WASHINGTON (JTA) — In an interview with The New York Times ahead of the paper’s endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he is “proud to be Jewish” but is “not actively involved in organized religion.”
“I am Jewish,” Sanders told the Times’ editorial board when asked whether he believes in God. “I am proud to be Jewish. I was bar mitzvahed from the Kings Highway Jewish Center, a long time ago. I am not actively involved in organized religion.”
The Times notes in a comment in the interview that “if elected, he would be the first Jewish president, and also one of few who have openly discussed a disconnect from organized religion.”
The Vermont senator goes on to say that he believes in God and in freedom of religion, contrasting himself with President Donald Trump, whom Sanders says practices discrimination by restricting immigration from a number of Muslim majority countries.
The Times is publishing its editorial board’s interviews with Democratic candidates ahead of its endorsement, which is set to appear on Jan. 19.
Sanders, 78, was for a long time reluctant to talk about his Jewish heritage during his 2016 presidential campaign. Some of his campaigners have made his Jewishness central to his 2020 campaign.
The Times links to an essay he wrote in the left-wing Jewish Currents magazine, in which Sanders opens up about his Jewish identity.
Asked if anyone advises him on spiritual matters, Sanders referred to his wife, Jane.
“My wife was raised as a Catholic, holds some pretty strong feelings,” he said.