In a race we closely watched, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach lost the NJ 9th District race to his opponent Bill Pascrell 76.1% (97,646) to 22.8% (29,214).
Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’
For New Jersey voters who place a high priority on the safety of Israel and want the U.S. government to continue its strong support for the Jewish State, there is only one choice in the 9th District race – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
It isn’t just that Boteach is a rabbi, steeped in Jewish law and lore and is strongly pro-marriage, pro-America and pro-democracy, and it certainly isn’t that he is a world-famous author and larger-than-life personality, although he is all of that. It’s simply that despite there being a low bar set for congressmen to apply to their lapels the hecsher of “pro-Israel,” not all of them really deserve it, and Boteach’s opponent falls firmly into that category.
Boteach’s opponent, Bill Pascrell, Jr., was first elected to congress in 1996 and since then represented New Jersey’s 8th District, until it was redrawn which is why he is now facing Boteach in the 9th. It is true that during his congressional tenure Pascrell has voted each time to support aid to Israel which, in the eyes of many who professionally hold out that low bar, makes Pascrell pro-Israel.
In fact, following a recent debate between the congressional candidates after Boteach insisted his opponent’s record is not sufficiently pro-Israel, Pascrell thundered at Boteach, “you don’t preach to me about my relationship with Israel!”
Pascrell practically foamed at the mouth as he spat out, “I did the right thing [in supporting Israel]. I want Israel to have the power to protect itself. You show me one time I went against that principle or one time I didn’t vote for dollars to make Israel safer!”
But Boteach doesn’t question Pascrell’s vote for U.S. aid to Israel. “Instead,” he told The Jewish Press, “the problem is that Pascrell criticizes Israel when she uses that aid to defend herself.”
Pascrell signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter blasting Israel for what it called “collective punishment” of Gazans by blockading food and medicine — not true — and reserved a meeting space for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the Capital building.
And just recently Boteach pointed out another way in which Pascrell, despite his public vows, is tone deaf to the interests of Jews.
This September it was announced that a portion of a park located within the 9th District, in Clifton, was going to be renamed for a local resident who had recently died, Chester Grabowski. Grabowski had been the publisher of a local Polish-American weekly, the Post Eagle.
Pascrell had written an enthusiastic letter of endorsement to rename that park. But Grabowski’s Post Eagle regularly referred to Jews as “vermin,” “animals” and “Christ killers.”
Pascrell’s letter in support of honoring Grabowski stated,
I knew Chester for many years and he was a great friend. He was a kind and respected man who would help anyone in need and he was a friend to all. Chester was an individual who cared about the City of Clifton and was a strong advocate of the Polish-American community, not only in the City of Clifton, but all across the great State of New Jersey…For this, I whole heartedly support the honor of memorializing the Richard Scales Park to a resident, a businessman, and a leader in the City of Clifton, Mr. Chester Grabowski. His legacy will not only be that of a successful newspaper he operated for many years, but the family man who worked so hard for his community
And this isn’t the only hater of Jews and Israel on behalf of whom Pascrell has used his public office.
Pascrell signed an affidavit opposing the deportation of radical anti-Israel Imam Mohamad Qatanani, the Imam of one of the largest mosques in New Jersey, calling him “peace-loving” and “magnanimous.” That’s hard to square with information provided by Steve Emerson, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts.
Emerson wrote that Qatanani’s deportation case centered on the Imam’s lying on his immigration documents about having been arrested by Israel for membership in the terrorist organization Hamas. But even while in the United States, Qatanani openly displayed his hatred and contempt for Israel. He allegedly referred to the creation of Israel as “the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the Earth,” and has called for supporting the children of homocide bombers.
It is difficult to reconcile that with the words in Pascrell’s affidavit and his 2008 description of Qatanani whom he said, “put so much time into bringing peace for all of us. Thank you imam, for all you’ve done for America since you’ve come here.”
Thank you, voters of New Jersey’s 9th, if you vote for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to be your next congressional representative.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife for a second time have given $500,000 to a Super PAC supporting Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s bid for Congress.
The Adelsons gave the money to the Patriot Prosperity PAC, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the gift, after having given the same amount earlier this year. They also gave $10,000 directly to the Boteach campaign.
Boteach is running as the Republican candidate in New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District against eight-term incumbent Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
Boteach, who once was affiliated with the Chabad movement, bills himself as “America’s Rabbi.” He hosts a show on TLC called “Shalom in the Home” and is the author of several books, including “Kosher Sex,” “Kosher Adultery,” “The Kosher Sutra” and, most recently, “Kosher Jesus.”
