Friday, March 20, 2015

Madeleine Kunin Never Felt Anti-Semitism in Vermont — but Switzerland Was Different Story

By Madeleine May Kunin for The Jewish Daily Forward

Trailblazing Governor Felt Hatred in Europe

The only whiff of anti-Semitism that I experienced during my campaign for governor of Vermont took the form of a reporter’s question. He asked my campaign manager Liz Bankowski: “How are you going to deal with Madeleine Kunin’s liabilities?”

“What liabilities?” Liz asked.

“Well, she’s a woman, a democrat and she’s Jewish.”

Liz thought for a moment before posing him a question: “Has anyone said that being Jewish was a liability?

“Err, no,” the reporter weakly replied.

“Then it isn’t a story,” Liz said. With that retort, she quashed the story.

The main reason I didn’t experience anti-Semitism during my three terms as governor was that people couldn’t figure out the derivation of my name, or how to pronounce it. I sometimes speculate whether my life would have been different if I had married a Cohen or a Goldberg. I’d like to think not.

As it turned out, my name often morphed into something else — McCuen, McKeon, McKay, Cunin, or some other variation of Kunin, which gave me Irish or Scottish forbearers.

When, in 1984, I was elected as the fourth woman governor (in her own right) in the United States, several groups took credit. The American Medical Society ran this headline: “Doctor’s Wife Is Elected Governor.”

The Aufbau had a different angle: “Jewish Woman Elected Governor.”

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