web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Cory Booker’

The Apotheosis of Chris Christie

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Turn on the television and wait five minutes and it begins playing. “It’s in our blood, our DNA,” the painfully high voice sings, “Because we’re stronger than the storm.” The ad closes with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his family playing on the beach.

The 25 million dollar ad campaign feels like it has been in rotation forever.  The earnest warbling of the song can be heard everywhere. It probably isn’t doing much to move tourists to the Jersey Shore, but that isn’t what it’s there for. It’s there to remind everyone that Christie is the guy who flew over the state in a helicopter after Hurricane Sandy. We’re not stronger than the storm, is the message. Christie is.

The 25 million dollar ad campaign like the 24 million dollar special election is about the Governor of New Jersey.

Some Democrats have criticized both moves as cynical elections ploys and that’s true and it isn’t. The election, against a placeholder candidate, is no threat to Governor Christie who is running 60 to 28.

No matter how many minority voters Cory Booker brings to the polls (and it’s no sure bet that he will bring any, Booker for the moment is far more popular among white liberals than among the inner city voters he is deserting in Newark)  there is no conceivable way that Christie could lose this election.

But it’s not just about winning another four years. It’s about 2016.

Christie doesn’t just want to win. He wants to win by a landslide. And he doesn’t just want to win by a landslide. He wants to win as many Democrats and Independents as he can to make the case that he is the sure thing for 2016. The candidate who is bound to be electable because he has a track record of winning over blue voters.

The 2012 election involved two deals being cut for the 2016 election. Obama cut a deal with Bill Clinton to endorse Hillary for the Democratic nomination in 2016 in exchange for Bill coming out there and campaigning for him and another deal with Chris Christie to give him an easy election now and a clear path to the Republican nomination 2016.

Unprecedentedly the deals made in 2012 are supposed to lock down the nominations for both parties in the 2016 presidential election.

Christie considered jumping into 2012, before deciding to stay out of it. But that didn’t mean that he had any interest in Romney locking down the job and preventing him from running until 2020. And he gave Romney exactly the kind of help you would expect from a man who ran ads in 2008 touting his compatibility with Obama.

New Jersey politics has always been cynical. Its last governor was responsible for a monumental financial scam. The governor before him resigned after a gay affair spilled out into the tabloids. The President of the New Jersey Senate doubles as the General Organizer for the International Association of Ironworkers.

In carefully culled soundbites, Christie’s brazen attitude can seem like a reformer’s breath of fresh air, but it actually reeks of the contempt for voters and everyone else that is typical of Jersey politicians who pride themselves on not even pretending to give a damn.

When it comes to carefully cultivating the attitude of not giving a damn, Christie has been ahead of the pack. And that’s still his attitude while planning for a national election as the candidate from a party whose base and activists and even fellow politicians despise him. It’s not an unreasonable attitude. The Romney ticket was met with groans and distaste, but was sold on electability. If Christie can nail down a huge percentage of Democratic voters, then he has a much better case for electability.

Christie is running for election on liberal training wheels. The media sings his praises and liberal donors send him big checks. His real opponent, Cory Booker was pressured by his own party into running for a senate seat that unfortunately happened to be occupied by Lautenberg, who to everyone’s relief passed away conveniently clearing a path for Booker and Christie. But if Booker were going up against Christie, then Christie wouldn’t be planning to use all those Democratic vote totals to make his case for 2016.

In 2009, Christie squeaked by with 3 percent. This time around he’s running against a non-candidate as the man who got New Jersey through the storm. Whatever numbers he gets won’t translate to a national election against Hillary Clinton. And the glowing media profiles will shut off once he gets the brass ring and becomes the fat man standing in Hillary’s way. And then the hero will become the villain. That’s what happened to moderate mavericks like John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Learning from history isn’t really a specialty for Republican operatives. And unlike his prospective opponents, Christie will be able to show that he won Democratic votes in a recent election. And he expects that with a few tough talking videos the base will learn to love him while the party will come around the way that they did on amnesty for illegal aliens. Everyone wants to win, don’t they?

Christie certainly does. The Governor of New Jersey is many things, but a loser isn’t one of them. Unfortunately he’s also opportunistic, unprincipled and completely cynical. Christie went from being a US Attorney prosecuting terrorism cases to using his office to pander to terrorists once he ran for public office. He spent his first term releasing punchy video clips of him yelling at people to give the impression that he was dramatically turning things around, when he was actually slapping band aids on the bruises. And in both elections, he used Obama as his political trump card to win a blue state.

