Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) has been answering 20 minutes of questions from JNS in his office in the Cannon House Office Building when he unveils a silver Star of David necklace that he says he wears daily.
“I want everyone to know, and I’m not afraid that I’m Jewish,” he told JNS.
Miller, 34, and Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) are the only two Jewish Republicans in Congress. In his first term, Miller made headlines for introducing legislation that stripped Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of her assignment on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Omar has accused Israel of having “hypnotized the world” and Jews of buying control of Congress (“It’s all about the Benjamins”). She has also called Israel an “apartheid state” and likened it to the terrorist groups Taliban and Hamas.
“People can criticize Israel. People can criticize Israeli policy. People can criticize Israeli publicly elected officials. You have that right as an American,” Miller told JNS. “But when you start targeting Jewish people and marginalized groups, you have crossed a line that you cannot come back from.”
But Miller told JNS that under the right circumstances, he is open to Omar returning to the committee. The congresswoman would have to make amends with the Jewish people and educate herself on Jewish topics, including the Holocaust.
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” he told JNS.
‘I wanted to make a difference’
A Marine reservist and former senior advisor to former President Donald Trump, and former director of presidential advance, Miller decided that he was the best person to represent Ohio’s 7th Congressional District. So, armed with an endorsement from Trump, he ran, easily made it through the GOP primary and defeated Democrat Matthew Diemer.
“I wanted to make that difference,” he said. “I wanted to be a proud Jew representing our people throughout our country and across the world.”
After three and a half months in Congress, Miller said he is more interested in getting work done than socializing at dinner parties. “You don’t see us being a firebrand on TV,” he said. “We’ve kept our head down.”
Other incoming Republicans elected Miller to be their delegate on the steering committee, which determines committee assignments. He told JNS that he is proud of helping nearly all of his Republican colleagues land their first or second committee choices.
“I’m a team player, and I will continue to prioritize the team and do everything we can to be a successful party,” he said
He also intends to make his religious identity a focus of his time in Congress. “A lot of people don’t know who I am, but I believe, over time and over the body of work that we’ll accomplish, they’ll know exactly who we are, and they’ll know that I am Jewish in Congress,” he said.
Having a big-league bubbe
A strong Jewish identity was ingrained in Miller at an early age.
“Growing up, being Jewish was part of my every-single-day life,” he said. It has always been a part of me.”
Every Friday night, he said his grandmother would host 30 to 40 people for Shabbat dinner in Cleveland. And his bubbe happened to be Ruth Ratner Miller, who earned a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University and lectured there from 1969 to 1974. She ran for an Ohio seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 but lost in the primary. A businesswoman and philanthropist, she was responsible for leading the renovation and rebuilding of the Cleveland landmark Tower City Center.
She also was a Cleveland State University trustee; part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum executive committee; and one of President Ronald Reagan’s appointees to the Holocaust Memorial Council. (President George H.W. Bush reappointed her.)
His grandmother’s latter two roles are particularly significant to Miller, whom Trump appointed to the Holocaust Museum’s governing board of trustees.
The congressman’s grandfather Sam Miller—Ratner Miller’s husband—who died at 97 in 2019, was co-chairman with his brother-in-law of Forest City Enterprises in Cleveland. A Toronto company paid $6.8 billion to buy Forest City Enterprises in a deal that went through in December 2019.
After his grandmother passed away, Miller told JNS that his parents inherited the big Shabbat dinner mantle. He grew up in a Conservative Jewish and a kosher home, with separate dishwashers, silverware, and even refrigerators for milk and meat.
His path has led to public service, rather than real estate, but he still has the swagger of a magnate. “I will be the loudest Republican Jewish voice for our people no matter what,” he proclaimed. “That is something that I will never back down from.”