Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is leading the Democratic primary polls and if he wins, he is a shoo-in for a general election victory to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate.
Already touted as possible presidential candidate in the future, Booker’s interest in Jewish studies began approximately 20 years ago when he met a Chabad rabbi. A “chavrutah” Torah study partner is – who else? – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
The Wall Street Journal noted Monday that his wide contacts with Jewish sources have helped him fill his campaign chest, even though Lautenberg’s family is far from thrilled with his candidacy and have endorsed one of his opponents, Rep. Frank Pallone.
Booker, a black Christian, usually appears at a Passover Seder, and he is so interested in Israel that he once took his parents to visit the Jewish state.
His knowledge of Judaism “could put many of us to shame,” New Jersey philanthropist and Jewish Federation leader Lori Klinghoffer told the Journal.
Booker has been in politics since a young age, after having grown up in a predominantly white upper-class borough of Bergen County. His parents were among the first black executives at IBM.
After earning a law degree at Yale, he moved to Newark to become a tenants’ rights attorney when he was only 27. He quickly moved into politics and was elected to the city council in 1998. Booker narrowly lost his seat in 2002 but regained in four years later and then became mayor.