Democratic Socialist Julia Salazar has a curiously shifting background

Julia Salazar is a Democratic Socialist who is running for State Senate in New York. Given her party affiliation, you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s got a history of far-left, anti-Israel bona fides. But it turns out her story is a lot more interesting than that. Some of the claims she has apparently made, such that she is a Colombian immigrant and that her family is Jewish, don’t appear to hold up under scrutiny. Tablet magazine published a long piece today looking at Salazar’s biography in great detail. The whole thing is worth reading but here are a few highlights. On her place of birth:

Salazar touts her immigrant background, and has claimed that she moved to Florida at an early age. “My family immigrated to the US from Colombia when I was a baby,” she told Jacobin, a leading socialist journal. Salazar is “a working-class Colombian immigrant,” according to a lengthy profile in The Intercept written by a fellow DSA activist: “Salazar’s family emigrated from Colombia to South Florida when she was a baby. Her mother, already a U.S. citizen, wanted to raise Julia and her brother in the States.” New York magazine reports that Salazar is “a naturalized US-citizen.” On July 2, a Twitter user reported that she was “Listening to Julia Salazar talk about her life as a Colombian immigrant and a Jew of color.”

Salazar’s mother grew up in New Jersey and attended West Morris Central High School in Chester Township, according to her Facebook page—in that same New York magazine article, she’s identified as “Italian-American.” (Alex Salazar told Tablet that his mother’s mother immigrated to the United States from Italy.)…A short online biography of Salazar’s brother, who is two years older than her, states that he was “born and raised in Florida,” with no mention of living in any other country. “We were born in Miami, both of us,” Alex Salazar told Tablet.

Tablet asked Salazar about this but she refused to talk to them. However, today she spoke to another publication and suddenly clarified that she was in fact born in Miami:

Tablet sent over a short list of questions about Salazar’s history with Jewish and Israel-related issues at 1 p.m. today, including one about where Salazar, who has claimed to be an immigrant from Colombia, was born. An hour later, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency published a story about Salazar in which she acknowledged she was in fact born in Miami.

That’s not the only curious piece of her backstory. Salazar also claims to be Jewish because her father is Jewish but that seems not to be true either:

Lilith reports that Salazar’s father was “a Sephardic Jew from Colombia;” The Forward states that Salazar’s “father was Jewish, descended from the community expelled from medieval Spain.” Salazar alluded to a Jewish upbringing in a September 2014 comment on Mondoweiss: “Like most American Jews, I was raised with the delusion that Israel was a safe haven for me, perhaps even the only safe place for Jews.” Whatever the source or nature of her Jewish identity, Salazar was presenting herself as a vocal left-winger of Jewish persuasion by early 2014. Her Jewish identity was used as an argument-ender on Twitter: “Is it anti-Semitic for a non-Jewish student to publicly impose opinion of whose voice is permitted in our Jewish communities?” Salazar sniped in the midst of a lengthy February 2014 Twitter exchange with the non-Jewish pro-Israel writer and activist Chloe Valdary (a Tablet contributor). “Please leave my Jewish community alone,” Salazar continued. “You don’t speak for us.”…

Based on her activism with CUFI and other available evidence, she appears to have had a Christian upbringing. A 2009 funeral notice for her father, a former commercial airline pilot named Luis Hernan Salazar, indicates that the service was held at the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. When reached by phone, Alex Salazar, the candidate’s older brother and the operator of a number of Florida mango farms, said that one of their father’s brothers was a Jesuit priest. (He also seemed to know very little about her campaign and seemed surprised when I told him she stood a good chance of winning.) “There was nobody in our immediate family who was Jewish … my father was not Jewish, we were not raised Jewish,” he said. Their mother, Christine Salazar, indicated in a public September 2012 Facebook post that she planned on attending services at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a nondenominational evangelical church in downtown Brooklyn.

And as the story makes clear, Salazar herself was an outspoken Christian pro-lifer until at least 2012:

Social media postings, various articles, and the recollections of people who knew her at Columbia University show that in her early 20s Salazar was a right-wing pro-Israel Christian. In 2012 and into 2013, she was the president of Columbia Right to Life, the campus’s leading anti-abortion group…

In January of 2012, Salazar appeared on conservative firebrand Glenn Beck’s online show, where she was interviewed from Christians United for Israel’s annual Student Advocacy Leadership Training in San Antonio, Texas…

In a series of tweets preserved by pro-Israel activist Hen Mazzig, Salazar quotes a pastor at Apostles Church in New York in a tweet that includes the hashtag #John13, referring to a chapter in the New Testament. “A thought I plan to ruminate on this week:” she tweeted in September of 2012, “Follow #Christ for his own sake, if you plan to follow Him at all,” quoting the 19th-century Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle. One acquaintance who knew Salazar during her time as a CUFI activist said that she wasn’t shy about her religious faith, dropping the occasional “praise Jesus” into casual conversation.

Obviously, Salazar’s political views have changed pretty dramatically, apparently after a trip to Israel. Of course, college students do change their views and people can change their religion, but Salazar’s claims that she was raised as an American Jew after being born in Colombia seem to be at odds with the facts.