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  • Who’s a real Jew? Ask Congressman Ritchie Torres.

Who’s a real Jew? Ask Congressman Ritchie Torres.

He's the latest to wade into the NY-16 primary, and for all the wrong reasons.

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The NY-16 Democratic primary between incumbent Jamaal Bowman and challenger George Latimer appears to be the most expensive primary in history, with $23 million and counting in ad spending. It’s also brought out the worst in a lot of people, and Rep. Ritchie Torres decided to join the fray Monday by anointing himself the arbiter who best represents Jewish interests. 

But first some background on Torres: The 36-year-old Afro-Latino, Christian Congressman was first elected to Congress in 2020. He represents NY-15 in the Bronx, and until his district was redrawn in 2022, he barely had any Jewish constituents to speak of. With all that in mind, it’s probably surprising to learn that his number one issue is the United States’ relationship with Israel. And since October 7th, it’s pretty much all he can talk about.

In an interview with Politico in late October, Torres said his Zionism grew out of a 2015 trip when he was a NYC Council Member, “and my experience in Israel was love at first sight.” Asked if he considered converting to Judaism, Torres said, “No. I am a Zionist, but I’m culturally Christian and intend to remain culturally Christian for the foreseeable future. I have no intention of converting to a faith. My Zionism has nothing to do with religion, at all.”

Despite saying his Zionism has nothing to do with his own religion, that hasn’t stopped him from using a voter or candidate’s support for Israel as a litmus test for whether or not they’re a good Jew. Which brings us to Monday evening when Torres logged onto Twitter to attack The Jewish Vote, the electoral arm of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice Action (JFREJ), and their #JewsForJamaal efforts in NY-16. 

It started with Bowman’s appearance earlier in the day on the Brian Lehrer Show, the very same program where Latimer gave a shockingly racist response to a Black constituent who called in during his appearance last week. Politico reporter Emily Ngo was live-tweeting Bowman’s chat with Lehrer, which included an exchange about Zionist American nonprofit J Street rescinding its endorsement of him. He called it unfortunate, adding “Thank God I still have a lot of support within the Jewish community”

That’s when Torres decided to enter the chat. He quote tweeted Ngo’s snippet from Bowman’s interview with his own commentary: 

The Jewish Vote responded, also on Twitter, writing, “.@RitchieTorres seems determined to pretend progressive Jews don't exist, rather than confront the fact that Jews aren't a monolith, and lots of us don't agree with him. We're Jewish and proud, and #JewsForJamaal and proud. Shame on anyone who tries to invalidate our Jewishness.”

Instead of considering for a moment that perhaps he should listen to the lived experience of actual Jews, he lashed out in an effort to invalidate them—just as the organization predicted he would. 

“#JewsForJamaal is a little like #BlacksForTrump,” Torres tweeted in response. “If someone were to create a pro-Trump Black organization and call it ‘The Black Vote,’ it would rightly be seen as deceptive advertising. The same should be said of ‘The Jewish Vote.’”

Strong words from a guy who will be speaking this week on a panel hosted by the Manhattan Institute, the employer of white supremacist activist Chris Rufo. Strong words from a guy who was recently hosted at the home of Ronn Torrosian, a Trump-supporting PR exec who’s friends with Eric Adams and was forced to step down from his company in 2022 for being too embarrassing. (But, ya know, Torrosian was the guy who was arrested for harassing an anti-genocide student protester at Syracuse University, so Torres probably sees him as a hero.)

When I replied to Torres’ post letting him know that his comment was the very thing he claims to hate more than anything in the world—antisemitic—this was his response:

Imagine having the gall to be a non-Jew and tell a Jewish organization that they are not worthy of representing Jewish interests. Imagine thinking that steadfastly supporting the state of Israel gives you authority over people who are part of the religion for which the state was founded. Imagine being a member of Congress and using your position to demean Jews in service of ousting your own Democratic colleague.

Torres’ behavior is absurd and abhorrent and my only guess is that he’s hoping for a second Trump administration where he can be appointed Ambassador to Israel.

Meanwhile Torres continued to defend his behavior, tweeting Tuesday morning:

The far left is accusing me of antisemitism.  

It is not antisemitic to dispute that #JewsForJamaal represent the majority of the Jewish vote, just like it would not be racist to dispute that #BlacksForTrump represent a majority of the Black vote.  It is not antisemitism or racism. It’s simple statistics.  

Claiming to be the majority of ‘The Jewish Vote’ or ‘The Black Vote’—when you represent only a fraction of a community—is deceptive advertising.  Period.

But it seems to me that Torres is less concerned about advertising and more concerned about getting George Latimer—the man whose campaign into which the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has poured millions of dollars—elected. 

In that same Politico interview back in October, Torres was asked, “Some pro-Israel groups are supporting a challenge to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). Have you had any discussions with them, and would you consider supporting Westchester County Executive George Latimer for that seat?”

Torres replied, “I would never weigh in against a colleague unless a colleague weighed in against me. I have a rule of reciprocity. Bowman and I have a good relationship.”

So much for that.

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