out.
Why they’ve gotten in trouble
Both candidates have faced controversy, with Biss’ relating to Jewish issues.
Biss’s initial running mate was Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a Chicago alderman who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of AmericaBut Biss faced backlash for the choice, made in September, because the DSA — along with Ramirez-Rosa personally — supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against IsraelRamirez-Rosa had criticized the United States because it “subsidized the oppression of the Palestinian people.”
The move led Representative Brad Schneider, a Jewish Democratic congressman from the Chicago suburbs, to withdraw his endorsement of Biss, who then dropped Ramirez-Rosa from the ticket, claiming that Ramirez-Rosa had told him he opposes BDS.
Pritzker has come under fire of lateThe most prominent scandal came from a tape recording of him speaking to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who is now in prison on corruption charges, about filling President Barack Obama’s U.SSenate seatPritzker suggested Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who is black, as that “covers you on the African-American thing.” He also called Representative Jesse Jackson Jra “nightmare.”
In another tape recording of a conversation with Blagojevich, Pritzker sought political office from the governor.
What they say about being Jewish
Both Pritzker and Biss credit their Jewish background for making them who they arePritzker and his relatives are longtime donors to Jewish causes, and Pritzker includes his support of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in his campaign website biographyHe also has served on the national board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby.
In an interview with a Chicago Jewish paper, Pritzker said his childhood was imbued with Jewish values.
“I’ve often said it’s hard to separate the values of my parents and the values of my religion,” he said“When we would go to temple and listen to discussions (in services or Sunday school), there was no difference between the things being taught at temple and those being taught at home… It was just the basic things you learn from your rabbi and teachers are the same things we were learning from experiences with our parents.”
Biss is descended from an Israeli mother and grandparents who survived the HolocaustHe grew up in a secular, culturally Jewish familyHe told the Chicago Sun-Times that his maternal grandparents gave him “a deep sense of Jewish identity” but not “a strong sense of ritual observance or literal belief, necessarily.” His grandparents on the other side “had kind of a Marxist view on religion.”
In a story he’s told many times, Biss recalls fasting on Yom Kippur as a child, when his maternal grandmother came up to him and said, “Why would you do that?”
Biss still identifies as a Jew, though he has said he does not observe many ritualsHe said he consulted a rabbi when he launched his run for governor.
“There is a place for morality and ethics and a kind of a sense of community in politics,” Biss told the Sun-Times“In fact, that’s the point of politicsAnd many of us have those senses shaped by our faithBut, then, if you bring the faith into politics in a way that’s exclusive of somebody else, that’s just dead wrong.” JTA Wire Service
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