Is newly-elected congresswoman Dr. Nan Hayworth Jewish?
The question has tripped up and puzzled politicos ever since this Republican/Tea Party ophthalmologist won a suburban New York City seat in Congress. Come January, Hayworth will be representative of New York’s District 19, an area that includes parts of Westchester, Orange and Rockland Counties — and Kiryas Joel, a Satmar Hasidic town.
Israel lobbying group AIPAC congratulated her among its list of new Jews in congress. While catching up with MitzVote by phone this week, she set the record straight.
Is she Jewish? In a word: No.
“I’m a Lutheran who’s a good Jewish mother,” she said, quoting her Facebook page. Hayworth grew up in Munster, Indiana, where she said she had “perfect attendance” at church and taught Sunday school. During her first week of college at Princeton University, she met a “nice Jewish boy” whom she ended up marrying. He wanted to raise the children Jewish. She didn’t convert, but she does speak Hebrew and attend a Reform synagogue. She even recited blessings on the Torah at her son’s bar mitzvah.
Does she care about the misclassification? “It’s my delight to be considered Jewish,” she said. “I am only an honorary Jew, if you will. … But I have never said that I’m Jewish.”
After graduating from Princeton, she attended Cornell University’s medical school before opening her own practice as an ophthalmologist. She retired from that work in 2005 because of her motherly duties.
Hayworth has been long interested in free markets, enterprise and shrinking the federal government. She vocalized her concerns increasingly during the 2008 election. Her husband then suggested that she take matters into her own hands and run for congress.
“It wasn’t something that I thought of on my own,” she explained. “I ran my own practice for several years, I’m the mother of two sons, the daughter of two elderly parents. I’m 50 years old. I’ve got some mileage left. I thought that I could be of service.”
Her realization kicked off an initiative to get to know her constituents, and, eventually, an expensive campaign against liberal incumbent John Hall.
Hayworth is clear on a few broader issues: she wants to shrink the federal government. She wants to repeal or defund the recent health-care legislation. And though she seems to understand Kiryas Joel’s unique position and needs, when asked for specific plans or cutbacks for those constituents, she returned to her broader plans, saying that the lower tax burden would help everyone. Hayworth also pledges not to seek earmarks, which have benefited Kiryas Joel.
For those wondering, she’s pro-choice with stipulations, and thinks marriage rights are for states to determine She said she’ll begin to decide over orientation week whether she’ll caucus with the Tea Partiers or the GOP. But until then, she’s working on some catch-up. “I’m reading my orientation books,” she said. “I have mentors and friends in the Republican leadership. I’m an eager student, which is in the best Jewish tradition.”
Oh, and a friend recently sent her a copy of “Atlas Shrugged.”