The real Christie isn’t a reformer. He’s not really any different than Governor Cuomo next door in New York or Jerry Brown in California. He’s a Republican by registration in a region where that doesn’t mean very much except connections with a particular political machine. It says nothing about his beliefs and values. And assuming that he has any may be a very generous interpretation.

We know that Christie likes Bruce Springsteen and the image of him crying over getting a hug from New Jersey’s second most overrated aging rocker while families in his state were mourning loved ones and living in tents may say all that there is to say about the authenticity of Christie’s Sandy tour.

What really moves Christie isn’t the opportunity to do good for the people of his state, but the nearness to celebrities like Springsteen and Obama. And perhaps that is why Christie has tried harder to be famous than to be a good governor.

Politics for Chris Christie was a celebrity audition. Now finally the cool kids have let him into the club and made him one of them.

On television the show ends and the commercial break begins. Once again the high voice begins warbling. “Stronger than ever. Whoaaah. New Jersey is stronger than the storm.” The song, like so much about Christie is a fake. It comes from BANG, a New York City music production company run by a former ad executive who donated six thousand dollars to Obama. New Jersey isn’t stronger than the storm. Chris Christie’s political career is.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Cory Booker & Shmuley Boteach: The Rabbi and the Rhodes Scholar (Video)

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Twenty years ago this Monday, corresponding to the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah, a young African-American Rhodes scholar walked into a Chabad Jewish student center in Oxford, England. He had had a date with a Jewish woman who told him she was going to be at the Sukkot festivities at Rabbi Shmuley’s and would meet him there. As it turned out, he was stood up, and as he waited sheepishly in the corner of the room not knowing what to do next, he was approached by the Rabbi’s wife who invited him to sit in ‘the hot-seat’ next to the young Chabad Rabbi. Being the most joyous night of the Jewish calendar, the young student would later join with hundreds of other students dancing with the Torahs. This accidental meeting would change both their lives.

Cory Booker had little exposure to the Jewish community prior to that evening and I, who was serving as the Rabbi to the students of Oxford University, had only sporadic exposure to the African-American community. But in the days, weeks, and months that followed we began studying together almost daily. We studied the great texts of Judaism and discussed the great speeches of African-American leaders. Cory would later serve a full term as President of our Jewish student organization, which was then the second largest student group at the University with thousands of members. Together we hosted luminaries like Mikhail Gorbachev and other world leaders who lectured on values-based leadership.

Twenty years, countless conversations, and hundreds of Friday night Shabbat dinners later, Cory today is a much-loved honorary member of the American Jewish community, regularly lecturing at Synagogues and Jewish conferences across the country. More significant, Cory has challenged the Jewish community to live up to its Biblical calling to serve as ‘a light unto the nations.’ In many of the speeches we deliver together he asks the Jewish participants if they study the weekly Parsha, if they honor the commandments, and cherish the Sabbath. What allows an African-American Christian Mayor to challenge Jewish leaders to deepen their Jewish commitment? Because those same leaders are amazed at Cory’s knowledge of Judaism and appreciation of the Jewish contribution to civilization.

I have long believed that the next wave of Jewish commitment will be inspired by non-Jews. In massive conferences like Christians United For Israel we are already seeing a great wave of Christian interest in Judaism and a desire to reconnect Jesus back to his Jewish roots. But Cory has taken this a step further, studying Judaism with a view to teaching it to Jews.

A few years ago AIPAC invited Cory and me to address a large group in Chicago. It was the week where we read the story of Genesis in Synagogue and Cory delivered a moving speech on the creation of Adam and Eve, culled from a speech by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The wife of a prominent American Jewish leader approached me after the speech and asked if I would study the Parsha of the week with her, as I do with Cory. I asked her why now. She responded, “When you hear someone so prominent in the American political landscape deriving inspiration from the Torah, and he’s not even Jewish, you become a little embarrassed that you are ignorant of your tradition and you want to discover what he has discovered.” I have heard similar sentiments expressed by other Jewish listeners on many occasions.

My friendship with Cory also sparked a lifelong closeness between me and the African-American community. I became the first-ever white morning radio host on America’s legacy black radio station, WWRL in New York City. I took the Rev. Al Sharpton to Israel to alleviate the enmity between him and the Jewish community, I was the driving force behind an effort to have 600 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina find permanent homes in Utah where they have been moved only temporarily, and I preached at the Martin Luther King chapel at Morehouse College at a conference with Coretta Scott King. And as part of my current run for Congress in New Jersey, I travelled to Rwanda to highlight the 1994 genocide and help combat efforts to deny it. The Rwandan government invited me to meet President Paul Kagame in New York last week and I hosted a reception for Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo with American Jewish leaders.

