My great-grandfather Harry and great-grandmother Molly Brounstein escaped the shtetls of Bessarabia and started a deli in Brooklyn, New York.


They may defeat Bernie but they can never crush what he represents. Striving for progress and freedom from injustices - economic, social, religious, and otherwise - is human nature. It's a feeling and it never goes away.
Factual goofs:
Truman was not President in 1959.
In 1910, the Russian Revolution was, depending on which one meant either five years lost or not to start for seven years, and the Bolsheviks not nearly as prominent in the 1905 revolution as in the second revolution of 1917's two revolutions.

(Not that any attempt to deceive were necessarily intended: old memories, complicated history, and/or uncomprehending youngsters are more than enough to create mistakes.)
I'd hope so (if I did hope), but unfortunately every injustice is someone's good deal, and striving-for and protecting a good deal is also part of the human natures...and there is a tendency, deep in our {primate band hierarchy}-aware bones, to see getting that good deal, usually some variant on more fruit and impunity when striking other band-members, not as a spur to end the injustice but rather as a sign that the high-status individual is someone with whom we ought to be friends.
@2 Thanks for letting us know! Fixing.
I think @1 is right. I think there are a couple things fueling Bernie's campaign right now. The first is distrust or dislike of Hillary Clinton. This is understandable. I think she could be a great president, but like every president, she is quite capable of lying to people or stabbing someone in the back if she thinks it serves a greater purpose. It is just that her weaknesses in that regard are more obvious than most -- as obvious as her husband's -- but she lacks her husband's charm. This makes her a less than ideal candidate.

But I don't think a New York socialist Jew is a very solid candidate either. A lot of people don't even know Sanders is Jewish, but you can bet your ass they will if he wins the nomination. The Republicans will make sure of that. Not that they can count on pure antisemitism. Pure antisemitism, like pure racism, is rare. It is hard to find people that think that Jews are inherently evil or that black people are inferior. But stereotyping is so common, and so pervasive, that the card will be played over and over again by the Republicans. They won't attack his religion (oh heaven's no) but basically state that he is one of those kind of Jews. They would have done the same with Obama, but since he clearly stated how he was raised by a white mom (and white grandparents) it was tough for them to do so. When they thought they had a chance -- when they connected him to the far more stereotypical fiery black preacher in Reverend Wright -- Obama made the speech of his life, threaded the needle and saved his career.

Bernie could do that, but it would be really hard. Does he want to stand up not just for Judaism, but for east coast, socialist, often rather secular Yiddish culture? That's a tough thing to do. How often does he go to synagogue? Believe it or not it is much worse to be a secular Jew than a practicing one in the Bible belt.

So it is a bit surprising that a guy so far to the left has gotten this far. Some say it is his authenticity, but we've had authentic left wingers before. Kucinich was authentic -- so authentic he didn't bother to get a decent hair cut. And we was from Cleveland. He seems no more a long shot than Bernie. But perhaps the best candidate was Tom Harkin. Navy pilot, Iowa Senator, far left Tom Harkin. Yet the party didn't want to go with Harkin -- a guy from Iowa! -- because they thought he would lose. Or because they didn't feel like it was necessary to go that far left. Or because there just wasn't the support from the far left.

But I think there is now. Things have gotten worse. Despite the best efforts of guys like Clinton and Obama, the rich have gotten much richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class has shrunk. I don't think Sanders is the best messenger for his message, but I do think the message is one that will eventually win out. But a quick look at congress -- still controlled by the opposite extreme -- shows that it may take a while. In the meantime I hope that Hillary can use her charms to move the needle a lit bit to the left -- something she has tried to do for much of her life (it is her husband who was the more moderate one).
Fascinating story. Thank you so much, Sydney.
Lovely article and fascinating history. Thank you. I would like to dispute one point, though. Bernie is not actually a socialist ("democratic socialist" or otherwise). He's a maybe/maybe not left-of-center moderate on any political scale other than the grossly distorted one we use today, 36 years after "the Reagan Revolution" started pulling all discourse and political affiliation to the right.

In any other major Western country -- think Canada, UK, Germany, Australia, France, Spain, Italy -- Bernie's platform would be in unity with that of their center-of-the-road and typically-named CONSERVATIVE party. Being socially responsible and marginally economically protectionist is NOT "democratic socialism" in those countries. It's straight-up, plainly sensible governance.

Our political discourse has been wildly distorted these last two generations. Our "left wing" is now exactly where our center-of-the-road moderates were in 1970. The sad fact is, the "right wing" has been winning, dragging the political center far to the right. They've delivered the constant drumbeat, labeling as "socialist" everything from catalytic converters and seat belts to dog licenses and public schools. So, like it or not, in America "socialist" has no meaning, it's just some epithet cranky right-wingers use on everything. Which is why America is now ready to possibly elect a self-avowed "socialist."
Great article...

