Does it mean much Mexico has chosen a leader with Jewish roots?

Normally, the election of a Jewish person to lead a nation (outside of Israel, of course) would be a cause for pride among most Jews. It would be seen as a sign of acceptance.

Newly-elected Mexican President Claudia Sheinbaum waves to supporters (Photo: Baltimore Sun)

Even if the politician was a non-practicing Jew, which is the case of Claudia Sheinbaum, a female scientist just elected to lead Mexico, the U.S.’ closest neighbor (along with Canada) and our No. 1 trading partner.

This year the pride will be restrained.


The world-wide rise of anti-Semitism, which uses as its excuse Israel’s war on Hamas (completely ignoring the atrocious massacre of Israel civilians on Oct. 7 that set off the war) and the elevation of odious tropes.

Such as “Jews will not replace us,” chanted by the tiki torch-bearing neo Nazis knuckle draggers marching in Charlottesville. They believe the conspiracy that Jews are behind a nefarious plot to undermine white, Christian Americans.

The haters can — and will, I predict — use Sheinbaum’s election as “proof” of the world-wide Jewish conspiracy. “They have even taken over Catholic Mexico,” I can hear them say. “What more proof do you need that they are out to replace us?”

It’s a lie, but it will catch fire on TikTok, where too many young people consume what they think is “news.”

Despite that, some Jews do celebrate Sheinbaum’s election as proof of Mexico’s tolerance, and it is sort of an unearned feather in the cap for Jews everywhere. Why pride?


Although many wish it were not so, in their gut, most people remain tribal.

Maybe to a country, like America.

Maybe to an ethnicity, like Irish or Hispanic.

Maybe to a religion, like Jewish, or Islam.

Maybe to a political party, like Democrat.

Maybe to a gender, like female.

Maybe to an alt gender, like gay.

Maybe to a color, like Black or white.

Maybe to a city, like Philadelphia.

Or even a neighborhood, like Bridesburg.

There is something in our DNA, maybe going back to when we sat around fires in caves, that binds us to our kind, whether it be family, or neighbors, or allies.

We are always most comfortable among people like “us.” It does not mean we hate the “other,” it just means there is an emotional comfort level among “us.”

And when one of “us” achieves something, we share a sense of pride, even when we had absolutely nothing to do with it.

So, I am proud that, say, Albert Einstein unlocked the secrets of the universe, that Sigmund Freud unlocked the secrets of the mind, that Jonas Salk invented a vaccine to defeat polio, that Steven Spielberg expanded the horizons of the screen, that Emma Lazarus wrote a poem that captured America’s idealism, that Irving Berlin set it to music, that Barbra Streisand set new standards in music, as did George and Ira Gershwin, and let’s throw in Adam Sandler, just for fun. This just scratches the surface.

So I feel good about them, although I am in no way responsible for their success.

In the exact same way, me and all other Jews, are in no way responsible for ripoff artist Bernie Madoff, nor corporate raider Ivan Boesky, nor crypto fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried. The vast majority of Jews reject them, completely.

I believe there are more good Jews than bad. I believe the same about Christians. 

Jews represent 0.2% of the human race, and are 1.8% of the American population. We are a very small minority.

And yet, Jews have won 22% of all Nobel Prizes. They have won half of the Pulitzer Prizes for nonfiction. One third of all Oscars for directing have gone to Jews.

I don’t really like doing this because it seems like bragging, but, to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, it ain’t bragging if it’s true.

The “why” of the stunning achievement has been the subject of wide speculation.

Is it genetic? Or is it cultural? Or something else?

I lean toward the theory that there are two things generally true of Jews, and the two things are connected.

First, is love of the “book,” which means the Torah, the holy book of the Jewish people. Reading it is important, which then makes reading important. 

Second, is the questioning of the Torah that is not only permitted in Judaism, but encouraged.

The spirit of inquiry, the asking “why” things are, inevitably leads to different outcomes, some of them wrong, but some that create a fundamental shift in human understanding.

And some people do not deal well with fundamental shifts.

