Who is Claudia Sheinbaum, the woman who could be Mexico’s first Jewish president?

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo won a primary for the ruling party earlier this week


MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 6: Claudia Sheinbaum, Morena's party presidential candidate, celebrates the results with members of the party during the announcement of the new National Coordinator of the Defense Committees of the Fourth Transformation at WTC Mexico City on September 6, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. Claudia Sheinbaum former mayor of Mexico City won the nomination as presidential candidate of Morena party. The Coordinator of the Defense Committees of '4T' (Fourth Transformation) is considered to run for the presidency in 2024 and the official confirmation will be announced once the electoral season approaches. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Getty Images)

Mexico is poised to elect its first Jewish president after a Jewish former mayor of Mexico City was selected by the country’s ruling party to run for office.

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo has been formally declared as the presidential candidate for the left-wing Morena Party. A former climate scientist, Sheinbaum, 61, is a protégée of the incumbent president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is unable to run again, and has been billed as the continuity candidate.

Obrador angered the country’s Jewish community in 2022 when he compared a prominent Mexican Jewish political analyst, Carlos Alazraki - a critic of the president – to Adolf Hitler. 

Sheinbaum will be both the first Jewish and the first female president of Mexico if she is elected when the country goes to the polls in June 2024.

When Morena announced on Wednesday night that she would be the party’s candidate, Sheinbaum said:  “Today democracy won. Today the people of Mexico decided.”

The selection process was, however, marred by claims from rival candidate Marcelo Ebrard, that there had been “significant irregularities” and calls for a re-run.

Sheinbaum started her career as a climate scientist, serving on the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, co-authoring a report on mitigating climate that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

In 2000 López Obrador, then serving as head of government of Mexico City, appointed Sheinbaum secretary of the environment for the capital.

She was elected as the mayor of Tlalpan, the largest borough in Mexico City, in 2015. Three years later, she was elected to serve a six-year term as mayor of Mexico City, arguably the second-most important role in Mexican politics, becoming the first Jewish person to hold the position.

Sheinbaum, a secular Jew, has said she is proud of her Jewish origins and spoken about celebrating “all the holidays” at her grandparents’ home. During the campaign, she has faced persistent misinformation on social media claiming, incorrectly, that she was born in Bulgaria, an allegation which her supporters have called antisemitic.

Sheinbaum's parents raised her in a Jewish home and she reportedly spoke Yiddish and ate Ashkenazi food growing up.

Some media reports have suggested Judaism no longer plays a central role in Sheinbaum’s life.

“Her family has no formal relationship with Mexico’s Jewish community and she has never taken a political stance from an overtly ‘Jewish’ perspective,” according to JTA.

“She hasn’t made any public pronouncement about Israel or spoken as a member of a minority even though Jews make up far less than 1 percent of the capital city’s population.”

The JTA quoted sources close to her family, who allegedly said the Sheinbaums felt more connected to a tradition of political activism than their Jewish heritage.

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