Birth Name: Michael Farrand Bennet
Place of Birth: New Delhi, India
Date of Birth: November 28, 1964
*father – English, some Irish, small amount of German
*mother – Ashkenazi Jewish
Michael Bennet is an American businessperson, lawyer, and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he has been a U.S. Senator from Colorado, since January 21, 2009. He was previously the Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, from July 1, 2005 to January 21, 2009.
He was a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in 2020.
Michael was born in New Delhi, India, the son of Susanne (born Zuzanna Klejman) and Douglas J. Bennet (Douglas Joseph Bennet, Jr.). At the time of Michael’s birth, his father, who was born in New Jersey, was serving as an aide to the U.S. Ambassador to India, Chester Bowles. Michael’s father also ran the U.S. Agency for International Development, from 1979 to 1981, was President and CEO of NPR, from 1983 to 1993, and President of Wesleyan University, from 1995 to 2007. Michael was raised in Washington, D.C. His brother is journalist James Bennet.
Michael is married to attorney Susan Daggett, with whom he has three children.
Michael’s father was of English, some Irish, and a small amount of German, descent, with Mayflower and other Colonial American ancestry.
Michael’s mother was born in Warsaw Poland, in 1938, to Polish Jewish parents, and survived the Holocaust, along with her parents. Her family then lived in Warsaw, and late Stockholm, Sweden, and Mexico City, Mexico, before coming to the U.S. in the late 1940s. An interview with Michael’s mother about her heritage can be heard and read here. Michael named two of his daughters, Felicia and Anna, after relatives of his mother’s who died in the Holocaust.
Michael was raised around both Christian and Jewish faiths.
Michael is the first person directly descended from a Holocaust survivor to have mounted a notable campaign for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States.
Michael’s paternal grandfather was Douglas Joseph Bennet (the son of Walter Hughes Bennet and Grace Agatha Downs/Downes). Douglas was born in Delaware. Walter was the son of John Gardner Bennet and Adaline Hughes. Grace was the daughter of David Henry Downs/Downes, whose parents were Irish, his father from Limerick and his mother from Crome; and of Catherine M. McNamara/MacNamara, who was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Irish parents.
Michael’s paternal grandmother was Phoebe Benedict (the daughter of Farrand Northrop Benedict and Helen Bulkley Bullard). Phoebe was born in New York. Farrand was the son of William Burritt Benedict and Julia A. Bates, whose father was English. Helen was the daughter of The Rev. Charles Bulkeley/Bulkley Bullard and Amelia W. “Minnie” Atkins/Aikins.
Michael’s maternal grandfather was John/Jan Jacob/Jakób Klejman (the son of Szymon/Simon/Shlyama/Shimon Klejman and Natalie/Natalya Srebrnik). John was born in Sochocin, gmina Sochocin, mazowieckie, Poland, and was a Polish Jew. He was an art dealer who owned an art gallery in Warsaw. Michael’s mother has said that her father John had distant Dutch Jewish ancestry. Michael’s great-grandfather Szymon was the son of Josek Boruch Klejman and Ester Sura Chuda.
Michael’s maternal grandmother was named Helena/Halina Szwec (the daughter of Borys/Boris Szwec and Chana/Anne/Anna). Halina was born in Warsaw. She had Lithuanian Jewish and Russian Jewish ancestry.
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.
Five 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)
*Bernie Sanders (who sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 and 2020; in 2016, he won 23 contests; in 2020, he won 9 contests)
*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, and 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 (the 2016 New Hampshire primary).
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)
*Tom Steyer (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
Shapp, Agran, Specter, Lieberman, Karger, and Williamson were/are all Jewish by religion. Steyer was raised in a mixed-faith household, with 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: Information about Michael’s mother’s experiences during the Holocaust and World War II – https://www.nbcnews.com
Michael’s paternal grandfather, Douglas Joseph Bennet, on the 1920 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org
Oral history of Michael’s mother’s family, by Michael’s mother – https://collections.ushmm.org
Travel record of Michael’s maternal grandfather, John/Jan Jacob/Jakób Klejman – https://www.familysearch.org
Travel record of Michael’s maternal grandmother, Helena/Halina Klejman – https://www.familysearch.org