(JTA) — George Santos, the congressman-elect whose resume and personal story have collapsed under scrutiny this month, said Monday that he still identifies as “Jew-ish” despite reports showing that his grandparents were Catholics born in Brazil, not Jews who fled the Nazis in Europe as he previously claimed.
The Long Island Republican also questioned why “people are rushing to disinherit me from being Jewish” given his support for Jews and Israel at a time of rising antisemitism.
The comments came during Santos’ first media appearances since the New York Times published a story last week raising questions about virtually ever aspect of the Republican’s resume.
“Even though I’ve always I’ve always said I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, I’ve always loved and had a deep respect for my Jewish heritage and I will continue to,” Santos told a reporter from City & State, a publication covering New York politics. In similar comments to the New York Post, he said, “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.’”
In fact, Santos had told Jewish Insider that his mother’s Jewish beliefs were his own. He had also accepted invitations from the Republican Jewish Coalition honoring him as one of two incoming Jewish Republican representatives in Congress.
In a 2021 Jewish News Syndicate interview, Santos repeated the same “Jew-ish” line and talked about how his grandfather fled the Holocaust, which the Forward first reported last week was not supported by genealogical records in two countries.
To City & State, Santos said he had been repeating longstanding family lore. “I’ve made that joke because growing up I grew up fully aware that my grandparents are Jewish, came from a Jewish family, and they were refugees to Brazil,” he said. “That was always the story I grew up with. And I’ve always known it very well. And I’ve told it the way it was told to me.”
Santos told the news organization that he was surprised that Jews were distancing themselves from him amid mounting evidence that his profile as a Jewish Republican was fueled by inaccurate information.
“It just strikes me as so odd that people are rushing to disinherit me from being Jewish or even allowing to care for Israel and Judaism in a time and era where antisemitism is at an all-time rise,” Santos said. “And here somebody who actually cares about Jews, cares about Israel and somebody willing to fight for them, and we have people pushing me away.”
In his media appearances, Santos admitted to fabricating his resume, including his education and work history, and he apologized for doing so. He also said he would not be deterred from representing New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Long Island and Queens and includes a sizable Orthodox Jewish population.
“I am not a criminal,” Santos told the New York Post. “This will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good.”
To City & State, he suggested that he might still have some Jewish support. He said that he had gotten a text from someone — he did not say who — who told him, “I don’t care what you say you’re still an MOT,” using the acronym meaning “member of the tribe” that is a shorthand for Jewish. He added, “It feels good.”