Bogus Rumor: Sarah Palin Is Jewish

David Bernstein included a curious anecdote in his insightful long article on Sarah Palin — that tears came to Palin’s eyes when a supporter likened her to Queen Esther of the Bible. In the story of Purim, Esther is a Jew who keeps her identity hidden until put into a position where she can save the lives of her fellow Persian Jews. (Bernstein’s piece, incidentally, represents the best of journalism in the Phoenix, a long article that combines reporting, color and analysis.)

Now comes a rumor in a strange new light. Several websites make the assertion that Sarah Palin, like John Kerry and Madeleine Albright before her, has hidden Jewish roots.

Ron Kampeas, the Washington bureau chief for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, has investigated the claim and come to the conclusion that it is false. Kampeas links to a genealogy of Palin that appears to put the story to bed. Kampeas has every incentive to check this story out. When I was the Washington bureau chief for the Forward, a national weekly Jewish newspaper, I spent a month trying to discern whether Hillary Clinton had a similar story in her background. (She had a Jewish step-grandfather.)

Having said that, I think Bernstein’s Phoenix piece provides some detail as to why the claim is resonating on the right. By the way, it seems to also be circulating among those suspicious of the “Israel Lobby’s” power on the Left as well.

I found the contraband signs in the damp grass. They had been rounded up and now lay in two piles by the opening in the chainlink fence where security and campaign officials had screened the 5000 or so people who came to see Sarah Palin speak at Salem High School’s Grant Field this past Wednesday, October 15. It was the third Palin rally in New Hampshire I had attended that day, and I knew that the security guards were keeping out more than just dangerous weapons — campaign staff was also filtering out signs, pins, and shirts that might, to a now highly attuned national audience, appear harsh or offensive.

So, while the crowd was still cheering Palin, who had finished her 30-minute speech and had begun signing autographs, I headed to that entrance and found about a dozen handmade cardboard signs. I don’t know whether other rejected slogans had already been removed, but most in these piles were pretty tame. The only potentially offensive phrase on one was “NOBAMA.” Another read “CONSERVATIVE WOMEN HAVE RIGHTS TOO.” “ACORN IS NUTS,” one claimed, while another, carefully lettered, declared “PALIN — BABIES GUNS JESUS.”

But the two most striking were adorned with Jewish stars. One read “PALIN — TRUE NORTH.” The other, “SARAH — FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.”

That last phrase comes from chapter four of the Old Testament Book of Esther. Apparently, the idea of Palin as the Queen Esther for our time has made it to New Hampshire.

The theory has been around since before John McCain picked Palin in late August — it was circulating on religious Christian blogs in early June when news outlets reported that she was on McCain’s short list. After the announcement, it picked up steam — particularly after it was reported that Palin, at the suggestion of her pastor, had, upon becoming governor of Alaska, patterned herself after Queen Esther.

Soon after the Republican National Convention, an e-mail went viral in conservative Christian circles, in which Pastor Mark Arnold claimed to have found himself next to Palin at a rally in his hometown of Lebanon, Ohio. According to the account, Arnold came face-to-face with Palin, and God spoke through him, telling the governor that “God wants you to know that you are a present-day Esther. . . . Keep your eyes on God and know that He has chosen you to reign!”

Palin, according to the account, immediately began to cry — as did her husband, Todd, when Arnold then repeated the news to him. Arnold also told McCain that the Palins are “called of God and she is an Esther.”

Esther, for those not up on their Old Testament, was a Jewish woman plucked from obscurity to become Queen of Persia after winning a beauty contest. This placed her in the right place, at the right time, to intervene in a plan to annihilate the Jews. In a nutshell, when she revealed herself to be Jewish, the king halted the slaughter and instead hanged Haman, the official behind the plot.

Jews recount the tale on Purim with much gaiety and, for most, little concern about historical accuracy.

Palin, of course, was a beauty-pageant participant (while McCain has oft commented that he “never
won Miss Congeniality in the Senate,” Palin won that title in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest), now plucked from obscurity to be in a position to advise the powerful should John McCain become president.

The big question, of course, is for what vital role — what “time such as this” — is Palin being groomed?

One common theory among the Christian cognoscenti is that, just as Esther stopped a threat in Persia to wipe out the Jews, Palin must stop a threat from modern-day Persia — Iran — to wipe out Israel (which would be anathema to conservative Christians, who believe Jews must control that land when Christ returns).

Jon Wiener, blogging last month on thenation.com, took note of this suggestion and pointed out that, in the Biblical account, Esther also got the king to grant the Jews the right “to destroy, to slay . . . every people and province that oppress them,” including women and small children. Wiener suggests that, to the Christian fundamentalists, the Book of Esther appears to authorize the bombing of Iran — regardless of civilian casualties.

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One Response to “Bogus Rumor: Sarah Palin Is Jewish”

  1. Barbara Says:

    I don’t give a hoot about Sarah Palin’s ancestry. She is one smart and beautiful lady and the “liberal” (really?) nitwit media did a disservice to the nation and to themselves by their dishonest and cruel reporting. This is a woman who woul be a blessing to America. I do not think we have heard the last from her!
    Sarah, You Go Girl!!!!!!!!! 2012 will need you!
    Barbara

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