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February 22, 2016 6:57 pm

The Vanishing Jews of Cory Booker’s Memoir

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Email a copy of "The Vanishing Jews of Cory Booker’s Memoir" to a friend
Mayor Cory Booker. Photo: Bdsrock.

Mayor Cory Booker. Photo: Bdsrock.

The New York Observer called to ask me if I had seen that my dear friend of 25 years, Senator Cory Booker, had removed me from his memoir over my public criticism of his choice to support the Iran deal. I was vocal in calling upon Cory to oppose the genocidal Iran regime and oppose giving them $150 billion to murder innocents around the globe. Cory also chose to block any vote on the deal in the Senate after publicly promising, just two days before the vote, that he would not participate in the Democratic filibuster because a vote on so momentous a policy, he said, was vital.

I took the news in stride and told them I had expected it. Cory expected me to put loyalty and friendship first and to remain silent over his backing the Iranian regime amid their threats to annihilate the Jews.

I have supported Cory for 25 years. I made him my student president at Oxford University, I had him introduce our guest Mikhail Gorbachev to 3,000 students, I introduced Cory to the American Jewish leadership across the United States, and I helped him prepare countless speeches based on themes from the Torah and the writings of Jewish giants like Maimonides, the Rebbe, Elie Wiesel, and Victor Frankl.

But this time was different. There can be no silence in the face of genocide. There can be no passivity when confronting genocidal intent.

The United States is a signatory to the United Nations’ 1948 Anti-Genocide convention that makes incitement to genocide a crime against humanity. Rather than being given $150 billion by which to kill innocent people around the world, the leaders of Iran should have been indicted at the International Criminal Court at The Hague for their repeated promises to eradicate the Jews. Cory should have been at the forefront of condemning Iran’s promises to exterminate the nation of Israel.

His silence precipitated my outspokenness.

Public figures have to understand that criticism comes with the territory. It’s nothing personal. But genocide is deadly serious. I told The New York Observer that Cory will just have to understand my deep disappointment and get over it. I will always love him. We will always be soul-friends. Our friendship will resume.

I am a public figure and as painful as it is to admit it, I have learned much from my admirers but even more from my critics.

And as for me, well, father Abraham reminded us that we are all but dust and ashes. And however much a friend’s actions will sometimes cause personal pain, we all have much larger things to live for, none more so than the protection of our people and defending the infinite value of human life.

True, other Rabbis and Jewish leaders to whom I introduced Cory over the last 25 years chose not only silence in the face of Cory’s Iran support but bent over backward to give Cory political cover and preserve his relationship with a stunned Jewish community as Jewish support for Cory began to disintegrate. These Rabbis did so in the name of political access, arguing that Cory is a powerful man and the community needs a relationship with him.

In particular, Rabbi Shmully Hecht and Rabbi Menachem Genack worked overtime to get Jewish leaders to meet with Cory in order to preserve his standing in the Jewish community. Shmully made herculean efforts to have Cory invited to high-level meetings with Jewish and Israeli leaders when Cory was being shunned after what many saw as a betrayal.

Rabbis providing Cory with political cover in order, one presumes, to preserve their access to the Senator, was all allegedly done in the name of helping Israel and the Jewish community.

But in this apparent attempt to curry favor with a lawmaker who has legitimized a regime that stones women to death and hangs gays from cranes, I was reminded of the sad legacy of Rabbi Steven S. Wise, the Reform Jewish leader during the Holocaust who categorically refused to call out FDR for inaction against the annihilation of European Jewry in order to preserve access to the White House. To be sure, Wise argued that the community needed the President and thus should never criticize him. His refusal to call out the President, and his efforts to provide FDR with political cover in the Jewish community, was all done in the name of God.

But history remembers it differently.

Wise’s name today lives in infamy because he put political relationships before the interests of his people. And his silence did not help even a bit. It was Peter Bergson, who strongly challenged the FDR Administration in successive full-page New York  Times ads that ultimately led to the creation of the War Refugee Board and the saving of some 250,000 Jews. Bergson was soundly criticized by many as a troublemaker and nuisance. Wise said that Bergson’s criticisms of the White House had made him “worse than Hitler.” But history has vindicated Bergson as the courageous Jewish leader who put the interests of his people before relationships with the powerful.

This year, on May 5, our organization, The World Values Network, will honor Bergson through his daughter Becky with fellow honorees Yoko Ono, Rev. Bernice King (daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.), the Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi, mega-philanthropists Michael and Judy Steinhardt, and the world’s foremost benefactors of Jewish causes, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson

Cory is a good and special man. But he is served poorly by sycophants who refuse to remind him of the virtues that made him so special and brought him to national prominence in the first place.

First, there was always Cory’s graciousness and gratitude. Where did that go? How could Cory have written a memoir that barely acknowledges the vast Jewish contribution to his life and career, if at all? In Cory’s Book United he acknowledges the influence of the African-American, Latino, and Muslim communities in shaping his life, teaching him valuable lessons, and supporting his political rise.

