Bernie and I grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood and went to the same schools. There were a few Italian families. Everyone else was Jewish, at least culturally Jewish. There was a little synagogue a block from where I lived and I would pass it everyday when I walked to PS 197 with my friend Stuie Cohen. Do you know what a minyan is? It's like a Talmudic version of a quorum for a religious ceremony. If you want God to hear your prayers, you have to have 10 males over the age of 13 at the service. The day after I had my bar-mitzvah, the rabbi asked me if I would come to services on the way to school. I said no. He offered me and Stuie-- who had just had his bar-mitzvah as well-- $40 a week each. $40 doesn't seem like much, right? But in today's money that would be $373.04. Stuie and I were suddenly like the richest kids in our class. Except for the actual rich kids. And we had some in the neighborhood. They were the ones who had big single family housesand didn't live in apartments like Stuie or flats like my family.
And the rich Jews seemed different in other ways too. One was religion. Their families took it seriously. My parents were non-practicing Jews. My father was an atheist and very antagonistic towards religion. He offered me a trip to Europe if I would forgo being bar-mitzvah-ed but all my friends were... and at 12 I wasn't as yet the nonconformist I eventually turned into.
The rich friends who lived in big houses with lawns and even servants, took religion a lot more seriously than my family did-- the rich always do. Even after a few months of that $40 a week I couldn't take the daily prayer service and quit, even though the rabbi was crying when he begged me not to. I don't think I ever went to a Jewish prayer service again after that. But, like I said, the wealthier people in the hood were more into it-- and they want to big fancy synagogues, not like the dump I was lured into. And these were the people who were also Zionists and who were excited when AIPAC started in 1963. Religion has always been one of thee underpinnings and legitimizers of conservatism.
I didn't know Bernie; he was older than me. But I have a strong suspicion his family was as much into the religion as mine was. And as interested in AIPAC as I was-- which was, on a 1 to 100 scales, zero. Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, also lived in the hood. I bet he was very interested. Back in those days, AIPAC was practically part of teh Democratic Party-- or at least as much so as it is now a part of the Republican Party.
As you can probably guess from the coverage here of AIPAC and it's scumbag affiliates, I consider them the enemy. And, according to a Shane Goldmacher report in the NY Times yesterday, so does Bernie. Referring to AIPAC's financing of right-wing candidates against progressives this year, Benie told him "This is a war for the future of the Democratic Party." Amen!
“Why would an organization go around criticizing someone like Summer Lee for not being a strong enough Democrat when they themselves have endorsed extreme right-wing Republicans?” Mr. Sanders said. “In my view, their goal is to create a two-party system, Democrats and Republicans, in which both parties are responsive to the needs of corporate America and the billionaire class.”
Sanders specifically called out the committee for donating to congressional Republicans who refused to certify the 2020 election, while its super PAC, the United Democracy Project, has framed itself as a pro-democracy group.
“That just exposes the hypocrisy,” Mr. Sanders said.
...Sanders has sparred with pro-Israel groups over the years, including during his 2020 presidential run, when a group called the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC spent money to attack him when he emerged as a front-runner early in the primary season.
And when one of Sanders’s national co-chairs, Nina Turner, ran for Congress in a special election in 2021 and again in 2022, that group and the AIPAC-aligned super PAC both spent heavily to defeat her.
“I understand Senator Sanders’s grudge against us,” said Mark Mellman, the president of Democratic Majority for Israel PAC. “We helped prevent him from winning Iowa and the presidential nomination. Then we helped stop his campaign chair from winning a House race in Cleveland. Honestly, I wouldn’t be happy with us either, if I were him.”
Sanders said that his battle with AIPAC wasn’t personal and that he didn’t even see it as being about Israel.
“They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country,” he said.
Sanders’s next clash with AIPAC is the May 24 runoff in Texas between Ms. Cisneros and Representative Henry Cuellar. The contest has included more than $6 million in super PAC spending, of which less than one-third, or $1.8 million, has come from the United Democracy Project.
There are likely to be more clashes to come; the United Democracy Project is evaluating 10 to 15 more races. “Our goal is to build the broadest pro-Israel bipartisan coalition possible in Congress,” said Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for the super PAC.
Sanders knows he won’t win each confrontation. The goal of speaking out, he said, was twofold: to create some political cost for the super PACs that engage and “for people to understand when they see these ads on television and why they’re being played.”
Sanders also railed against the “crypto-billionaires” who are pouring money into Democratic primaries, including more than $11 million into a single House seat in Oregon. “Outrageous,” he said.
In a letter this week to Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Sanders urged the party to reject super PAC spending more broadly, at least in primaries. “What we have to do is not just talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk,” he said.
The two men spoke after the letter this week, though little is expected to come of the issue.