When Abraham became the prophet of a single God, it did not make the believers in multiple gods very happy.

The people — Jews — who were “chosen” to announce the existence of a single God were not always greeted with bouquets and banquets. It did not usually make them the most popular kids in class.

And now, Mexican voters have “chosen” a woman, who is a non practicing Jew, to lead them.

I admit to a little pride, but just a little, and wary that it might create some knee-jerk anti-Semitism. 

11 thoughts on “Does it mean much Mexico has chosen a leader with Jewish roots?”

  1. I noted the same, and was completely unaware of Sheinbaum’s devoutness, or lack thereof. But there was that wondering sense of pride in her election. Two points you reminded me of, and admittedly I did lose track of them both came near the end of your article. One is the simple act of reading, which is rooted in our belief in the Torah and the simple act of reading it. And the second, which I think is our biggest difference with Christianity and the Muslim faiths, is our belief in questioning all things spiritual. The first mantra any Jew learns, from an early age, is “Why”. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      1. From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 27, 1956:
        “Robert Briscoe, only Jewish member of the Parliament of Eire, was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin yesterday. Both Mr. Briscoe and Denis Larkin, outgoing mayor, each received 19 votes in the city council so their names were put in a hat and Mr. Briscoe’s was drawn.

        Mr. Briscoe, 62, is a native of Dublin. He has served in Parliament as the first and only Jewish MP since 1927 and has been the first and only Jewish member of the city council since 1928.”

        “In his speech of acceptance, Mr. Briscoe told his colleagues that his election as Mayor was a “magnificent gesture” that would point out to the world that ‘in Ireland, at least, there was absolute tolerance and that in this Catholic country a man of faith could have the goodwill of his co-citizens if he deserved it and was prepared to give service to his fellow citizens.'”

        Famously, Mayor Richard J. Daley, Irish mayor of Chicago, congratulated him in Irish and Yiddish, sending a telegram that said: “”Guidhim rath mor ort, and mazel tov.” [”I wish great blessings on you” and ”Good luck.”]

        When Yogi Berra heard about his election, he said, “Only in America.” [Heh. My favorite Berra quote is
        “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”]

        Later, his son, Ben Briscoe, was also elected Mayor of Dublin in 1988.

        This is from the Chicago Tribune, December 14, 1988:

        “The Right Honorable Lord Mayor of Dublin is Jewish. That is why, during his visit to Chicago last week, he went from taping a television show sponsored by the Chicago Board of Rabbis to an ‘Irish Television Chicago’ cable show.

        That also may be why he has what one critic called ‘an overdeveloped sense of justice.’ A comment intended as an insult, which the Lord Mayor took as a compliment.

        A sense of justice can come from being part of a group that has a long history of persecution, said Lord Mayor Ben Briscoe. Or from being part of two such groups.

        ‘We have so much in common-the Irish and Jewish histories are so similar it`s almost mystical,” he said. ‘The persecution of people in their own countries . . . being treated as second-class citizens and humiliated.’

        Briscoe was elected mayor even though only about 1,800 Jews live in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic city of Dublin.

        ”Irrespective of what your race or religion is, if you deserve an honor in Ireland, you get it,” he said.

        Briscoe said he was said to be too justice-oriented by someone who criticized his strong support for victims of violent crime. ‘It was said to me as if it was a fault in me, but I remember being quite flattered,’ he said.

  2. It’s a shame that Mexico was able to be the first country on the North American continent to elect a woman as its leader. Without Russian interference (and Trump’s nefarious cover-up deeds), I believe we would have had one here in America in 2016. Regardless, I think it’s great for Mexico to have elected a Jewish woman as its head of state. Progress.

    1. Are you excluding senators, congress,Govenors, mayors, aldermen, committepeople, all in the US who are Jewish and who all are leaders?

  3. You left out Volodymyr Zelensky, another Jewish leader, who is currently fighting fascist Putin.

  4. How many coming-of-age parties can parents afford? Claudia’s mom and dad were still paying for her Bat Mitzvah when they were forced to take another loan for her Quinceanera. 😊

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