The Jewish contribution seems largely to have vanished. Gone is any mention of the thousands of hours of Torah and Parsha study that we enjoyed together and which helped shape his values. Lacking is any reference to how the ideas and values of Judaism, which I and other scholars studied with him, gave him inspirational material for speeches that electrified audiences. Absent is mention of the hundreds of synagogues who opened their doors to him and gave him unconditional love. Missing also is a proper acknowledgment of the countless Jewish organizations and individuals who raised huge sums of money to support his political campaigns from the time he first ran for City Council to the time he reached the Senate.

In largely whiting out his history with a Jewish community that once adored him, Cory undermined the incredible courage it took for an African-American Rhodes Scholar to become the head of my student L’Chaim Society organization at Oxford in the early nineties, when there still was tension between the Black and Jewish communities. Our friendship, which was written about in the world’s leading publications and which even Barbra Streisand wanted to make a film about, inspired hundreds of thousands and Cory even pushed me to take off an entire summer to write a book about our special and unpredictable soul-friendship. Cory moved into my home and we wrote and wrote every day in my living room.

In the place of that bravery we have instead, as a friend who reviewed the book expressed it to me, the “whitewashed, homogenized, poll-tested language that is risk free and without the passion and personality that made him so interesting and dynamic.” The brave Cory that defeated Sharpe James and took over a city, embraced reform, and destroyed a corrupt political machine is replaced by a more timid political personality who barely won his senate seat in the very blue state of New Jersey. The brave Cory stood up for Israel and was famously above partisanship. The whitewashed Cory stands up unconditionally for President Obama’s policies on Iran and Israel and calls Hillary Clinton “the most qualified candidate for President since George Washington,” even as she takes advice on Israel from arch-Israel hater Max Blumenthal who calls Israel a Nazi state and compares the IDF to the SS.

But I do not despair. I know we will see the brave Cory again, the one that was both my pupil and inspiration at Oxford.

The time will come for the Jewish community to reconcile with our dear friend. I believe that one day soon, Cory will take to the floor of the United States Senate and demand that the remaining provisions of the Iran deal be frozen until Iran stops threatening a second holocaust of the Jews and ceases its support for Bashar Assad’s wholesale slaughter of innocent Arabs in Syria.

Samantha Power exposed in her Pulitzer-prize winning book, A Problem from Hell, the many American politicians who sat idly by while genocides raged during their terms in office. She loudly criticized the Clinton Administration and Susan Rice for their failures to stop the Rwandan genocide. There is no excuse for silence in the face mass murder. One must speak out regardless of the political costs.

Joseph Stalin is credited with saying, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” It is just too easy for politicians to sit back and do nothing when there is nothing pressuring them to act.

Yet with all of this, and through Cory’s heartbreaking error of supporting the Iran deal, I have said repeatedly that my outspokenness was never personal. This was a matter of genocide, not egos, and I am sure that our friendship is strong enough to survive even this.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, winner of The London Times Preacher of the Year Competition, and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He will shortly publish The Israel Warrior’s Handbook: Winning the Battle for Israel in the Marketplaces of Ideas. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • notademocrat

    The only reason anyone listens to this guy is because of his position. New Jersey seems to be the mecca for sleazy do nothing politicians. 40% of the fire hydrants in Newark didn’t even work when he was mayor and the whole world saw what a terrible job he did and yet in NJ party is always first and the Democrats elected him.

  • Yosef

    ככתוב בפירקי אבות: הוו זהירין ברשות שאין מקרבים לו לאדם אלה לצורך עצמן. נראים כאוהבים בשעת הנאתן ואין עומדים לו לאדם בשעת דחקו״

  • Y

    Cory Booker’s support of the Iran deal did not, apparently, cancel out the effect of Charles Schumer’s opposition to the Iran deal.

    According to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the US Government’s slashing-in-half of homeland security funding for New York is some kind of payback for Schumer’s opposition to the Iran deal. See:

    I surely hope that the funding for New York’s homeland security will somehow be reinstated to needed levels, via various backroom negotiations.

    Nevertheless, it is odd that Cory Booker doesn’t see that his Northern and Central New Jersey constituents — many of whom are greatly impacted by the level of homeland security funding in New York, to which they commute for their employment — were no better served by Booker’s pandering-to-Obama vote, than were New Yorkers by Schumer’s good-conscience pro-Israel opposition to the Iran deal.

    While I’m not a great fan of the often self-aggrandizing Schumer, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and I have to give him praise and credit for resisting the pressure to pander (on the Iran deal). Booker, unfortunately, drank the Obama Kool Aid on Iran, and it has not benefitted his constituents one iota.

    With all that Rabbi Boteach has given over about Torah as a part of his friendship with Cory Booker, I fervently hope Booker does not turn out to be an example of what is said at the end of Chapter One of Tanya, concerning motivations to “do good.” Please Hashem, may Cory Booker strive again to be a righteous gentile!

    But Booker needs to do major teshuvah and work much harder now to reinstate his “good will” with Israel and the Jewish people, before I (for one) would trust him again. Does Booker have the will to do this? Time will tell.

