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‘I’m Not Jewish, I’m Jew-ish’ Has Got to be the Worst Lie of 2022

No, they're saying "Boo-urns!"

George Santos smiling behind a podium.

George Santos, the New York Republican who recently won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, lied about being Jewish. Now he’s walking it back, claiming that he actually said he was “Jew-ish.”

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Santos’s many lies started to come to light earlier this month, when The New York Times discovered that Santos had never worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, as he’d claimed, nor did he actually run an animal charity called Friends of Pets United. Later, Santos told The New York Post that he’d never actually graduated from college, despite listing degrees from Baruch College and New York University on his resumé.

Santos also claimed that his maternal grandparents were Ukrainian Jews who had escaped the Holocaust, but CNN discovered that that was a lie, too. In reality, his maternal grandparents were both born in Brazil.

Now, Santos says that he never actually claimed to be Jewish. Instead, he says, he originally claimed that he was “Jew-ish.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition has denounced Santos after previously inviting him to speak at events. Santos still plans to take office in January, though.

Why Santos’s lie is so messed up

As I’ve written before, Jewish identity is messy and complex. Not all Jews meet the criteria for Jewishness in every Jewish community—for example, since I’m Jewish on my father’s side, I’m not considered Jewish in Orthodox and Conservative communities. That’s okay! I just hang with Reform, Reconstructionist, and secular Jews. There are lots of ways to engage with Jewish heritage and Jewish identity.

If Santos discovered that he had Jewish heritage and he was genuinely interested in learning about that branch of his family, he would have had a wide variety of options open to him—and plenty of Jewish communities that would have welcomed and supported him in that journey.

But the fact that he simply lied shows that he’s not interested in any Jewish ancestors he may (or may not) have. New York’s 3rd district has a sizable Jewish population, and my guess is that Santos lied because he thought it would score points with voters.

Why “I’m Jew-ish” is so sad

It’s not the biggest or most harmful lie of 2022 (although it’s absolutely harmful), but “I’m Jew-ish” is definitely the most pathetic one. We know what words mean, George. You’re not fooling anyone. Your original lie about your grandparents is on record.

Besides, the correct term for “kind of Jewish” isn’t “Jew-ish,” it’s “Jewish-ish.” Everyone knows that.

(featured image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.