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'Jew-ish, not Jewish': Congressman-elect says he 'embellished' resume

Republican George Santos says he is sorry, but will not give up congressional seat
US Congressman-elect George Santos speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 19 November 2022 (AFP)

A US congressman-elect has recently admitted to "embellishing" many parts of his resume on the campaign trail, including details of his own Jewish heritage.

George Santos, who was elected in this year's primary elections, said he was sorry in an interview with the New York Post on Monday, but added that the fabrications did not disqualify him from office, and he was still planning to take his seat for New York's 3rd congressional district.

"My sins here are embellishing my resume. I'm sorry," Santos said in the interview.

'I never claimed to be Jewish… I said I was 'Jew-ish'

- George Santos, US congressman-elect

Santos, a Republican, had stated on his campaign website that his maternal grandparents were Jewish European refugees who fled persecution during the Second World War to Brazil, and that he counted his mother's "Jewish background beliefs" as his own.

Santos has also said on Twitter that he is a practicing Catholic, the religion of his father.

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However, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported last week that Santos' claim to Jewish ancestry was questionable, given that there was nothing in his mother's obituary identifying her as Jewish - and her name is common among Catholics in Brazil.

The Forward also reported that it had identified records indicating both Santos' maternal grandparents had landed in Brazil before 1930, indicating that they did not flee during the Second World War.

Santos told the Post: "I never claimed to be Jewish… I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was 'Jew-ish'."

"It just strikes me so odd that people are rushing to disinherit me from being Jewish or to care for Israel and Judaism in a time and an era where antisemitism is at an all-time rise," he said in a separate interview with City & State, a New York-based media outlet.

Santos further said that he received a degree from Baruch College in New York and that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, but neither companies nor the school could confirm this.

"I didn't graduate from any institution of higher learning. I'm embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume," he told the Post.

He added that he never "worked directly" for either firm, saying he had used a "poor choice of words".

'Looking forward' to working with Netanyahu

Santos won in a district that includes some Long Island suburbs and a small part of Queens, and will become the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress.

In a November interview with Jewish Insider, Santos said he was a "partner of Israel" and that his four trips there were "the most exciting experiences" of his life. 

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"In foreign policy, I believe Israel is our friend, Israel is our ally, and they’re the only democracy in the Middle East and we need to defend them," he said.

He added that he was "very much looking forward, as a member of Congress, to working with" Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been tapped to form Israel's new government, composed largely of far-right groups. 

While the new far-right government in Israel has raised serious concerns in the US among the Biden administration and parts of the Jewish American community, many Republicans have welcomed Netanyahu's return.

The Israeli leader had been a headline speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual convention in November, showing Netanyahu appears to be favouring one US political party over the other.

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