Hannah Rosenthal (WI): ‘I Don’t Let the Left off the Hook’

Hannah Rosenthal

Hannah Rosenthal (68), a Democrat from Madison, WI, originally thought she would follow her father, a 16th-generation rabbi, into the family business. Instead, she became a “professional Jew” and a “professional feminist.” Rosenthal has held a range of political and government roles, including Midwest regional director at the Department of Health and Human Services (Clinton administration) and the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism (Obama administration).

We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.

How concerned are you about the rise of anti-Semitism?

I’m very concerned. We’ve seen an astronomical surge in anti-Semitism over the last few years, and it’s been normalized. I believe it’s been unleashed by our president, who is so hateful to so many people that it makes it feel acceptable for some people to show their prejudice, discrimination and hatred. 

Do you think the far-right or the far-left is responsible for some of the increase in anti-Semitism?

It’s the far-right that holds marches and says “Jews will not replace us.” It’s the far-right who are unabashedly anti-Semitic and racist. No question about it. But I don’t let the left off the hook either. I marched in Washington the day after the inauguration. I had my pink hat and I was very proud. But when two of the organizers ended up defending Louis Farrakhan and refused to condemn the anti-Semitism, I stopped paying attention to them. I push delete every time they send me something. And “the squad’ needs an education. Ilhan Omar apologized after one anti-Semitic comment and then proceeded to make a couple more, and that is not okay with me. I would love to sit down with her or “the squad” and talk about what they’re doing, and how they’re splintering the left.

How do you feel about the president’s response to the rise of anti-Semitism?

I was very concerned with the way the president decided to respond by issuing an executive order that allows the civil rights act to be used to combat anti-Semitism.* There are a lot of tropes and stereotypes about Jews that lead to anti-Semitism, and one is dual loyalty. So, Trump’s indication that Jews are more than a religion and his focus on national origin, seeds that dual loyalty notion. It reinforces the stereotype that people think Jews care more about our clan or tribe than we do about America, and that’s extremely dangerous. I think he really wanted to do something that was visible and important, but he picked the wrong thing. I don’t know which of his advisers is telling him to do these things because he misses the mark every time.

Do you think anti-Semitism is being adequately addressed by the presidential candidates?

I never think it’s adequately addressed because it continues. Every time there’s a horrible event, everybody starts talking about it. I’d like to see people be able to address anti-Semitism by itself. It’s different than the other terrible “isms,” not that we don’t care about those as well. I thought Corey Booker was very strong on it. I always think it’s best when someone who isn’t Jewish takes the lead. If you ask the other candidates about anti-Semitism, they’d say it’s a horrible thing. They say all the right things, but they don’t condemn Ilhan Omar when the third and fourth time she says something anti-Semitic.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

When I look at the impeachment drama, many of the major players (lawyers, witnesses, news correspondents) are Jewish. I think, wait until someone says this is all funded by George Soros, which is code for Jews. The reason of course, is that Jews are disproportionately activists who want justice because that’s what our values tell us. So, it makes sense that we’d be disproportionately visible on these kinds of things. But that’s not how anti-Semites feel. 

Who is your top choice now that Cory Booker is no longer running?

I can honestly tell you that I don’t know who I’m going to support. I’m impressed with how both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are doing so I’m watching them probably more carefully than anyone else.

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