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In Hanukkah Miracle, Ocasio-Cortez Says She’s Now Jewish, Too

“We are black; we are indigenous; we are Spanish; we are European.”

​In addition to spearheading the left’s answer to the global rise of populism, New York’s Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a model of intersectionality: a working class millennial woman of hispanic descent. And on the last day of Hanukkah, we learned that the list doesn’t end there.

Speaking to her constituents at an event organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and held at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center in Queens, New York, for the lighting of the final candle of the holiday on Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez, ​an avowed Catholic, revealed that her impressive portfolio of identities also includes Judaism.

“One of the things that we discovered about ourselves is that a very, very long time ago, generations and generations ago, my family consisted of Sephardic Jews,” she said in a video captured by Haaretz reporter Taly Krupkin.

Ocasio-Cortez was averring ancestral ties to a community of Jews that was expelled from Catholic Spain in the 15th Century and scattered around North Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and, as apparently in the case of Ocasio-Cortez’s family, Puerto Rico.

The Democratic darling offered this ancestral journey ― which she said she had only recently discovered herself after “doing a lot of family trees” as emblematic of America’s diversity, and of the intricate web of identities that can define an individual. “We are black; we are indigenous; we are Spanish; we are European,” she said.

This Elizabeth Warren-esque revelation was met with unrestrained enthusiasm. One audience member hollered, “I knew it!”

To which Ocasio-Cortez quipped back, “I told you. I sensed it!”

(As anyone who grew up in a Jewish household will tell you, Jews really do like taking credit for pop culture figures.)

To seal the deal, Ocasio-Cortez, who ran her campaign on a platform of authenticity, joined the shul’s band in singing hymns in Ladino, the patois of Spanish Jews.

Though her ​​savvy in international affair has been questionable at best, Ocasio-Cortez has thrown her rhetorical weight behind ​oppressed groups everywhere, joining Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her mentor in all things social-democratic, in pushing the Democratic Party to take a harsher stand against Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. In response, proponents of the Jewish state have asccused the representative-to-be for showing little sensitivity to the complexities of an ethnic conflict she admittedly hasn’t studied.

In adding Judaism to her identity bucket, Ocasio-Cortez, whose primary upset of a senior Democratic incumbent was hailed as a bell bellwether of an imminent congressional blue wave, followed the path of another Jewish-Catholic New York Democrat, 28-year-old Julia Salazar, who came under fire for the fitfulness (​and factually challenged nature) of her self-identifications.

As was ultimately the case with Salazar, Ocasio-Cortez’s adoption of Jewish heritage has been largely applauded as an expression of America’s melting pot identity. But it has also raised some highbrows.

One might see cheap pandering (“I feel the space,” Ocasio-Cortez told Haaretz about why she decided to bring up her lineage). Or maybe the left has simply reduced identities to ornaments  that can be worn, replaced, and discarded like the features of Mr. Potato Head.

“Before everyone jumps [on] me,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted after Israel’s liberal newspaper Haaretz broke the story of her Jewish roots. “Yes, culture isn’t DNA.”

Cover image: Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York speaking at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center in Queens, New York, on Dec. 9, 2018. (Twitter)

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