Adelson has said multiple times that a candidate’s support for Israel is critical to whether he gives and how much. He has given $10 million to a Super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and earlier in the campaign put $20 million toward Newt Gingrich’s GOP primary bid.
Super PACs can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals, and indirectly support a political candidate. They cannot by law coordinate with the candidate’s official campaign.
The most unpleasant people I have encountered in politics are those who put party before principle, partisanship before politeness, tribal political doctrine before common human decency. Since beginning my run for Congress I have been approached by Republicans convinced that Barack Obama is the devilish anti-Christ promised in the Book of Revelation and Democrats who have told me that all Republicans are cold, heartless, bigots. Hatemongers like these who make every political attack personal are ruining our country.
I was saddened to discover that David Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has decided to join these ranks. In a below-the-belt attack on mega-philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Harris forbade any Republicans from accepting their money due to allegations made against them by a disgruntled former employee. Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, a Democrat, has already expertly eviscerated Harris for hypocrisy and political prejudice.
Ordinarily, an attack by the political hack of one party about a mega-contributor to another party would not merit attention or comment. But what made Harris’s vitriol most unfortunate was that it was one Jew deriding the two foremost private supporters of Jewish identity and the State of Israel in the entire world.
Most Jewish Democrats – and they are a sizable number – do not agree with Sheldon and Miriam Adelson on their politics. But they certainly revere them for their philanthropy. Here is a business magnate who has given over $100 million to Birthright Israel – the single most successful Jewish educational program in the history of the Jewish people – which has taken over 300,000 young Jews to the Holy Land at zero charge. Surely Harris has countless friends and acquaintances who have benefited from Birthright. Could he not show some basic appreciation to the couple who have made so many of those trips possible? Could he not have broken with the Adelsons over their opposition to President Obama but still praised them for vastly increasing global Jewish attachment to Israel?
I have twice led 50 young Jews on Birthright trips. On both occasions the majority never even had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, which we gave them, amidst song and dance, at the Kotel. For most the trip was transformative, conveying a sense of identity and peoplehood in young Jews who otherwise had little attachment to the community. At the end of each trip my group asked me how it was possible that anyone would fork out so much money for them to experience ten free days across the length and breadth of Israel. I would tell them that basic decency dictated that they emails thanks to the people who made it possible, with Michael Steinhart and Charles Bronfman, Birthright’s co-founders, and Sheldon Adelson, its biggest contributor, foremost among them. I’m assuming David Harris shares my belief in the Jewish value of gratitude.
The Adelsons likewise support countless other vital Jewish institutions, most notably Yad Vashem which is charged with preserving the sacred memory of six million martyred Jews and to which the Adelsons contributed $25 million dollars. I have no doubt that David Harris is as committed to Holocaust education as any other Jewish leader and would therefore applaud the Adelsons generosity.
I originally met the Adelsons through Michael Steinhardt. What I have come to appreciate in Sheldon Adelson is a billionaire’s commitment to a cabdriver father’s memory. At a ZOA dinner a few years ago Adelson received an award for his lifelong commitment to defending Israel against attack. In his acceptance speech he spoke of his father’s perennial dream of visiting Israel which was outside his means. Later, after his father’s passing, when he achieved wealth and visited Israel for the first time, he wore his father’s shoes so they could create traces in the holy land.
This past March I asked Sheldon what motivated his philanthropy and support of Jewish and medical organizations worldwide. He told me that when he was a little boy his father used to come home from driving his cab. He would take the change out of his pocket and put into a charity box for the Jewish National Fund. He asked his father why he put money in the box and his father responded that he had an obligation to help the poor. “But we’re poor,” he said. His father responded, “There are always people poorer than you. And you have to always help them.”
I’m not sure which is sadder, the fact that Yitzchak Shamir has died or that people didn’t really know that he was still alive. For Shamir certainly was Israel’s least appreciated Prime Minister, despite presiding over some of the state’s greatest achievements.
And what was that principal achievement? He kept the people safe. Few died under his watch. He resisted international pressure for Israel to make concessions that would have led directly to buses blowing up.
As a Yeshiva student in Jerusalem for two years of Shamir’s premiership, I remember how safe the streets were. This was a time before security guards were posted at the door of most restaurants and department stores, which largely continues till today. Why? Because Shamir was adamant. He would make no territorial compromises that would endanger Israel’s security. He would sign no Oslo agreements where the Jewish state would agree to arm some of its most lethal enemies. He would not even speak to Yasser Arafat let along countenance bringing him back to the West Bank with a small army, disguised as a police force, to set up a terror regime with Israel’s assistance.
Shamir was not perfect. In particular, when it came to the economy he was weak. I remember the hyper-inflation in Jerusalem that saw nearly everyone trading American dollars on the black market (the official white market exchange rate paid pennies on the dollar) because of Israel’s falling currency. But economics was not his strong suit. Protecting Jewish life was.