BTW, with all the variants in the spelling of your family's original last name(ever considered re-claiming it, btw?) have you checked to see if you might be somehow related to Carrie Brownstein?
Lovely story. Reminds me of my father's family, who left western Ukraine and settled in Brooklyn. And the old family photos are a beautiful touch.

In November, I'll be voting for whoever the Democratic nominee is, but when the Washington caucuses roll around, I'll be caucusing for Bernie Sanders. Even though I disagree with some of his policies and think some of his proposals are half-baked, my disagreements with him are dwarfed by my disappointments in Hillary Clinton. What's so moving and inspiring to me about Bernie is that he seems to be the only presidential candidate out there who's even willing to recognize the fundamental problems with the American republic today--the capture of the federal government by corporate money, the decline of the middle class (however self-inflicted)--and whose candidacy is motivated by a desire to create a more perfect union, without getting distracted by identity politics.

Bernie's the real deal. And when I hear him speak and I think about how he's tapped into this longing among millions of Americans who've otherwise lost hope, I feel a certain pride, as an American. And then for a moment when I realize that this great champion of the people is this old Jew who could just as well be a relative of mine, I feel a certain extra pride; I have to admit I get a little verklempt.

I know Bernie never makes a thing of his Jewishness, but I'm also grateful for a realization that there's just no getting around--that on the whole his unmistakable, old-school, New York Jewishness has only made him and his message more appealing, not less, to gentile America.
People voting for whoever the Democrat is, no matter what, because they "aren't idiots" is precisely the reason we're in the social, political, and economic predicament we're in now. I would expect someone with such sharp words to have an equally sharp knowledge of history.
@5 So you are calling all Republicans raciest and Jew haters. Historically this is far from the truth. So what does that make you? My guess is that makes you a hateful lire.

Sorry people you need to stop learning your facts from Twitter and look up the history of political parties. Find out for yourselves the truth behind the Democrat Party and Republican party. Please, start spreading truth not hateful BS.
Harry Reid Rushed Home to Nevada to Help Rig Caucus Results for Clinton --------

“Harry Reid clearly wants Hillary Clinton to be the next president,” began a Politico article published a few days before the Nevada caucuses. It held that the reason Mr. Reid did not endorse a presidential candidate is that he wants to bolster the odds of his chosen successor, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, winning his Senate seat in November when Mr. Reid retires. One could also argue that the real reason Mr. Reid refused to endorse a candidate was to influence the caucuses under the guise of neutrality, which would not have otherwise been afforded to him had he not remained publicly impartial.

A week before the Nevada caucuses, as new polls showed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ support in the state surging, Mr. Reid made a call to the head of Nevada’s most powerful union—the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas, which did not plan on engaging in the caucuses—and influenced the union’s decision. Mr. Reid also made calls to casino executives along the Las Vegas strip to ensure casino workers were given time off to join the caucuses on the strip, which was predicted to be Ms. Clinton’s stronghold in the state. Mr. Reid’s gamble paid off, with all six casino caucuses favoring Ms. Clinton over Mr. Sanders by 109 to 52.

Mr. Reid’s own precinct favored Ms. Clinton by a wide enough margin that there weren’t enough Sanders supporters to win any delegates, essentially deeming his supporters’ votes worthless, which demonstrates the flaws inherent in the caucuses themselves. The caucuses are disorganized, offering more opportunities for fraud and corruption, and allow supporters to solicit potential voters as they make their decisions, which is illegal at voting locations because it’s contradictory to democracy and makes one’s vote public—subjecting participants to influence contrary to their political beliefs. Caucuses also discourage high voter turnout because groups of voters must be counted all at once, making the affair much more time-consuming than simply casting a ballot.

In Nevada, an estimated 80,000 people showed up for the state’s Democratic caucuses, a significant drop from 120,000 in 2008, which was also an abysmally low turnout given there are over 470,000 registered Democrat voters in Nevada—and over 200,000 of those voters cast a ballot in the 2014 general election. Nevada is known for having low voter turnouts compared to the rest of the country, and the move to hold caucuses instead of a primary—primarily decided by Mr. Reid—wasn’t going to help.

Nevada’s first early caucus primary was held in 2008 (again thanks to Mr. Reid’s efforts) as a means to better reflect the diversity of the country as a whole—one that was lacking in the voter populations of Iowa and New Hampshire. The first Nevada caucus also provided an opportunity for Mr. Reid, involved in Nevada politics since the 1960s, to rally Democratic volunteers and supporters leading up to the general elections. If Nevada maintains its early primary position along with Iowa and New Hampshire, it will be attributed to Mr. Reid’s legacy after he retires, along with his close 2010 re-election to the Senate and the Democratic machine he built in the past few decades.

