Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opened up about his Jewish heritage during a town hall interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Thursday.
“I’m very proud of my heritage,” Sanders said. “And what comes to mind so strongly is a kid growing up in Brooklyn and seeing people with numbers on their wrist; you probably have not seen that but those were the people coming out of the concentration camps, and knowing that a good part of my family was killed by the Nazis.”
“And that lesson that I learned as a very young person is that politics is serious business and when you have a lunatic like Hitler gaining power, 50 million people died in World War II,” he added. “So I am very proud to be Jewish and I’m very proud of my heritage.”
Sanders, who during February in New Hampshire became the first Jewish presidential candidate to ever win a primary, has rarely spoken about his Jewish faith and instead has focused on his Polish heritage and secular socialist beliefs, to the dismay of some Jewish leaders.
In his New Hampshire victory speech, Sanders noted that he was “the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.”
“Nobody in Poland would have considered Bernie a Pole,” New York-based Rabbi Michael Paley recently told the New York Times, referring to Poland’s long history of anti-Semitism.