I came to know Mr. Shamir quite well when I hosted him at the University of Oxford in the mid-90’s. He seemed all but forgotten even then and told me that his dramatic drop in popularity in Israel had been due to the euphoria over the premiership of Yitzchak Rabin and his dramatic overtures for peace. He told me this with a touch of resignation. It seemed he did feel underappreciated. More importantly, he seemed to divine the coming catastrophe. It would take the murder of some 1500 Israeli civilians (proportionally equivalent to about 70,000 Americans) and the rise of countless suicide bombings for the Israeli people to realize that Shamir’s ironclad commitment to hold on to vital security territories and not allow the PLO and Hamas to set up shop in Gaza and Ramallah was what kept terrorists out.
I spent about four days with Shamir, taking him – with a heavy police escort – to tourist destinations all around Oxfordshire. He wanted to stand at the grave of Winston Churchill and we travelled to Blenheim Palace in Woodstock nearby. Apparently, the great statesmen had tried to have Shamir arrested when he was head of Lehi. Now, Shamir, diminutive in appearance but a giant in stature, loomed over the great Prime Minister’s grave paying him homage and telling me that Churchill was an inspired man of rare greatness.
Shamir impressed all he met with his humility, warmth, and commitment to Judaism despite not being religious. I walked in on him and his wife as they were having lunch at the hotel where we put them up. Startled, he told me was embarrassed because the food was not kosher. I assured him I took no offense and was grateful for the many days he gave me and my students and the outstanding lecture he had given at the Oxford Union. Still, he said, he was raised to respect Rabbis and Judaism.
Many Arab students came to the large lecture he delivered and he responded respectfully to their questions. He said he had no animosity toward Arabs whatsoever and did not see them as Israel’s natural enemies. On the contrary, he felt that Israel’s success as a democracy gave hope to the Arab residents surrounding Israel that they too could one day live in free societies with real elections.
After our time together in Oxford I became a regular visitor to his office in Tel Aviv in Beit Amot Hamishpat, where the Israeli government provides offices for former premiers. Shamir’s office could not have been more sparse. I would walk in and by and large he would be listening to the radio. Remarkably, it was one of those rigged, junk contraptions with a hanger serving as antenna. He would always emerge from behind his desk, broad smile on his face, and greet me and my children warmly. We would spend about an hour together and he never once suggested that he did not have time to greet me or discuss whatever was on my mind.
It was a pleasure speaking to you on the phone last week. I thank you for your time and your friendly manner, and especially for agreeing to join me for a Friday night Shabbat dinner. I believe the residents of New Jersey’s Ninth District will benefit from us keeping our race positive and issues-focused.
Thank you also for your offer to introduce me to Imam Mohammad Qatanani, the subject of much controversy in our district. Indeed, in your race against Congressman Rothman, much was made of your friendship with the Imam and your efforts to assist him in remaining in this country. This despite INS attempts to deport him over an earlier arrest by the Israeli authorities for membership in Hamas, which the imam concealed. Should the imam publicly repudiate those ties and condemn Hamas for its murderous intent against innocent Israelis, a meeting between us would be welcome.
Bill, I will not repeat the earlier error made by some members of our community in labeling you an “enemy” of Israel. My religion commands me to speak truth and show gratitude, and you have voted in favor of foreign aid to Israel on numerous occasions. To perpetuate the myth, started in the Democratic primary, that you are a foe of Israel would contravene my value system, which obligates me to thank you for votes in favor of the Jewish state. By assisting in the continunity of American aid to Israel, you have made the Middle East safer, not just for Jews, but for the hundreds of millions of Arabs whose freedom under their own tyrannical regimes is largely predicated on Israel setting an example of a viable democracy in a region which Arab dictators claim can never be democratized.
My objection to your stance on Israel lies, rather, in other actions with which you have been associated that are extremely troubling to the pro-Israel community. Most notably, you signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter, condemning Israel for “collective punishment” against Palestinians in the Gaza blockade. While this may not have been your intention, your participation in this cruel attack on Israel is highly injurious to the Jewish State’s ability to defend itself.