There are those who believe that the black and Jewish communities share a common history of persecution. But being among the world’s foremost victims is not the basis of our bond. The relationship between blacks and Jews is built on shared faith rather than shared oppression, common destiny rather than common history, shared values rather than shared interests, and a mutual commitment to social justice rather than a mutual alienation from the mainstream.

I thank God for a friendship that has endured for two decades and the enrichment it has brought to us and our respective communities.

Boteach Invites Opponent to Sabbath Dinner

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Dear Congressman Pascrell,

Much was made of the nasty primary battle that took place between you and Congressman Steve Rothman. Many believe you prevailed precisely because Rothman’s campaign had gone woefully negative. Americans are sick and tired of toxic campaigning and politics. My friend Mayor Cory Booker used the word ‘nauseated’ when he discussed the negative attack ads being used by both Republicans and Democrats alike.

I agree. People want to be inspired. They look to public leaders to lift them up, not to pull them into some personal gutter of vicious attack.

Now that you and I are the formal candidates of our respective parties we have the ability to do things differently. We can run a positive campaign that stays focused firmly on the issues. We can rise above personality and make this a policy and ideas-driven race. In so doing we can excite not only New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District but others around the country who can learn from the example we seek to set.

In pursuit of that I have a simple idea. You and I don’t know each other and to my knowledge have never met. I’ve heard a lot about you and you’ve probably heard some about me. Let’s start this race by getting to know each other as people before we get to know each other as opponents.

Every Friday night at our Sabbath table my wife and I host all kinds of people. We love having guests and it would be my honor for us to host you and your family either this coming Friday night or whenever it may suit you, although sooner would be better than later.

Over the years we’ve hosted thousands of people at our home. Many are students, some work in media, others in academia, even more are business executives, laborers, and professionals. Many have been Democratic politicians like yourself, from Governor Jon Corzine, who came several times with his wife Sharon, to Mayors Michael Wildes and Frank Huttle of Englewood. Mayor Cory Booker and I have shared hundreds of Shabbat dinners together, beginning in our Oxford days and continuing into Jersey.

The Sabbath is a day of peace. We don’t argue about business, politics, or anything else contentious. It’s devoted to higher things. It’s the kind of setting where no matter how much you disagree you never become disagreeable. Our Friday night table is a place of warm conversation, spirited discussion, laughter, and inspiration. There would be nothing to separate us, only to unite us.

Joining together for a Friday night meal also allows us to highlight the importance of regular family dinners for the people of our district and beyond. Indeed, together with some leading American personalities and celebrities, I started a non-partisan, non-political organization called Turn Friday Night Into Family Night (website www.fridayisfamily.com) to encourage Moms and Dads to give their children two uninterrupted hours of family time, and to invite guests to the home, every Friday night. Part of the way we promote the initiative is with 30-second web commercials featuring well-known figures promoting the important of family time (We’d be very pleased if you would agree to do a spot for us. It takes only about half an hour to shoot and its painless.).

I suspect, Congressman Pascrell, that you have attended a Jewish Friday night meal. So no doubt you are aware of the unique peace to be found on a day when no one looks at their cell phones, the television is off, and the internet is down. It’s liberating and allows one to focus on people instead of all the distractions that currently separate us.

No doubt in the coming months there will be spirited disagreements between us. No doubt you and I will wish clash mightily over issues that affect the residents of New Jersey’s Ninth District. But that does not mean that we can’t start on the right foot by experiencing a shared humanity that should spur us to running campaigns that are effective yet respectful.

While reaching to you directly to accept my invitation, I have also chosen to make this letter public in order to make it clear to the residents of our district that I am committed to a positive, inspired, and values-based campaign that transcends the politics of personal destruction and hyper-partisanship and focuses squarely on what each of us would do to renew America. After your recent experience, I assume you are in agreement. I eagerly await your affirmative response and my family and I look forward to warmly welcoming you to our home.

Why Cory Booker’s Message of Social Civility Resonates

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

For a moment, let me remove my hat as a Republican candidate for public office and speak only wearing my yarmulke, as a Rabbi who has known Cory for twenty years and has had the blessing throughout that time of an intimate, brotherly friendship.

Many of us back at Oxford thought that Cory might be the first African-American president. Not because of his resume or his ability to connect with people. Not even because of his charisma. Rather, Cory had a gift that I have always envied. He genuinely loves people. He likes being around them. Likes speaking to them. Likes listening to them. He believes he has something to learn from everyone. He sees his role as conferring dignity on those he meets. And that kind of respect for others usually leads to something big.

