Birth Name: Bernard Sanders
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
Date of Birth: September 8, 1941
Ethnicity: Ashkenazi Jewish
Bernie Sanders is an American politician. He has served as a U.S. Senator from Vermont, since January 3, 2007, and Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, since February 3, 2021. He was previously Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from April 6, 1981 to April 4, 1989, and a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont, from January 3, 1991 to January 3, 2007, among other duties.
He was a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in 2016 and 2020. While he was not on the ballot, he received an electoral vote for President from a faithless elector in the 2016 presidential election.
Bernie is the son of Dorothy “Dora” (Glassberg) and Elias Ben Yehuda Sanders. His father was a Polish Jewish emigrant, who was born in Słopnice, Galicia, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and moved to the U.S. in 1921. His mother was born in New York, to Jewish emigrant parents, from Poland and Russia. Bernie had a Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Bernie’s uncle, Abraham “Romek” Schnützer, was killed in the Holocaust in Poland in 1942. Abraham was Bernie’s father’s half-brother.
Bernie is married to social worker, college administrator, and political staffer Jane O’Meara Sanders, who is of Irish descent. He has a son with his former partner, Susan Campbell Mott. Bernie’s brother, Larry Sanders, lives in the U.K., and is an academic and Green Party spokesperson.
A picture of young Bernie (left) with his mother and brother can be seen here.
A DNA test whose results were displayed on the show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2017) stated that Bernie’s genetic ancestry is:
*97.7% Ashkenazi Jewish
*0.1% East Asian/Yakut
Genetically, he was found to have a common ancestor with comedian, actor, writer, and producer Larry David, to whom he is often compared. Such a genetic relation is common for people of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.
Bernie’s paternal grandfather was named Leibisch “Leon” Yehuda Sander.
Bernie’s paternal grandmother was Ettel/Etla/Jetti “Ethel” Guttman (the daughter of Elias Horn and Chaia Guttman). Ettel likely was born in Słopnice, Galicia.
Bernie’s maternal grandfather was Benjamin/Benyamin Ben Avraham Meier Glassberg (the son of Abraham Moshe/Avraham Meir Ben Eliezer Glassberg and Frejda/Frajda Mindla Mlynarz). Benjamin was born in Radzyń Podlaski, Lubelskie, Poland. Bernie’s great-grandfather Abraham Moshe was the son of Eliezer “Louis” Glassberg/Glasberg and Sarah Feige/Fajge. Frejda was the daughter of Chaim Mlynarz and Zelda Appeloig/Appelolg.
Bernie’s maternal grandmother was named Breine “Bessie” Greenberg. Breine was born in Russia.
Bernie Sanders is the first person of Jewish religion to have won a caucus and/or primary for a major American political party’s Presidential nomination. He won 23 contests in 2016, with the New Hampshire primary being the first, and 9 contests in 2020.
Two people of Jewish heritage have been nominated for President of the United States by a major party. Barry Goldwater, nominated by the Republican Party in 1964, was the first (Goldwater was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, and was raised an Episcopalian). John Kerry, nominated by the Democratic Party in 2004, was the second (Kerry’s paternal grandparents were born Jewish, though Kerry’s father and Kerry himself were raised Catholic).
Joe Lieberman, who is Jewish, was nominated for Vice President of the United States by the Democratic Party in 2000.
Other than Bernie Sanders, four people of Jewish heritage have won a major party’s presidential caucus and/or primary:
*Barry Goldwater (1964, the year he was nominated; Republican; won 7 states; Goldwater also sought the 1960 Republican nomination)
*John Kerry (2004, the year he was nominated; Democratic; won 51 contests)
*Wesley Clark (who sought the 2004 Democratic nomination; won 1 state, Oklahoma; Clark was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, and is a practicing Catholic)
*Michael Bloomberg (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination; won 1 territory, American Samoa)
Of the five, Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are Jewish by religion.
Other people of significant Jewish heritage who have mounted plausible or semi-plausible campaigns for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States are:
*Milton Shapp (who sought the 1976 Democratic nomination)
*Larry Agran (who sought the 1992 Democratic nomination)
*Arlen Specter (who sought the 1996 Republican nomination)
*Joe Lieberman (who sought the 2004 Democratic nomination)
*John H. Cox (who sought the 2008 Republican nomination)
*Fred Karger (who sought the 2012 Republican nomination)
*Marianne Williamson (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Michael Bennet (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Tom Steyer (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
Shapp, Agran, Specter, Lieberman, Karger, and Williamson were/are all Jewish by religion. Bennet and Steyer were raised in mixed-faith households, Bennet with a Jewish mother and Steyer was a Jewish father. Shapp was the first person of Jewish religion to mount a prominent campaign for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States.
Kirsten Gillibrand, a Catholic with a Jewish great-grandfather, also sought the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Genealogies, and obituaries, of Bernie’s parents – http://www.findagrave.com
Bernie’s parents on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org
Genealogy of Bernie Sanders (focusing on his mother’s side) – http://famouskin.com
Bernie’s mother on the 1930 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org