As you know, Bill, Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. I can tell you personally how painful that withdrawal was, since I visited the flourishing Jewish communities of Gush Katif in Gaza many times. Brave Jewish residents – nearly all of whom had family members or close friends killed by terrorists in Gaza – made the desert bloom, growing fruits and vegetables of the highest quality out of the desert sands, literally. They offered the hope that Gaza might be turned into a land of agricultural excellence, exporting produce to the entire world and benefiting Jew and Arab alike. I contrast this civilized landscape with the unspeakable poverty and misery that I witnessed in Palestinian-controlled Gaza City. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, Reverend Al Sharpton came to Israel for a trip of reconciliation with the Jewish community, jointly hosted by me and Shimon Peres, Israel’s then foreign minister, to whom President Obama has just given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. While in Israel, Rev. Sharpton insisted on visiting Yasser Arafat, and though I refused to meet the man who had the blood of my people on his hands and who had stolen billions of dollars from impoverished Palestinians, I did accompany Rev. Sharpton to Gaza and witnessed the squalor that reigned in the Palestinian Authority-controlled cities, despite billions of dollars in foreign aid. The New York Times reported in 2004 that “the Palestinians are already the world’s largest per capita recipients of international aid.” But I did not witness this trickeling down to average citizens.
Regardless, Israel uprooted the Jewish communities of Gaza – including my wife’s cousins who years later are still confined to a trailer – and evacuated from Gaza completely. Their reward? Thousands of rockets from Hamas on Israeli nurseries, homes for the elderly, and buses.
Hamas, as you well know, Bill, is sworn to Israel’s destruction and to attacking Jews wherever they may be found. Its covenant is deeply racist and contains vicious genocidal aspirations, such as the following: “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized.”
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.
On Tuesday night I was blessed to win the Republican primary in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District and will face Congressman Bill Pascrell in the general election in the fall. As fortune would have it I was in Israel on the day of the primary, for the wedding of my wife’s sister. The following morning I met privately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior adviser Ron Dermer at the Prime Minister’s office. Ron was one of my closest students and friends when I was the Rabbi at Oxford University and is today regarded by many as the single sharpest mind on the Middle East. Prime Minister Netanyahu and I reminisced about his two visits to the University of Oxford where I hosted and he addressed thousands of students and where he mesmerized even his detractors in masterful defenses of Israel. We also spoke about his father, Benzion, who passed away last month at age 102 and whom I had befriended after a series of lectures we hosted where the great man discussed his opus on the Spanish Inquisition.
From there the conversation with the Prime Minister turned rapidly to a survey of some of the world’s most pressing issues, from the existential threat Israel faces from Iran, to developments of the Arab spring, to the humanitarian crisis in Syria created by Assad’s brutal slaughter of his own people. We discussed whether Israel could absorb some of the Arab refugees from Syria, and the enormous challenges a small country like Israel already faces in its existing obligations in taking in refugees from dangerous spots all over the world. The key to the refugee issue was stopping Assad’s brutality so that innocent Syrians did not have to flee their own government.
I brought my daughter Chana, who is a soldier in the Israeli army, to the meeting and the Prime Minister welcomed her warmly. My wife and I are immensely proud of our daughter’s service in the Israel Defense Forces. There have been well-circulated press reports of how my upcoming opponent, Bill Pascrell, had refused to repudiate some Arab-American supporters who had accused Congressman Steve Rothman – the opponent whom Pascrell recently defeated – of dual loyalties over his support of Israel. In particular Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum, had written an op-ed in the New Jersey Star-Ledger titled “Rothman is Israel’s man in District 9” where he asserted that “as total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s.”
With Rothman being accused of dual loyalties simply over a pro-Israel voting record in government, what could I, who has a daughter serving in Israel’s military, expect from these same opponents? What charges would they lodge against me? How ugly would the attacks be?
The Prime Minister looked at me solemnly and said, “Tell them your daughter is not only fighting to protect Israel. She’s fighting to protect America. Israel is the front line in the war for freedom.” Indeed. Israel, an America-style democracy in the world’s most dangerous region, seeks to live free amid being surrounded by an ocean of tyranny. And young Jewish men and women are prepared to fight so that a tiny country built around America’s ideas of freedom of religious practice, freedom of press, respect for women, and economic opportunity can succeed in the world’s most dangerous region.
I reminded the Prime Minister that about twenty years ago, as he was walking into the Oxford Union for his second address, a student officer said that in the introduction the Union would omit to the Prime Minister’s distinguished military service in the IDF so as not to offend students. Bibi responded that if his military service were deliberately omitted he would not speak. “I was involved in many anti-terrorists actions that preserved innocent life. I am proud of my military service however much my country is maligned.”
Ironically, Congressman Rothman was the man who nominated my 19-y ear-old son, Mendy to West Point, after he had triple qualified for the United States military academy. But Mendy has a beard and right now that’s not permitted in the military. We’ll see how his application proceeds in the future, as my son wishes to serve his country. But how amazing it is to have nations like the United States and Israel where armies are employed to protect innocent life rather than suppress innocent citizens who simply yearn to be free.