Blaming Judaism for his father's peculiarities, the first Jewish member of Congress converted to Christianity to hide his heritage and preserve his political career.I decided to resurrect this story, which I wrote in November 2006 for the LA Daily News, in light of my story for this week's Jewish Journal, which I will blog about later this afternoon when it goes online. You can read the rest of the above story here. You'll notice the same cheesy Roosevelt joke.
But with a name like David Levy Yulee, he was only fooling himself.
Times have changed since Yulee became Florida's junior senator in 1845 - more than a century before the southern state became a favorite destination for Jewish retirees from the northeast.
After a handful of victories in Tuesday's election, Jews are poised to have their largest congressional representation ever. This U.S. community of roughly 6 million people - about 2 percent of the nation's population - will contribute 30 members to the House. With 13 Jewish members of the Senate, the proportion in the upper chamber will be 6 1/2 times greater than that in the general population.
"Jews are just political animals," said Steven Windmueller, dean of the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
"Politics sort of is the Jewish religion," he added. "There is just such a passion for being in the game, in the process. Jewish life thrives in societies where democracies work, and that is why there is such a heavy buy-in into the American political process."
(The pictured book, one every person involved with or interested in American Jewry should read, can be found at Google Books and, obviously, Amazon.)