At the young age of 34, newly elected Jewish Congressman Max Miller will represent Ohio’s 7th District in 2023’s U.S. House of Representatives. He is a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served in several capacities in Trump’s White House administration. His signature issues are border security, energy independence and love and support for Israel. The Jewish Press met up with him to talk about growing up Jewish, military life and negotiating with the Palestinians.
The Jewish Press: You are now a member of Congress, having previously served as a member of former President Trump’s administration. You are also one of only two Republican Jewish members of the 118th U.S. Congress now that Lee Zeldin has moved on. Tell us about growing up Jewish in the Midwest!
Congressman Max Miller: I grew up in Sugar Heights on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. Growing up, my father was very conservative and every Sunday he would take us to Sunday school at Park Synagogue. Every Friday night, my bubby, Ruth, hosted Shabbos dinner and when she passed in 1996, my father took over, and he would host 30-40 people every single week. I remember those who showed up were family, close friends and really anyone else in the community interested in learning about or growing in Judaism. I was bar mitzvahed at Park Synagogue. My father raised us to believe if we ever saw another Jewish person in need, that we would help them, regardless of political affiliation or how we felt about them personally. And that’s how I’ve lived my entire life. I’m proud of being Jewish and I’m going to be the loudest voice in the Republican Party when it comes to our people.
You have mentioned that your bubby, Ruth Miller, who ran for Congress in Ohio’s 22nd District in 1980, was a source of inspiration for you growing up. What was a lesson that she taught you, that stuck with you your whole life and continues to be part of your recipe for success?
I didn’t specifically run for Congress because of her; she ran for Congress in 1980, eight years before I was alive and she passed when I was very young. She was such a strong woman and such a great philanthropist to the city of Cleveland, as was my zaidy, Sam Miller. My bubby used to quote to me this saying when I needed to hear it – that in life you [sometimes] have to deal with the betrayal of false friends.
And that was something that for whatever reason stuck with me, and it’s been very useful in politics, because one day someone could be your best friend and the next moment they could hate you. Or, you run for Congress and a lot of people don’t support you, and then you win, and then you have a whole lot of new friends. So, it just keeps you cognizant of the people you keep around you, and I feel the people you choose to surround yourself with are pretty telling of who you are as a person.
You joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves in 2013. It’s not easy for a young Jewish boy to make the decision to join the military. What made the military seem like the right choice for you?
It was 9/11. I remembered I was 12 or 13, in grade school, and my teacher came in the class and was in tears, he was incredibly devastated. He rolled in an old television, and he sat down and began to explain what was happening. And I remembered feeling that our country was attacked and from that moment on I told my parents and anyone who asked that I wanted to be a marine. I went to college and when I knew I was nearing graduation, I just enlisted. And both of my grandfathers fought in World War II, so I felt I was chosen to serve, and to put on that uniform as a United States Marine.
One of the hardest moments in recent memory to witness was our exodus from Afghanistan. The images of people falling from planes, the reality of soldiers and U.S. citizens left behind in haste and a vulnerable middle-eastern country thrown back into darkness and uncertainty – all of that after so many lives had been sacrificed for so many years by our men in uniform. What was it like for you as a marine to witness that unfold? Does our military have faith in our current leadership to make the right decisions for their well-being?
This administration ripped the hearts out of every veteran who is still living and deceased on that day with that reckless withdrawal from Afghanistan. And they would like to tell you there’s only a few hundred Americans left behind. Not true, there are thousands. But to even say “just a hundred…” One American is enough for us to go back. We never leave a Marine behind. This administration gave up and gave the green light to every warmonger in this entire world to go ahead and posture and to stick their chest out. That’s why China is doing these strategic flyovers over Taiwan, scoping out the geography in the area for an attack at some point, whether it’s in five years or five minutes from now, everyone knows that’s what they’re doing.
I believe our recruiting numbers prove that our military loved Trump more than Biden. The only branch that isn’t down in recruitment is the Marines and it’s a direct result of this administration’s policies and the way men and women feel.
Your political career began as an aide in Marco Rubio’s campaign back in 2016. After being inspired by Trump’s messaging at one of his rallies, you joined Trump’s campaign, then went on after he took office to be one of his lead advance representatives and ultimately his special assistant. You were known in inner circles as “one of Trump’s favorites.” Can you tell us a story about one of the projects you were assigned?
I was assigned to a lot of interesting places. They had me in Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan.
I can tell you about a trip back in 2017: Trump’s first trip to Israel. I was on the ground as the advance lead, which meant I was working with the Israeli government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to put together the details of the president’s trips. So our team went out to the West Bank and arranged a meeting with the Palestinians. There was a good 15 of us – White House staff, military and secret service. And we were sitting together going over the terms of the president’s visit. I’m working with Mahmoud Abbas’s chief of staff and things are going very smooth in the beginning, and then his chief of staff said she would like the president to take part in a ceremony. I said, “Wonderful. Can I take a look at the ceremony?” It looked easy, clean, so great, we could do it.
We start looking further at details and at one point, she looked at me and said, “Well, we have one demand,” and I said, “Yes ma’am, what’s the demand?” And she said, “We want the Palestinian flag to be flown on the president’s vehicle.”
I was just 26 years old at the time, and I remembered looking at her and saying, “Ma’am, that will never happen.” She said, “We see you fly the Israeli flag all the time. I saw it just the other day.” I concurred, “That’s right, ma’am, because we recognize Israel as a state, while we recognize this area, the West Bank, as a territory, nothing more.” She said, “Well you can tell the president that he’s not welcome here.” I told her, “If that’s the message you would like me to take back to the President of the United States, then I will do so.” And I pushed back my chair and suddenly she said, “No, wait.” I explained to her as clear as I could, “Ma’am, we are happy to come here, but that flag will never touch the president’s vehicle.”
The reason I tell that story is because not everyone understands the gravity of that exchange; because if that flag would have been on the president’s car it would have been a sign to the entire world that the United States recognized the State of Palestine. And what could have happened from that? It could have emboldened the Palestinians and caused mayhem in the streets, an uprising, I don’t know, but it never got to that point because I stood my ground. And at the end of the trip, I remember she handed me a beautiful mosaic. I looked at it and on it was written “Palestine,” and I handed it back to her. She said, “You don’t like the gift. Why?” She asked a bunch of questions, and I assured her that it had nothing to do with those other issues. I told her she should know that I’m Jewish, and “this entire time you have been negotiating with a Jewish American and someone who is proud to support Israel.” And her eyes looked like they had fire in them. And if she could have picked up a weapon to hurt me, I felt maybe she would have.
And that’s real hate. You have all these kids that are in our universities that go ahead and pass BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and resolutions that don’t understand the gravity of the situation. They’ve never seen that type of hate. They’ve never been in a room where people want to hurt you because of your way of life, because of your religion, but that’s what’s happening. That was my proudest moment as a Jewish American and my proudest moment working for President Trump: being able to push back at the Palestinian regime and say, “Not today!”