DECEMBER 13, 2018 – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who rose from political obscurity in the last year to capture a pivotal congressional seat representing the Bronx and Queens in New York, announced that she had Jewish heritage at a Hanukkah party last week in Jackson Heights.
“A very, very long time ago, generations and generations ago, my family consisted of Sephardic Jews. I knew it, I sensed it!” said Ocasio-Cortez, who added that those relatives had to flee from Europe to escape the Spanish Inquisition and landed in Puerto Rico.
“The story goes that during the Spanish Inquisition, so many people were forced to convert on the exterior to Catholicism, but on the interior, continued to practice their faith, continued to be who they were, even though they were pressured to not be that on the outside world,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez, who is 29 and a self-described “Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx” – defeated 10-term incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley earlier this year, before winning the general election in November. When she is sworn into office next month, she will become the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress. Ocasio-Cortez, who identifies as Catholic, helped light the menorah and danced at the event on Sunday.
While she supports Israel’s right to exist and a two-state solution, Ocasio-Cortez was critical of Israel during her campaign, and referred to Israel’s “occupation of Palestine,” in an interview. After 60 Palestinians were killed in May when they tried to rush the Israeli border from Gaza, she called the event “a massacre” on Twitter.