Almost 6% of Congress now Jewish — 28 Democrats and 2 Republicans
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Almost 6% of Congress now Jewish — 28 Democrats and 2 Republicans

The 115th Congress has largest share of Jews in any freshman class since data became available, analysis shows

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Sen. Charles (Chuck) Schumer (right) talks with a staff member after the weekly Democratic policy luncheon at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, August 4, 2015. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
Sen. Charles (Chuck) Schumer (right) talks with a staff member after the weekly Democratic policy luncheon at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, August 4, 2015. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — The 115th US Congress, which convened for the first time on Tuesday, is 5.6 percent Jewish, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Jews made up 28 legislators in the 114th Congress and have now picked up two more seats. Of the 30 current Jewish lawmakers, 28 are Democrats and two are Republican.

The last election proved to be highly successful for Jewish candidates, as roughly 8% of the freshman class’s non-Christian representatives are Jewish, the largest share of Jews ever entering the halls of Congress since data became available, Pew said.

In 2014, roughly 1% of Washington’s legislative newcomers were Jewish, while in 2012 and 2010, 4% and 2% were members of the tribe, respectively.

As the GOP prepares to control the White House, House and Senate for the first time since 2007, giving them an opportunity to advance an agenda that’s been sidelined during the Obama era, they claim less religious diversity than their Democratic counterparts.

Out of the 293 Republicans who make up the new Congress, only two do not identify as Christians — the two who also happen to be Jewish, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff.

Illustrative: A joint session of the US Congress, September 9, 2009. (Wikipedia/Lawrence Jackson/whitehouse.gov/public domain)
Illustrative: A joint session of the US Congress, September 9, 2009. (Wikipedia/Lawrence Jackson/whitehouse.gov/public domain)

Democrats, who now hold 242 seats, also claim members who self-identify as Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist and unaffiliated.

Of the Democrats’ 28 Jewish members, 20 are serving in the House, and eight in the Senate. Jews thus make up a higher proportion of the upper chamber than the lower, holding 8% of the Senate versus 5% of the House.

Jewish Democrats will also hold leadership positions in the upcoming Congress, as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of the most prominent Jews on the Hill, will serve as the Senate minority leader.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also has a leadership post in the Democratic caucus, as its director of outreach.

One fixture of the new data shows that Jews have a considerably larger representation of Congress than they do the general US population, as the Pew analysis found that while Jews make up nearly 6% of Congress members, they make up 2% of Americans.

Protestants and Catholics also have a greater representation in Congress than the US populace. Unaffiliated Americans, however, are substantially underrepresented, as 23% of the general public identifies in that category but just 0.2% of Congress does.

Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) is the only member who described herself as religiously unaffiliated.

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