Democratic Socialist Julia Salazar is still dealing with the fallout to a magazine article published last week which called into question elements of her biography including her claim to be a “proud immigrant” and her alleged Jewish heritage. Yesterday, Haaretz talked to a college acquaintance of Salazar who said they discussed the fact that she was not Jewish during her time at Columbia University:
A former fellow student at Columbia University, meanwhile, told Haaretz that the Democratic socialist had “lied about her immigrant identity and she’s lying about being Jewish.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the former student said Salazar first spoke with him in 2010, expressing a desire to be involved in pro-Israel activism, and “stated unequivocally that she wasn’t Jewish.”
The former student said Salazar became active in the Christians United For Israel organization around this time. “In July 2011, she attended the CUFI summit and in the fall semester she nominally founded CUFI at Columbia University.”
Later, he said, they discussed her decision to join a CUFI trip to Israel, “after she expressed interest in going and we clearly discussed the fact that Birthright wasn’t an option since she wasn’t Jewish,” he said, referring to the free roots trip for Diaspora Jews.
He said he believed Salazar “has taken on this identity of a left-wing social democratic Jew in order to score political points.” Her account of her personal history, he added, revealed “a pattern of inconsistencies and lies…
Monday, Salazar gave an interview Jewish Currents in which she once again tried to explain away the confusion over her story. She admitted in that interview that she did not grow up Jewish or surrounded by Jewish family members:
Growing up, I always knew a lot of my family was Catholic. I also knew I had a Sephardic last name, and it made me curious. I was told that I had Jewish family when I was growing up. My parents gave me an intellectual interest and spiritual interest in both Christianity and Judaism. My dad would talk about his dad being Sephardi, and then he would talk about it as a spiritual and geographical connection. And it was confusing as a kid. I read a lot, and my parents encouraged me to read the bible and apologetics and Torah as well. But I didn’t have a bat mitzvah, or a confirmation, or any of that sort of thing.
My father died tragically when I was 18. In the wake of him dying I was more motivated than ever before to understand my lineage.
That may be true but the timeline doesn’t quite work out. Salazar is 27 now so she would have been 18 in 2009. But her history of college activism is mostly as a pro-life Christian. In fact, another college friend who knew her at the time said she identified as Christian as late as 2012:
She said that Salazar’s account of turning to Judaism at age 18 was “absolutely not true.”…
She never discussed her Sephardi roots or her father’s Jewish heritage, the male former friend said, adding, “Never in the years I knew her did she ever identify as a Jew to me – and we had a lot of discussions about Judaism.
Maybe, looking back on her change of faith, Salazar feels as if the change began with her father’s death, but in reality, she was still outspokenly Christian for at least 3 years after that point.
As Haaretz points out, even the name Salazar, which is associated with Jews who emigrated from Spain, belongs to many people who are not Jewish in South America. So all of this really hinges on family stories Salazar claims she heard from her father as a child.
This is not so different from Elizabeth Warren’s claim that she is Native American based on family lore. Like Salazar, Warren also seems not to have self-identified as Native American until a bit later in life.