Though not raised in an observant household, Bennet acknowledges his family’s Jewish roots – his grandparents were both imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. His mother, then a baby, was smuggled out of the ghetto through an underground network. Bennet’s grandmother escaped with nuns and sought refuge in a convent. His grandfather hid in different parts of the ghetto until the liquidation and forced deportation to labor camps. His grandparents and mother arrived in New York in 1950.
Bennet earned his bachelor’s degree with honors from Wesleyan University and his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of The Yale Law Journal.
Prior to moving to Colorado, Bennet served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice during the Clinton Administration.
Before entering politics, Bennet worked as a Managing Director of the Anschutz Investment Company, where he had direct responsibility for the investment of over $500 million. He then served as Chief of Staff in Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s administration. Bennet also served as the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools from 2005 to 2009.
On January 21, 2009, Bennet was appointed as the junior Senator from Colorado to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Kenneth L. Salazar. Bennet was reelected to the Senate in 2010 and 2016.
Bennet does not affiliate with a any religion and he was married by an Episcopal priest. “I was raised with two different heritages, one was Jewish, and one was Christian,” Bennet told the Rocky Mountain News. “I am proud that both heritages are part of me, and I believe in God.”
Bennet married Susan Daggett, a successful natural resources lawyer, in 1997. They have three daughters, Caroline, Halina, and Anne.
On May 2, 2019, Bennet announced he would run for president in 2020. After poor showings in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, Bennet dropped out of the race in February 2020.
The New York Times asked each candidate a series of questions related to Israel. Bennet said the United States maintain its current level of military aid to Israel, should not move the U.S. embassy from Jerusalem, should decide the fate of Palestinian refugees and their descendants “during direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinian representatives with the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security.” He also said he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that includes West Bank land as demarcated by pre-1967 borders, except for longtime Israeli settlements and offered no answer as to what he would do differently from past administrations. (New York Times, December 2019)
“Rocket attacks against innocent civilians are unacceptable. Israel has the right to self-defense against attacks by terror groups inside Gaza. De-escalation is the only path forward to peace and stability.” (@MichaelBennet, November 13, 2019)
“I would say not where those guys landed,” he said when asked whether he favors using aid as leverage over Israel. “And in making the decision I would want to know and have a strong understanding of what the effect would be on the domestic politics in Israel.”
“I would not rule out” conditioning American aid to Israel....if we pick one instrument like that in this town, it very quickly is going to become a partisan litmus test.” The U.S. should do “everything we can to limit settlements.” The current Israeli government “basically has a permission slip from [the] Trump administration to do whatever they want.”
|“I think it’s important for any new leader to have a grace period, but I think for those of us who would like to see a two-state solution be achieved in our lifetime, it’s important for us to build political constituencies in the U.S. and in Israel to create a foundation where we can actually begin to have those conversations. And I would hope that the changes that are made in the U.S., in terms of presidential leadership, and the changes made in Israel, in terms of the prime minister’s position, could create a better condition for peace.” (J Street Conference, October 28, 2019)
On how to help Israel move toward a peace settlement with the Palestinians: “We can set an example of what a pluralistic society, a pluralistic democracy should look like as a defender of human rights both here and around the world,” he said. “And when you’ve got a president like the one we have now, I think we’re setting a terrible example.” (JTA, October 29, 2019)
Asked by the New York Times, “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” Bennet responded, “Yes, I’ve said before and I believe that Israel is the one essential country on the planet. I say this because of my family’s history during the Holocaust, and that doesn’t mean Israel’s perfect. Where we have disagreements we should be able to articulate those disagreements, and I do articulate the disagreements I’ve had with Benjamin Netanyahu over the years.” (New York Times, June 19, 2019)
- Bennet called Israel a “stalwart ally in an unpredictable region” and reaffirmed his support for “robust” security assistance. (Comments to American Jewish Committee, June 3, 2019) (Comments to American Jewish Committee, June 3, 2019)
- Following rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas in May 2019, Bennet said: “We stand behind Israel’s right to self-defense against rocket attacks by terror groups inside Gaza,” he said on Twitter. “Launching rocket attacks against innocent civilians is unacceptable and we mourn the lives lost. A cessation in violence is a necessary step toward de-escalation and stability.” (JTA, May 6, 2019)
The New York Times asked each candidate a series of questions related to U.S. policy toward Iran and the nuclear deal. Bennet said he would “re-enter the nuclear deal with no new preconditions.” He said the order to kill Qassim Suleimani “was a reckless decision and has not made Americans safer or addressed the underlying security threats that persist.” He said that no options would be off the table in dealing with Iran and added:
“It is my hope that, in the future, parties can reach an agreement on enduring restrictions on Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon. I have always had concerns about what the shape of Iran’s nuclear program could look like in 10 or 15 years, and I have long said that the United States must think about a post-J.C.P.O.A. world. I believe Iran is a destabilizing force in the region. From Yemen to Syria to Lebanon, Iran foments terrorism and sows violence — activities that Republicans and Democrats agree would be all the more dangerous if backed by a nuclear weapon.” (New York Times, February 2020)
- Do you support the B.D.S. movement? If not, should the president and/or Congress act to hinder it? “No. I believe strongly in constitutionally protected free speech and in the ability of individuals to exercise that right, including by criticizing Israeli government policies. I am concerned about elements of the B.D.S. movement that disagree with Israel’s right to exist and believe the U.S. government must stand against those efforts that seek to delegitimize Israel.” (New York Times, December 2019)
- “We have an obligation to our children to leave them a future where hatred is not accepted.” (Comments to American Jewish Committee, June 3, 2019)
Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress;
Rocky Mountain News;
Michael Sandoval, “Bennet’s Views on Religion,” National Review, (October 28, 2010);
Nathan Guttman, “Colorado's Michael Bennet: America's Newest Jewish Senator,” Forward, (February 2, 2009);
Ron Kampeas, “4 Democratic Presidential Candidates Weighed In On The Gaza Violence,” JTA, (May 6, 2019);
Comments to American Jewish Committee, (June 3, 2019);
“18 Questions. 21 Democrats. Here’s What They Said,” New York Times, (June 19, 2019);
Josefin Dolsten, Presidential hopeful Michael Bennet: I think about my family’s experience during the Holocaust every day,” JTA, (October 29, 2019).