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Bennet Wins Senate Seat in Close Contest

Does this make him the 12th Jewish senator?

Marc Tracy
November 03, 2010
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).(Matt McClain/Getty Images)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).(Matt McClain/Getty Images)

The Denver Post has called the Colorado Senate race for incumbent Michael Bennet (D), and moreover seems to imply that a recount will not be in the offing: One would be required were the margin less than one-half of one percent, or 3900 votes; but, as of writing, Bennet leads by 7000 with 30,000 votes remaining in Boulder County, which covers the state university and was won 72-26 by President Obama. So Bennet is the 52nd Democratic senator and the 12th Jewish one in the 112th Congress.

… Or does he?

In writing about Bennet, I have always striven to carefully parse his Jewishness (or lack thereof): He had a Jewish mother, indeed one who survived the Warsaw Ghetto; a non-Jewish father; according to Wikipedia, “Though neither of his parents were religiously observant, Bennet has stated that he was ‘raised with two different heritages, one [that] was Jewish and one [that] was Christian,’ and that he believes in God.” So is he Jewish? Halachically: Yes. In a practicing way: No. In a way that Jews can take pride in: That is up to individual Jews. This is definitely one issue where I am happy to report and let you decide.

What I am not happy to do is to let the Republican Jewish Coalition Tweet, as they do nearly every time I write about Bennet in this way, something along the lines of, “@tabletmag continues to characterize #COSen’s Michael Bennet as ‘Jewish’ using criteria that would make BHO ‘Muslim.’” It’s offensive and mischaracterizing, for four reasons: One, just as a matter of fact, unlike Bennet, who acknowledges that his household growing up was partly Jewish, President Obama, whose father was indeed a Muslim, grew up in an entirely Christian household; two, unlike Bennet, who has seemed to deliberately leave his religious characterization pretty wide open, President Obama is demonstrably a believing Christian; third, “Jewish” may be said to be an ethnicity in a way “Muslim” is not, so that the analogy is not that Bennet is “Jewish” in the same way that Obama is “Muslim” but that Bennet is “of Jewish descent” in the same way that Obama is “of African descent”; fourth, context matters, and the lie that Obama is a secret Muslim is used by certain paranoid enemies of his in an attempt to discredit and delegitimize his presidency, whereas no one, at least to my knowledge, has done that to Bennet with regards to his Jewish descent.

In other words, feel free to disagree with me in considering Bennet Jewish to at least some degree, but please at least note that I say it in good faith, and believe me when I testify that I would treat Bennet the exact same way were he a Republican. Please have none of the RJC’s cynical analogies.

Speaking of which! The Republican Jewish House caucus doubled its membership last night, and the party retook the House after a four-year absence. Mazel tov.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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