Today Cory is one of America’s most successful Mayors, having substantially reduced crime, increased investment, and restored promise to New Jersey’s largest city. But I continue to focus simply on the way he treats others.

A few weeks ago he invited me and my kids to the Cirque du Soleil tribute to Michael Jackson in Newark. Sure enough, there was Cory’s mentee, a young Newark child, whom Cory guides and with whom he studies as part of his city-wide mentoring program. And Cory is a busy man. For those who believe he started this only when he entered the national spotlight, I remember him doing the same at Oxford, where he led a mentoring program with several other Oxford students in Blackbird Leys, a housing estate a few miles outside the University.

Now Cory finds himself in a firestorm between right and left. His sin? To have said that negative attack ads from both parties are nauseating. Why was he so honest? Because bringing people together has been what he’s all about from the moment I met him twenty years ago this September. He has always hated division. It has always nauseated him, from the moment I met him. Few people I have met have been more committed to social unity and bringing people together than he. He is – I say this sincerely – a magnanimous soul who finds it easy to praise people and painful to criticize.

And about the political negativity he cites? He’s right. No matter how much we don’t want to hear it. And both parties are indeed guilty, both Republicans and Democrats alike.

Which other African-American Christian Rhodes scholar would have agreed to become President of an orthodox Jewish student organization that was run by a Hassidic Rabbi? And why did Cory do it? Because our organization, though Jewish, had thousands of non-Jewish members from all walks of life. Every Friday night we would gather together. Catholics from Spain. German students from Berlin. Israeli doctoral students from the extreme left. Orthodox American students who were often more conservative. Islamic students from Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Gay students. Straight students. Old and young. Liberals and conservatives. And Cory would get up and give inspirational talks, often from the lives of great African-American leaders, that would draw these different strands together. And it was the presence of so many disparate people, who shared a common humanity, that inspired him in turn.

The end of his final exams, the culmination of two years, was a sight to be seen. Who was waiting for Cory outside the University Exam Schools? Well, for most students it would have been similar-aged male and female students, pouring champagne over their heads, in the time-honored Oxford tradition. For Cory it was a group of mature, female students, perhaps in their fifties, that he alone had gone out of his way to befriend at his College, while they were ignored by others.

It’s kind of sad that a political leader as accomplished as Cory, who has been as successful as he at reviving a city, should be hit by the left for criticizing the Obama campaign, and by the right for later defending the campaign. Does politics mean never speaking your mind or living by your values?

Few have done more to support President Obama than Cory. In each of our conversations for the past few years Cory has been the President’s great admirer and stalwart defender. But if he has an issue with him from time to time, no big deal. Being part of a party should not have to mean being a brownnoser. Conversely, the Republicans need not portray Cory as being out of step with his party just because he doesn’t agree with everything they do, and the Republicans should not be putting Cory into the uncomfortable position of appearing to be a serious critic of the President when is a supporter.

Israel Needs A Non-Jewish Prime Minister

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

While serving as rabbi at Oxford University, I befriended a young African-American Rhodes scholar by the name of Cory Booker who became like a brother to me. Because of Cory’s immense popularity within our student organization, the Oxford L’Chaim Society, he was voted in as co-president 1992, serving as leader of an organization of more than 4,000 student members.

Many in the Anglo-Jewish community were puzzled at a non-Jew serving at the head of a Jewish organization, especially when pictures of Cory, with a yarmulke on his head introducing our speaker Mikhail Gorbachev, appeared throughout the UK press. But to my mind that was never a contradiction. Cory was simply the best man for the job.

A deeply spiritual man of impeccable character, Cory, a Baptist, was the living personification of Jewish values. He had a deep love and reverence for God, humanity, and the Jewish people, and he possessed a charismatic ability to inspire goodness in others. Indeed, Cory’s presidency was long remembered as a golden era for Jewish life at Oxford, and today Cory, who is now running to be mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is not only one of America’s most influential young politicians, but is adored by the American Jewish community.

I thought of Cory as I watched Israel descending into the morass of another bitterly-contested election. We who have prayed for a strong Israeli leader – firm in his or her conviction that the real road to peace in the Middle East rests not with Israeli concessions but with Arab political reform and democratization – are now handed a roster of the usual suspects. For the most part, the prime ministerial candidates are men who have already succumbed in the past to international pressure to cede territory in return for what was supposed to be peace but was always increased Arab hostility toward the Jewish state.

