Jewish residents and leaders react to Santos’ lies


Residents of New York’s Third Congressional District continue to be astounded by the influx of information regarding Congressman-elect George Santos’ lies and exaggerations about his life. 

Denae Penney, a resident of Sea Cliff, is one of many residents of the district who said she is shocked and disgusted by the lies Santos has told. Penney said New Yorkers should be united in rejecting him from representing them in Congress.

“I think the scope of his lies is so egregious that he should be blocked from being sworn in by all parties and all religions,” Penney said. “This is not just something that should be offensive towards people that didn’t vote for him. It should be most offensive for the people that did.”

One claim that has especially stood out has been Santos’ assertion that he is the grandson of Jewish refugees of the Holocaust, leaving many Jewish residents, leaders and lawmakers in the district particularly outraged.

Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, whose grandfather actually was a refugee of the Holocaust, has continually called on Santos to resign since the news broke. He is also working on introducing a Campaign Honesty Bill to the Legislature, which would make it a misdemeanor to lie about a candidate’s personal and professional history while campaigning in Nassau County.

“It’s a morally depraved lie that George Santos told to manipulate the emotions of Jewish voters like myself, in order to win votes in one of the most Jewish districts in the country,” Lafazan said. “For someone to lie about their grandparents’ involvement in the Holocaust in order to gain votes is one of the most egregious things I’ve ever seen in politics.”

The allegations against Santos were first raised by the New York Times in a bombshell article released last week, which detailed how he had lied about his education, job history, financial history and numerous other issues with his background. A subsequent article by the Jewish newspaper Forward claimed that the Congressman-elect had also lied about his Jewish heritage, according to their research with a genealogy site.

This claim had been prominently featured on the About section of his campaign page, reading that “George’s grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution in WWII.” This information was recently removed from his website.

Now, after several days of silence, Santos has come forward and admitted to not being Jewish, according to an article by the New York Post on Monday. However, that same day in a subsequent interview with the news outlet City & State New York, Santos re-asserted that to the best of his knowledge he was Jewish.

“As I’ve said many times, and I think you’ve heard me say this, I’m Catholic, but I’m Jew-ish, as in ‘ish,’” Santos said, to show host Skye Ostreicher. “Growing up, I was fully aware that my grandparents were Jewish, that I came from a Jewish family, and that they were refugees to Brazil.”

The outrage has increased among Jews as more and more evidence indicate that Santos’ grandparents were born in Brazil. Several people have expressed their revulsion that Santos would use the tragedy of the Holocaust to help win the election.

“What he’s done is disgusting, it’s anti-Semitic and it’s racist,” New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine said. “Anyone who would identify or manipulate the Jewish people to the extent of claiming falsely to be Jewish, to curry some sort of supposed favor, is absolutely guilty of racism and anti-Semitism.”

Steve Markowitz, former chairman of the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County, said that Santos’ claims that all he had done was embellish his resume was a lie, and was deeply infuriating to hear. Markowitz also expressed concerns about Santos’ finances.

“I just find that outrageous,” Markowitz said. “But to me the major issue of the whole thing is the questions raised about where his money came from.”

Many New Yorkers and New York politicians, predominately Democrats, are calling on Santos to step down. Both of his immediate predecessors as the Third District’s Congressman — Tom Suozzi of Glen Cove and Steve Israel of Oyster Bay — have spoken out against Santos’ blatant and self-serving lies.

“When I represented this district, my constituents knew where I stood and who I was,” Israel said in a statement. “Mr. Santos has misled Republicans and Democrats alike on fundamental elements of his identity.”

“People should tell the GOP leadership not to seat him,” Suozzi said. “George Santos is a liar and to see him in Congress is a black mark against GOP leadership and the entire Congress.”

Joseph Cairo, chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee, is one of the few conservative leaders who have spoken about Santos and his fraudulent claims. Cairo released a statement on Tuesday claiming that although he was unimpressed with Santos’ apology so far, that shouldn’t prevent him from serving in Congress.

“The damage that his lies have caused to many people, especially those who have been impacted by the Holocaust, are profound,” Cairo stated. “He must do the public’s will in Washington. Residents want him to deliver tax relief and pass laws that will make our neighborhoods and our nation safer.”

Santos’ opponent in the election, Robert Zimmerman, who is Jewish, has called on the Congressman-elect to resign his seat and face him in a special election, now that the voters of the district know the true content of his character. Zimmerman also discussed how he and his campaign had raised issues over Santos’ background from the beginning, particularly on his conflicting claims about his participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“George Santos has acknowledged lying about his education, his business career, lying about his faith and admitting to crimes,” Zimmerman said. “So today I call for his resignation from holding public office, if in fact his name is George Santos.”

Rabbi Deborah Bravo of the reform synagogue Makom NY in Bethpage, said that what she is most concerned by is the impact lying at this scale will have on the children of the community. 

“It’s just so absurd to me and it makes me wonder, what does it teach our children about lying,” Bravo continued. “If any of us in any of our jobs lied the way he did, we’d all lose our jobs.”