The New York Post’s bizarre story today about Jewish donors considering supporting Michele Bachmann because she’s “Jewish” is the latest example of the often humorous record of Jews claiming celebrities as members of the tribe because of their last names.
But it’s more surprising to hear this about Bachmann, whose liberal critics have insisted is attempting to create a Christian theocracy here in the U.S. Josh Margolin reports: “Some Jewish donors are telling fund-raisers for Romney, a Mormon, that while they like him, they’d rather open their wallets for the ‘Jewish candidate,’ who they don’t realize is actually a Lutheran, The Post has learned.” The confusion seems to stem from the combination of Bachmann’s last name and the following part of her speech to last year’s AIPAC conference:
In a speech to [AIPAC] last year, Bachmann recalled being guarded by soldiers while working on the kibbutz….
She went on to say, “I am a Christian, but I consider my heritage Jewish, because it is the foundation, the roots of my faith as a Christian.”
Bachmann also told an AIPAC gathering earlier this year that she and her family make sure each year to attend at least one Jewish-themed play or movie.
Bachmann has recently been involved in controversy over her church’s anti-Catholic views and some of the Christian literature she read in law school. I suppose if you’re not paying any attention to the campaign, other than to float in and out of Bachmann’s AIPAC address, you could be confused. It sounds implausible, but it’s possible.
The humorous part of this is that Bachmann joins a distinguished group of musicians, actors, and athletes whose names sound Jewish, earning them a kind of associate membership of the community. In 2007, for example, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun earned the nickname the “Hebrew Hammer,” because of rumors he was Jewish. Though his father’s side of the family is Jewish, Ryan is not. Adam Sandler’s famous “Chanukah Song” helpfully included some celebrities mistaken for Jews, and others who just have Jewish ancestry. (“Paul Newman’s half-Jewish, Goldie Hawn’s half too….”)
Sometimes Jews appear where they’re least expected. Last year, a CNN documentary found a Polish neo-Nazi couple who turned out to be Jewish. After some teshuvah, the couple became active in their local Orthodox synagogue.
But the mistake in Bachmann’s case is likely limited to a (very) few individuals, and the high-profile nature of a presidential campaign will probably clear up the confusion–at least on the part of the Jewish donors, who will presumably pay some attention to a candidate to whom they are considering donating millions of dollars.