Indeed, I have begun to despair of any Jewish prime minister of Israel being able to withstand the pressure for further concessions. Menachem Begin was the most nationalistic of all Israel’s prime ministers and one of the proudest Jews of modern times. But he handed over to Egypt land equivalent to three times Israel’s size and received an ice-cold peace in return. Ariel Sharon, the man many once viewed as the unshakable rock of Israel’s security, abandoned Gaza and its brave Jewish residents and in return received a wave of Hamas-launched rockets so incessant that his government is now threatening ground operations in Gaza, which obviates the entire reason for leaving in the first place.

Ehud Barak, once Israel’s most decorated soldier, was ready, at Camp David, to give to Yasir Arafat Judaism’s most sacred sites, and even Bibi Netanyahu, long Israel’s most eloquent defender, gave up control of Hebron, Israel’s first capitol and the city of the patriarchs, and signed the Wye River agreements under pressure from Bill Clinton.

Given this kind of history, does it really matter who is elected Israel’s next prime minister? The outcome is already a foregone conclusion. Whoever is prime minister will come under horrendous pressure to cede huge tracts of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, and if history is a guide, they will buckle to that pressure.

I believe that, as strange as it may sound, it is time for Israelis to begin to look seriously at having a non-Jewish prime minister. One of the reasons Cory Booker was such an effective president for us at Oxford was that he did not have so many of the hang-ups that we Jews sometimes possess: problems affirming our identity in a non-Jewish environment, feelings that we are outsiders (which in turn leads to a desperate longing for mainstream acceptance), and a feeling of queasiness at how disliked Israel is by the rest of the world.

Whereas many of our committed Jewish students were reluctant to invite their more secular Jewish friends to attend Friday night Shabbat dinner for fear of being stigmatized as parochial and missionary, Cory served as one of our greatest sources of recruitment and many Jewish Rhodes Scholars became regulars at our events due entirely to Cory’s inspiration.

Israel needs that kind of leader: a man or woman who is unafraid to assert that Israel is a moral and democratic country that has little for which to apologize. Israel needs a leader who couldn’t care less about fitting in and for whom invitations to the White House and Downing Street are meaningless.

A non-Jewish prime minister, who is already an insider, would save us from the many Jewish prime ministers who traded in their ideology to gain mainstream acceptance. Indeed, perhaps it is only a non-Jewish man or woman who could go to the United Nations and have the credibility to speak the truth about the shocking prejudice against the Jewish state in that increasingly immoral international body.

Perhaps it is only a non-Jewish prime minister who could speak with credibility about the right of the Jews to their ancient, biblical homeland. Indeed, would the Balfour Declaration of 1917, promulgated by a non-Jewish lover of the Jewish people, have had the same credibility had it been the Rabinowitz Declaration?

The story of the modern State of Israel is one of constant tragedy, interspersed with remarkable triumphs. But the most remarkable thing of all is how so many of those tragedies were self-inflicted. The Oslo agreements, in which Israel brought back to its territory and armed tens of thousands of men committed to its destruction, will no doubt be forever regarded as one of the greatest self-inflicted catastrophes by any nation in the history of the world.

Of all the people who are puzzled at Israel’s mysterious penchant for self-destruction, it is evangelical Christians who are most puzzled of all. Evangelicals were the most vocal opponents to the withdrawal from Gaza, wondering why Israel would voluntarily allow the creation of a Hamas terrorist launching pad on its borders. Indeed, Christian evangelicals take seriously not only the Jewish biblical claim to the Land of Israel, but the idea of Jewish chosenness as well, a concept that makes modern Jews incredibly queasy.

So why not have an evangelical prime minister who actually believes in – and will authoritatively speak to the world of – the Jewish people’s three-thousand-year-old claim to their homeland? I, for one, would welcome any Israeli leader, of whatever birth, who is wholly immune to any sycophantic desire for international acceptance.

Indeed, the Talmud relates that one of the most successful kings of Second-Temple era Israel was the non-Jewish Agrippa, who was so beloved by the people that when he once cried in public, after reading Deuteronomy 17:15, the commandment that “You shall not have a foreigner over you,” the people cried out to him, “Fear not Agrippa. You are our brother. You are our brother” (Sotah 41a).

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is host of TLC’s upcoming series “Shalom in the Home.” He recently won the American Jewish Press Association’s Award for Excellence in Commentary. His most recent book is ‘Hating Women: America’s Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israel-needs-a-non-jewish-prime-minister/2006/01/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: