|FIRST LADY'S JEWISH BOMBSHELL
By ROBERT HARDT Jr.,
DEBORAH ORIN and
Friday August 6, 1999
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton - New York's likely Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate - has some Jewish roots, it was revealed yesterday.
News of Clinton's Jewish relatives - her step-grandfather and her mother's half-sister - sent shock waves through political circles in New York, where the first lady is mulling a run for outgoing Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's seat, and where a large number of voters are Jewish.
Clinton's grandmother Della Murray Howell married Max Rosenberg, a Russian-born Jew, in 1933, The Forward weekly newspaper reported yesterday. He was her second husband.
The couple had a daughter, Adeline, who was Clinton's half-aunt. She died last year.
It came as a surprise to many, since Clinton - a Methodist who was born in Chicago and spent several years in the South - has never publicly mentioned having Jewish kin.
Some suggested that word is coming out now to pander to crucial Jewish swing voters, who have voted for her potential Republican rival, Mayor Giuliani, in the past. Clinton was in the Buffalo area on the latest leg of her upstate "listening tour" yesterday, as she continues to ponder her Senate run.
Clinton's spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said the first lady did not know Rosenberg, who died in Los Angeles in 1984, "in a religious context."
"But she does have very fond memories of him and is very proud of her family," Wolfson said, adding that she spent a lot of time with him when she was a child.
"I don't think it's anything that ought to be politicized," Wolfson added. He denied that anyone in the Clinton camp leaked the story, saying her Jewish support is already strong and she'll do well "because of her outstanding record."
Forward reporter Seth Gitell, who wrote the story, also insisted the story came from a tipster, not from Clinton's team.
Giuliani refused to comment on whether the report was meant to draw Jewish support, saying he had "no idea."
But City Hall insiders were outraged.
"This is pandering to the nth degree," said one insider. "What's next? Hillary in front of Zabar's with a bagel and a shmeer?"
Adeline Rosenberg's stepson, David Friedman, told The Post Clinton was always close with his stepmother - who attended the president's 1993 inauguration.
Asked about why the report came out now, Friedman replied: "I would have no way of answering that.
"As far as I'm concerned, she's family by marriage, and she has my support," said Friedman, vice president of the Anaheim, Calif.-based software company Verisurf.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said he wasn't sure if the president knew about his wife's relatives, and said he would check with Clinton "if he thinks its appropriate to answer it."
Mrs. Clinton has been involved with Jewish causes for years.
Some political analysts, as well as Clinton watchers, suggested it was kept quiet because Jewish candidates tend not to fare as well nationally.
Political columnist Dick Morris, a former Clinton adviser, said in the 24 years he's known the first couple, the Jewish-kin issue never came up.
"The idea of trotting it out now is so transparent, I don't think it could possibly work," said Morris.