Why Can't Josh Mandel Say He's Jewish?

Special Correspondent Max Littman returns to talk about the one subject Mandel won't.

There’ve been more words written the past few months about how shitty of a person Josh Mandel is than the English language probably has. He is an awful amalgam of Trumpism, neo-fascism, and faux-nationalism all wrapped in one spiteful 5’8” bundle. His own family can’t stand him, his wife divorced him, and all he does is triple down on his xenophobia.

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What makes his most-recent campaign the most interesting to me though isn’t any of that, as that is just boiler-plate Republican politics at the moment. He wants to be a Matt Gaetz/Marjorie Taylor Greene clone because he clearly thinks it’ll get him elected.

What’s more interesting to me is a deep dive into why won’t he even acknowledge his Jewishness.

Make no mistake, no one should be forced to talk about their religion on the campaign trail or to get into politics. Forcing candidates to talk about their religion or beliefs in God to hold office is wrong, and isn’t the point here. If Mandel didn’t want to acknowledge his religion that would be fine and not whatsoever disqualifying, although his beliefs themselves are.

Rather, the issue is that he lies and obfuscates about his religion in an attempt to appeal to hyper-conservative voters who more than likely wouldn’t be comfortable knowing that he does not in fact believe in Jesus. 

American evangelicals, the kind Mandel is courting, flatly refuse to deny their anti-semitism. Their most common defense is their favorite tactic, resting on their laurels over their support of Israel. When they say that they support Jews it always flatly comes with the qualifier, “we support Jews because we support Israel.” American Jews have different positions on Israel, me included, and this isn’t an Israel discussion. 

What’s more important is that the sole-conflation of American Jewry to Israel is itself anti-Semitic. I do not live in Israel, I’ve never lived in Israel, and supporting a country far away from me because Jews also live there does not mean you support Jews.

This is where Josh Mandel comes in; he’s willing to openly support Israel based on religious grounds, to appeal to evangelicals, but everything else is a step too far from him. Once you notice this in his speeches and tweets it’s hard not to. 

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I first was awakened to this when I actually met him a few months ago. I was at a dinner reception and speech he was giving in rural southeastern Ohio, the epitome of Trump country and his religious fanatical base.

To clarify for a moment I am very much not a supporter of Republicans, but for the sake of journalism I can throw on an ill-fitted suit to fit in with them and listen to their speeches to see how batshit crazy they are and write about it later. 

Mandel was making his rounds table-to-table when he got to mine and I decided to see what would happen if I asked him about being Jewish. When he got to me I looked at him, with only a slight smirk on my face, and said, “Josh, it appears we’re the only two Jews here.” 

He looked back at me, leaned in as close as possible to my ear, and whispered, “It’s always good to see a fellow Conservative yehudim here. We just need to work on the rest of them,” and walked away. 

This struck me for an incredible number of reasons. First, the need to lean in and whisper an affirmation of who he was so no one else would hear. Next the usage of the word, “Yehudim,” was more than just a little odd, I’d never even heard it in this context. It’s literally the Hebrew word for Jews, but as any Jew can back me up here, we don’t call ourselves it. It was almost foreign sounding and confounding. Jews call each other, generally, Jews. We use many other words too but in all my years I had never once heard a Jew call themselves a Yehudim, especially hearing it with the fake southern accent Mandel has taken to using lately. To test this theory even my Jewish mother agreed with me and said she had never heard it either.

I listened to his speech that day intensely, to write on later but also to hear specifically what he would say about being Jewish in a room full of non-Jews. The answer is, nothing. To any observer he in his speech described the quintessential evangelical playbook. 

He talked about his campaign being run through churches, described the various pastors who support him, quoted Christian scripture, and said that if elected he’d have, “the Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other.” If you came in to hear him speak, the thought of him being anything but a Christian would be the furthest thing from your mind, except for him not explicitly saying he was one. 

Since then I’ve noticed it again, and again, and again. His fallback is usually talking about how he “embraces Judeo-Christian values.” 

Ex 1/100:

(Note that being anti-abortion is not remotely a Jewish value)

Judeo-Christian values as a whole are almost as fraudulent as Mandel is. The Conversation sums this up really well here,

His “Judeo-Christian values” are about protecting Christmas, and about protecting Christians – at the exclusion of others.

Christian-majority nations such as the UK and US often lay claim to laws and ethics based on “Judeo-Christian values”. But it is important to remember that Jews have been systematically excluded from and terrorised by states that claim this Judeo-Christian foundation.

From the 1290 expulsion of Jews from England to Jewish refugees being turned away by Canada, the US and the UK during World War II, Jews have been excluded more often than welcomed.

For centuries, Jews have been made to feel unwelcome in the Christian world and it seems that it is only now that a new demographic of (often Muslim) immigrants fleeing war and economic hardship have reached the West that Jews are being included – and even then only on someone else’s terms.

Judeo-Christian values not only are not a real thing, but are a deliberate dog-whistle undertaken for one of Mandel’s favorite pastimes, the deliberate spreading of viscous and disgusting anti-Muslim rhetoric. Jewish values cannot be lumped in with Christian values because they aren’t the same, and no Rabbi or Judaic-scholar would remotely consider them as such. 

Jewish values are based on Halakha, Jewish Laws in the Talmud and writings, which have absolutely nothing to do with Christian values. Anyone using, “Judeo-Christian values,” is simply trying to pretend to be inclusive of Jews, while exclusive of Muslims and people of any other faith. 

If Mandel wants to use this alt-right pandering term he opens himself up to a fair examination of what religion he tries to show he is. A deep dive through his twitter account, where he makes most of his statements, muddies the question of this even more. Let’s go through some examples:

In this one he not only puts Christians first (in a mostly non-Christian issue) but appears to conflate being an American with being Christian or Jewish, which is disgustingly incorrect.

This unhinged take, undoubtedly referring to the Christian bible.

Once again a Judeo-Christian way of life that never existed. 

I could link 100 more of these tweets but over and over it’s Josh Mandel deliberately hiding the fact that he’s Jewish in favor of a return to the Judeo-Christian value set in fantasy land. The reason could not be more clear, his courting of evangelical voters who wouldn’t support him if he were Jewish. 

They can brag about their support of Israel all they want, but at the end of the day the evangelical movement is actively anti-Semitic. Whatever Josh Mandel wants to pretend, at the end of the day these people are not his friends and do not support his people. If having to pretend to support a make-believe belief system is how you win their support, maybe their support isn’t worth having. 

The worst part is I say all this as if Mandel doesn’t know this. That’s the kicker, he knows exactly what he’s doing and exactly who the evangelicals are. He simply ignores it because to him it doesn’t matter. Mandel cares about one thing in this world and it’s winning his next election. 

If there’s one silver-lining to Mandel, it is that there’s further proof that whatever they say the Republican party is not welcome to Jews. Hopefully Jewish voters see his mainstream acceptance in Republican circles as evidence that his vitriolic hatred of Muslims is unacceptable, and that hatred can just as easily target Jews. 

We’re three years removed from a deranged alt-right gunman murdering 11 Jews in synagogue in large part because of the work of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and not one thing in those alt-right communities has changed. The biggest change is people like Mandel’s renewed craving to be accepted into the worst of society. They won’t let him in fully because they can’t stand him, and whether he grovels in the church risers or not, Josh Mandel will never be one of them. 

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