By the same token, if Ms. Clinton had lost in Nevada, it would have been a major blow to Mr. Reid’s Democratic machine (and his reign as its overseer), which has already been under threat from the Republicans. In 2014, Republicans won big in Nevada, taking the governor’s seat, majorities in the State House and Senate, and three of the state’s four U.S. congressional districts.

Nevada wasn’t nice.(Illustration: Clay Jones)

Mr. Reid’s influence wasn’t the only disconcerting and undemocratic aspect of the Nevada caucuses this year. Supporters from Ms. Clinton’s campaign were caught by the union’s executive director, RoseAnn DeMoro, impersonating members of the National Nurses United Union, which has endorsed Mr. Sanders. Ms. DeMoro took photos of Ms. Clinton’s supporters changing into red shirts identical to the ones worn by members of the union while campaigning for Mr. Sanders. ABC News also reported Clinton supporters were conducting push polls ahead of the caucuses testing attack lines on potential voters.

One of the biggest controversies of the caucuses was a claim made by actress Americana Ferrera and activist Dolores Huerta, both Clinton supporters, of Sanders supporters chanting “English Only” at Ms. Huerta while she attempted to translate during a caucus held at Harrah’s Casino on the Las Vegas strip. Actresses Susan Sarandon and Gaby Hoffman, Sanders supporters who were also present, provided video evidence debunking Ms. Ferrera and Ms. Huerta’s claims. Snopes also ruled Ms. Ferrera and Ms. Huerta’s accusations were false, but not before several major media publications jumped the gun and published stories asserting they were true. DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile chimed in, despite the impartiality her position requires. The lack of any sort of due diligence to corroborate Ms. Ferrera and Ms. Huerta’s allegations is symptomatic of the bias skewed in favor of Ms. Clinton by media and the political establishment.

In 2008, Ms. Huerta supported Ms. Clinton over Barack Obama, and attempted to vilify Obama supporters as racists against Latinos. “In spite of the oppression and the voter suppression and huge intimidation on the part of the Obama supporters of the Latino casino workers, they voted for Hillary,” Ms. Huerta said in a 2008 interview with Democracy Now.

This type of smearing has been common by Clinton supporters over the past few months. The Bernie Bros narrative, an attempt to stereotype Mr. Sanders’ supporters as sexist white men, was also used against Mr. Obama in calling his supporters Obama Boys. Both accusations had very little evidence despite the attention garnered in the media and from Clinton supporters, while feminism and issues relating to the promotion of gender equality fell to the wayside in favor of policing alleged widespread sexism.

Similar tactics were used by Clinton supporters and by a Clinton-supporting journalist to warp a response from civil rights hero and Congressmen John Lewis, who said he never saw Mr. Sanders during the civil rights movement. The comment was manipulated to suggest Mr. Lewis questioned Mr. Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement—which was false and was clarified a few days later by Mr. Lewis. Shortly after, another journalist took a quote from Sanders supporter rapper Killer Mike, and manipulated it to appear as though Killer Mike was making a sexist remark. The rapper was actually just quoting a conversation he had with feminist activist Jane Elliot.

This type of propagated manipulation in favor of Ms. Clinton at the expense of Mr. Sanders is not beneficial to the Democratic Party. Ms. Clinton will eventually need Mr. Sanders’ supporters and the many independent voters he attracts if she wins the nomination and wants to win the presidency—especially as recent polls predict current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump defeating Ms. Clinton in the general election. Disenfranchising those voters with smear campaigns that stereotype them for political gain may help Ms. Clinton win the Democratic nomination, but it will hurt her and the Democratic Party in the long run as even Republican presidential candidates are not stooping to such levels against one another’s supporters.
He's not a practicing Jew, and he lives in Vermont ( probably to escape the still-rampant corruption in New-York politricks. --- . And the Merlin Project has The Bern being sworn in on the third Tuesday of January.
Oops: I will correct an error of mine: The Merlin Project predicts The Bern to be sworn in on Friday, January 20, 2017.
@#2: Your snooty nitpicking about the dates of the Russian Revolution misses out on a big part of the experience of Jews in America. Families like mine and the author's have now been in this country for a century. For many, family histories from back in Europe are fuzzy, at best. Mine is extremely lacking in detail. Apparently it wasn't so good, because nobody ever talked about it. It wasn't passed down. My paternal grandfather was a surveyor in WWII, and had to go through the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge. Never would say a single word about it. Point being, if the author's history is off a bit, it could be because there's a dash of lore woven into the tale. I'm jealous. So quit yer bitchin'.
It is easy to forget, but for most of the 20th Century overt antisemitism was a hallmark of the national Republican Party.
How come Jews are not a protected minority? Because Jews are better educated and have a higher median income than white people? Because no one with a higher median income may be a minority? Then I predict that another few years and East Asians will no longer be a protected minority. The day of WASP power is almost over.

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