web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



The Republican Congressman Who Discovered He’s Jewish: An Interview with Representative Lee Terry

Congressman Lee Terry

Congressman Lee Terry

Share Button

When Lee Terry began serving as a Republican congressman in 1999, representing Nebraska’s second congressional district, he didn’t realize he would become one of the House of Representatives’ Jewish members. Always a friend of Israel, Terry discovered his Jewish roots some ten years ago and began a personal odyssey to reconnect with his heritage.

Terry, who lives in Omaha with his wife and three sons, currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was elected vice chair of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

The Jewish Press: How did you got your start in Nebraska politics?

Terry: My father was an anchorman who followed Congress and always talked about Washington at our dinner table. He actually ran for Congress in 1976 and lost. That was when I really became infatuated with how our government works, its history and the political process.

I majored in political science so I could have a major in my interest and hobby. Later on, when I was a practicing lawyer, I had the opportunity to run for city council when I has 29 and actually won. It all started at the city level. We get a lot of press at the national level, but I think the most emotional politics are at the city level.

You discovered your Jewish roots a decade ago. How did that discovery come about?

My birth mother left when I was two and my parents got divorced. I was raised by my dad and didn’t know much about my mother’s side of the family. About ten years ago my cousin from that side of the family made a family tree and found out that my maternal grandmother, who had immigrated as a very young girl from Russia, was Jewish. Her parents settled in Milwaukee and were practicing Jews, and when she was an adult she met my grandfather, a Catholic.

If you marry a Catholic you have to agree to have children brought up Catholic, so my mom was actually brought up as a Catholic even though her mother had been a practicing Jew. A couple years ago my birth mother told me that she remembered visiting her mother in Milwaukee and going to temple on Saturday.

Did your father realize your mother was Jewish and decide not to tell you?

I asked him that and he said, “Well, you know, there were rumors but no one ever said anything.” My grandfather was a professor at a Jesuit university when they moved from Milwaukee to Omaha. I don’t know if they thought that as a Catholic professor at a Catholic university they had to keep it a secret. In today’s world it wouldn’t matter one bit. In fact it would add to the culture. But I have to keep wondering, because unfortunately my grandmother died before I was born and my grandfather died when I was three or four, so I never got to know that side of the family.

Now I’ve been sitting down and learning about Jewish history and religion with some rabbi friends from the Chabad House in Omaha.

What kind of an impact has your discovery made on your life?

I think it’s a more personal impact; I have a greater ethnicity because I have this history in my family that’s really exciting. I like learning about Jewish culture and religion. Of course, I’m discussing this mostly with an Orthodox rabbi. I have a non-Orthodox acquaintance also, but when I talk to him it’s never about Jewish culture and religion; it’s always about politics.

Have your Jewish roots enhanced or validated your outlook on issues as a conservative politician?

I think it validates them. I don’t know if it enhances them because I was a solid supporter of Israel before I learned of my Jewish heritage, but this certainly gives it a greater emphasis and importance to me personally. I don’t think it’s impacted my politics but it’s given it a certain level of confirmation. And the other part is just learning the historical tenets of the faith. There’s so much of it that I say, “Oh gosh, this is what I believe, from the Orthodox perspective.”

That’s why I love sitting down with Rabbi Katzman from Chabad and that’s what we talk about: the Jewish faith and laws, what they are, why they developed, and the relation back to God’s words. I really soak it up. I just love hearing it.

In his recent AIPAC speech, President Obama spoke of supporting Israel and said he has Israel’s back when it comes to Iran, though many Republicans say his words don’t necessarily match his deeds. Would you agree with that assessment?

I do agree with this assessment. I don’t think his actions match his words. It seems like he’s trying to avoid action. The president is trying to avoid even engaging Iran. I guess I would call him inconsistent on the issue.

Share Button

About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “The Republican Congressman Who Discovered He’s Jewish: An Interview with Representative Lee Terry”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
Latest Indepth Stories
Imam Suhail Webb who boasted his Muslim community persuaded Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to withdraw an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

Text of anti-Semitic flyer distributed to Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine on Passover 2014.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

Yossi Klein HaLevi

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

More Articles from Sara Lehmann

Despite the exodus thousands of years ago and our break from the ghettos hundreds of years ago, the slave mentality follows us like a long shadow.

While Brooklyn College is famed for its plethora of Jewish professors and students, it is not a Jewish institution. The 92nd Street Y is. According to its own mission and history statement, it’s “a proudly Jewish institution since its inception.”

In a recent tirade on a public radio station in Albany, Governor Cuomo lambasted New York conservatives in one broad stroke. While lashing out against New Yorkers who oppose his SAFE Act, a draconian gun-control bill rammed through the New York legislature soon after the Newtown massacre, Cuomo targeted all Republicans and conservatives as the enemy.

Proud as I am of my daughter’s enthusiasm and her proclivity for outreach, I somehow can’t shake a niggling regret that it had to be in Germany. As the daughter of a Hungarian mother who escaped deportation by running with her family from the Nazis and the daughter-in-law of a Dutch Jewish man whose parents were shot by the Nazis and who was liberated from Bergen Belsen at the age of 12, I am one generation closer to the Holocaust than my daughter. And one degree closer to the idea of shunning anything and everything German.

Only 26 years ago, 250,000 Jews demonstrated on the National Mall in Washington. It was an unprecedented display of solidarity with Soviet Jewry and played a significant role in facilitating the release of Soviet Jews. The demonstrators were Jews of all stripes and from all across America, Orthodox and non-Orthodox. I know, because as a young student I was there.

The lack of an effective and proactive public relations campaign by the Israeli government has long been lamented. Somehow, advertisements showcasing Israel’s gorgeous beaches and the Tel Aviv nightlife just don’t cut it when the international media regularly bash Israel for its “apartheid” treatment of the Palestinians. But even a superficial Israeli hasbara effort wouldn’t get snickered at if it had consistent and corresponding government policy to sustain its claims.

With national and international crises making headlines, the New York City mayoral race has all but receded to the back pages. But with the first of three scheduled debates between the two remaining major party candidates less than a week away, voters will finally be able to concentrate on substantive issues and policy rather than the circus we were treated to over the summer.

Ralph Peters is a jack of many trades and master of them all. He is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, a writer of both fiction and non-fiction (his newest novel, “Hell or Richmond,” set during the Civil War, has just been released) and a military analyst.

A columnist for the New York Post since 2002, Peters has written for USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and numerous other publications. He also serves as a Fox News strategic analyst. The Jewish Press spoke with Peters on a variety of issues.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/the-republican-congressman-who-discovered-hes-jewish-an-interview-with-representative-lee-terry/2012/04/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: