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Pilot Hero Sullenberger—Is he Jewish?

By Daniel Vahab

Capt. Chesley Sullenberger

Because his last name--“sullenberger”—is spelled the Jewish German way instead of the German, non-Jewish way—“burger”—a lot of people are suspecting that Chesley Sullenberger aka “Sully”, the hero pilot of Flight 1549, is indeed Jewish. We did some independent research and it appears that he isn’t Jewish. Regardless of “Sully’s” religious affiliation, the fact is that 150 passengers were saved twice, as MSNBC pointed out: once from the plane crash, and second from contracting severe hypothermia from the freezing cold of the Hudson River. That’s a miracle.    

According to Janice Corran, Executive Director of The Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living, an assisted living center home to 180 elderly, located not far from “Sully’s” home in Danville, California, “We’ve (our members) wondered that question too, but he’s not affiliated with any temple or synagogue.” Janice added, “Today, what the members are saying is that there is a God and he was on Mr. Sullenberger’s shoulders.” 

When asked the same question, Dolores Fox Ciardelli, the editor of The Danville Weekly, the community newspaper of Danville, California, the hometown of Mr. Sullenberger, commented, “We don’t know. A lot of reporters have been asking Sullenberg’s neighbors which church they go to.”

The IsraelForum.com asked the same question. And according to The San Francisco Citizen blog “Contra Costa Pilot Chesley Sullenberger is Hero Pilot of Flight 1549”, “For some odd reason, a colossal number of people are searching Google right now using the terms ‘sullenberger jewish?’ and ‘wesley sullenburger jew.’ I don't know the answer, but the question itself must be, in the words of famous local playwright Josh Kornbluth, ‘Good for the Jews.”’

We contacted Beth Chaim Temple, the only temple in the small town of Danville, California, and the temple indicated that he was not a member. Then we contacted the other temples in driving distance to the town: B’nai Tikvah, Temple Isiah, and Temple Binai Shalom. They all indicated that he wasn’t a member, as well, checking their databases to make sure.

The Rabbi at B’nai Tikvah said that the name has German connotations and that it might or might not be Jewish. The Rabbi added, “It would be wonderful to claim him as Jewish. Hopefully there will be a parade here and Jews and Christians together will celebrate.”  

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