January 16, 2019

N.Y. State Senate Candidate Faces Questions Over Claims of Jewish Ancestry

Julia Salazar, a member of Democratic Socialists of America who is running for the New York state senate and supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, faces questions over her claims that she is Jewish.

According to Tablet, Salazar has claimed that her father is of Sephardic Jewish descent and has frequently invoked her claim of Jewish heritage in her comments about Israel, such as stating in Mondoweiss in 2014: “Like most American Jews, I was raised with the delusion that Israel was a safe haven for me, perhaps even the only safe place for Jews.”

Salazar has also argued that the BDS movement is not inherently anti-Semitic, telling Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA): “The goal of BDS is to have some measurable effect in order to force the more powerful actor — the state [Israel] — to change course.”

Additionally, Salazar, under the name Julia Carmel, wrote in Mondoweiss that she was blocked from the Allendy border in Israel in 2014; she was also among the nine IfNotNow activists arrested in 2014 for engaging in civil disobedience protests against what Salazar deemed as the “assault on Gaza,” Operation Protective Edge.

However, the Tablet piece produced evidence calling Salazar’s Jewish ancestry into question, citing quotes from family members stating that no one in their family was Jewish:

“A 2009 funeral notice for her father, a former commercial airline pilot named Luis Hernan Salazar, indicates that the service was held at the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. When reached by phone, Alex Salazar, the candidate’s older brother and the operator of a number of Florida mango farms, said that one of their father’s brothers was a Jesuit priest. (He also seemed to know very little about her campaign and seemed surprised when I told him she stood a good chance of winning.) ‘There was nobody in our immediate family who was Jewish … my father was not Jewish, we were not raised Jewish,’ he said. Their mother, Christine Salazar, indicated in a public September 2012 Facebook post that she planned on attending services at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a nondenominational evangelical church in downtown Brooklyn.”

The Tablet article also notes that in college Salazar was active in Christians United for Israel and has past tweets referencing Christianity, such as a 2012 tweet stating, “Follow #Christ for his own sake, if you plan to follow Him at all.”

Salazar lashed out at Tablet in response, tweeting, “I virtually never speak publicly about my religion unless media explicitly ask me about it. And that’s largely because I don’t enjoy subjecting myself to Tablet-esque race science, as a person from a mixed background.”

Salazar also told JTA she took a conversion class at Columbia-Barnard Hillel in 2012, where she “learned how to read Torah and had the option of going through a b’nai mitzvah ceremony (along with two other women who studied with me) but declined to do it.”

However, JTA noted that “Halachah, or Jewish law, however, considers someone Jewish if their mother was Jewish, if they converted under rabbinical authority or, in the Reform movement, if their only Jewish parent was their father.”

Salazar has also come under scrutiny for claiming on the campaign trail that she is a Colombian immigrant, however she has since admitted that she was born in Miami.

Salazar has been endorsed by New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Linda Sarsour.