Jake Tapper recalls his Jewish upbringing

CNN host Jake Tapper joined The Axe Files with David Axelrod where he recalled his Jewish upbringing and how he views his Judaism today:

“My mom converted to Judaism and my dad was raised conservative-Jewish, but probably not really all that observant. They divorced when I was about 7 or 8, and around that time my dad started getting more in touch with his Jewish roots, and so I started going to Jewish camps and then I ended up in Jewish school from 6 through 12. There was some sort of awakening that my dad went through, maybe right before and during the divorce, and so I learned a lot about Judaism and I spoke semi-fluent Hebrew for a while when I was in college. Not really anymore…”

Axelrod: And was there a spiritual component to it? I mean, I was Bar Mitzvah’ed and all of that, and I feel culturally akin, but it was kind of a compulsory thing, and being compulsory I was resistant to it.

Tapper: “That’s probably what my kids are going through right now. For me it was different because I guess like any other spiritual journey, I went through periods where I was very into it. When you go to Jewish camps – and when I say Jewish camps I don’t just mean like everybody there was Jewish. I mean, we’d get up and we would pray every day, every day of the week. Then on the Sabbath it was a very intense situation where you couldn’t use electronics and all that. There would be a lot of praying. There were times in my life that I was really into it and other times that I’m not.”

Tapper on practicing Judaism today: “I would say right now it’s important to me, but I’m also at the phase of my life, and maybe this is a silly phase, where I don’t really think God cares too much about what I eat and put in my body. I think that God probably, if there is any sort of sense of justice in this universe, would prefer that I spend more time devoted to doing good deeds, which is part of Judaism, than praying…”

Axelrod (joking): Do you have proof of this? Do you have two sources on this?

Tapper: “I have no sources on this. I have not reported this (laughter). I think a lot of the lessons of Judaism have stayed with me in terms of trying to be a good person and trying to give people the benefit of the doubt in terms of charity, and that part of Judaism and the intellectual debate – that’s part of Judaism as well – that has stayed with me much more than the religious part of it, just in terms of observance. So we go to synagogue. My kids go to Hebrew school and all that but…”

Axelrod: Yeah, you’re reaching for the deeper — You’re reaching for the sort of more spiritual elements, the ethical constructs and so on.

Tapper: “Yeah. Sometimes I’ll see — I see some very unethical behavior by people who think that they are very observant. Not just Jews but all sorts of religions. I was just thinking about it today, somebody who looks as though he is an Orthodox Jew on Twitter was attacking me…”

Axelrod: How does one look like an Orthodox Jew on Twitter?

Tapper: “Well, his avatar was a guy with the hat and the payos and all of that. All I could think of was this is not what I learned is being Jewish… I’ve seen a lot of that behavior. Again, not just Jews. Christians, Muslims, certainly Muslims, and a lot of people who consider themselves to be very pious doing some pretty horrific things.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.