Bernie Sanders

official photo: “Bernie Sanders” by United States Congress c. 2007 – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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. He was previously Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from April 6, 1981 to April 4, 1989, a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont, from January 3, 1991 to January 3, 2007, Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, from January 3, 2013 to January 3, 2015, and Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, from February 3, 2021 to January 3, 2023, 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, and actress Anjelica Huston, likely through shared Ashkenazi DNA.

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/Radzin 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”/Bettie 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 was 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 or are mounting 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, and is seeking the 2024 Democratic nomination)
*Michael Bennet (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Tom Steyer (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Dean Phillips (who sought the 2024 Democratic nomination)

Shapp, Agran, Specter, Lieberman, Karger, Williamson, and Phillips 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.

Sources: Genealogies of Bernie Sanders –

Genealogies, and obituaries, of Bernie’s parents –

Bernie’s parents on the 1940 U.S. Census –

Genealogy of Bernie Sanders (focusing on his mother’s side) –

Bernie’s mother on the 1930 U.S. Census –

47 Responses

  1. Yeravam says:

    If you look at Bernie’s photos from when he was younger (just type “Bernie Sanders young” into Google images), he has much more of a Levantine look.

    It’s not unusual for Levantines – including Ashkenazi Jews – to lose their complexion as they age.

  2. bearboy says:

    I really doubt if Bernie Sanders was to get DNA tested he would come up as 100% or even close to 100% European Jewish. He must have some Italian/Greek, Iberian, Irish, Scandinavian, Eastern European, Western European, British, Middle Eastern, and Finish ancestry.

    • follers says:

      Well, he has now gotten a DNA test.

      • bearboy says:

        Is that through 23andme? Also I am shocked how much Ashkenazi DNA he has.

        • bearboy says:

          Like how is it that other people with 4 Jewish grandparents (Jack Kaminer’s family) and Jewish friends of mine come up as 80% and in some cases only 65%?

        • follers says:

          His result is typical.

          Larry David’s result was almost identical.

          • passingtime85 says:

            bearboy Results like your friends received happen either because of family lore being lost, and they have limbs on the family tree that were not 100% Jewish, or because they took shoddy tests. Or in more rare cases they could be from gene pools that have not been well researched.

    • FrogMarch says:

      Ashkenazim are largely of Greco Roman ancestry from mass conversions in the time of the Roman and Greek empires.
      The closest living genetic ancestors of Ashkenazim on an autosomal level are Sicilians/South Italians/Peloponnese Greeks and Greek Islanders.

      • Yeravam says:

        No, this is wrong. Ashkenazim are genetically 60% Levantine-Middle Eastern and 30-40% Greco-Roman.

        They plot close to Sicilians and Greek Islanders because these populations are a similar genetic mix of Middle Eastern and Greek/Roman. Ashkenazim, however, have more Middle Eastern ancestry than they do.

        • Yeravam says:

          For example, someone who is half-Japanese and half-Irish would likely plot somewhere in Russia. This doesn’t mean they are of Russian origin. It means Russians are a similar genetic median between East Asian and NW European.

      • Thenabster says:

        They are mostly Middle Eastern

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