(JTA) — Bernie Sanders kicked off his presidential campaign by invoking his childhood and his Jewish background.
The campaign rally on Saturday in Brooklyn, where Sanders grew up in a rent-controlled apartment, was the first for the Independent senator from Vermont since announcing last month that he would run for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential race.
“As we launch this campaign for president, you deserve to know where I come from – because family history heavily influences the values that we adopt as adults,” Sanders said during the rally at Brooklyn College.
“I learned a great deal about immigration as a child because my father came to this country from Poland at the age of 17, without a nickel in his pocket. He came to escape the crushing poverty that existed in his community, and to escape widespread anti-Semitism. And, it was a good thing that he left Poland when he did because virtually his entire family there was wiped out by Nazi barbarism,” Sanders told the crowd.
He added that “coming from a lower middle class family I will never forget how money – or really lack of money – was always a point of stress in our home.”
“My experience as a kid, living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values. Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay the bills, I know what it’s like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck,” he said.
Sanders attacked the president and his policies during his speech and said that his campaign would be different.
“Today, I want to welcome you to a campaign which says, loudly and clearly, that the underlying principles of our government will not be greed, hatred and lies. It will not be racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious bigotry. That is going to end,” he said.