  • howiej

    An excellent article, one of Rabbi Boteach’s best. All should remember Cory’s Iran stance and vote accordingly for his opponent in any election he runs in. To forgive him is to validate his actions, loyalty to party over loyalty to truth and the right thing to do.

  • Lawrence M. Cohen

    One can re-write history, but one cannot re-write the truth. I congratulate the Rabbi, Rabbi Boteach for his honesty and forthrightness. It is fitting that the holiday of Purim is nigh, a holiday which reminds us or at least should remind us of the price of silence in the face of impending adversity. I look forward to reading the Rabbi’s next book.

  • Malcolm De Winter

    In the same way as you and I will always stand by our own people, Cory is doing the same to what is probably the worst president of the United States has ever endured. They have been lots of presidents of the United States who did not like Jews Richard Nixon was one of them whilst his vice president was a definite anti semite. But at the same time Nixon was politician enough to know where the best interests of his country lay. Something with which the presence encumbrance does not have.

  • Dan

    While disagreeing with much of your thesis, I completely respect your belief, and acknowledge your commitment in telling truth to power always (of course, so often a subjective aspect).

    But one thing in the article, to me, demonstrates hypocrisy (not meant to tarnish whatever other truths may or may not be present). To “honor” ANY Pahlavi, is to give tacit support to the Pahlavi reign/regime, which, over it’s decades in power (after being illegally installed by the U.S.) murdered and tortured tens of thousands of its own citizens, via the brutal, barbaric, and yes, Nazi like, “Savak”, secret police force. Inexcusable.

  • Mikey P

    Wow! Cory Booker is a real scumbag!

  • Adam

    Wow. Boteach has completely lost it.

  • kern

    I commend Rabbi Boteach for this revelatory and heart breaking article.

    I want to add that Booker is just one of a majority of Democrats (including all of the nominally Jewish Congressional Democrats) who disgraced themselves and maimed the Jewish community by supporting the horrific agreement and disrespectfully shunning the Israeli Prime Minister at the behest of our hate filled President, Barack Obama.

  • Robert Geller

    Sorry rabbi, but as a person who many consider to be so smart, how can you be so dumb. There will never be a change of heart. Your star pupil realizes, like Obama, he can praise the Muslims and still all of those adoring Jews will continue to flock to him. Every Jew should turn their back on him as he has turned his back on all of those Jews who supported and financed him. He is no longer a friend, just another Democrat who realizes his future is more dependent on keeping the Clintons and the Obamas happy than doing the right thing. Rabbi, you need to wake up.

    • “I believe that one day soon, Cory will take to the floor of the United States Senate and demand that the remaining provisions of the Iran deal be frozen until Iran stops threatening a second holocaust of the Jews and ceases its support for Bashar Assad’s wholesale slaughter of innocent Arabs in Syria.”

      Rabbi Boteach sounds like Rabbi Leo Baeck, who in early 1933 attempted to meet directly with Hitler stating, “We expect German Jewish questions to be solved on a legal basis, and with the weapons of nobility, so there will be an honest understanding of our place and our way.”

      At the end of that year defined by constant Nazi degradation of all Jews nationwide, plus the establishment of Dachau and multiple other concentration camps, Rabbi Baeck wrote, “The end of German Jewry has arrived.”

      Booker has no intention coming back and relating to his ex-Jewish friends, and neither does the now radical Democrat Party. For them, the end of all Jewry has arrived.

  • Nancy B

    Excellent, as was your previous article on Power. The truth is powerful and your writing is eloquent and impactful.

  • ART

    I supported Cory when he ran in Newark, through a Jersey City politician and did work for him.However, after his first term he seemed to lose that “crusading” spirit to correct that which was wrong and to build a better Newark and New Jersey. He has, as you say, blindly followed Obama on Iran and has withdrawn from the Jewish community

  • Mark_NY

    When it was announced that Corey Booker planned to vote for the Iran deal, I sent him a scathing email expressing my utter disappointment with his decision and informing him that this would be remembered at election time. Several months later, his office responded with a long winded email trying to justify his vote and his actions. I do not personally know Mr. Booker the way the Rabbi does, but it appears to me that he was more concerned with his Democratic and Afro-American constituency than the plight of Israel and its Jewish supporters. After all, how would it have looked to the first two of these constituencies if he had opposed Obama’s Iran deal. It’s worth noting that a number of Jewish Senators, such as Blumenthal of Connecticut, also voted for Obama’s piece of crap. That Mr. Booker chose to eliminate his apparently extensive contacts with the Jewish community from his bio says a lot about where he is coming from. Of course, Rabbi Boteach is a strong supporter of Republican candidates, and as I recall, ran for public office on the Republican line not that long ago. Perhaps that has something to do with Booker’s frosty attitude these days. But he’s certainly not someone that I would trust in the future. Besides, he doesn’t need the support of religious Jews any more.

  • enufizenuf

    You’re dreaming, Rabbi. The Jews did more, collectively, to help the African-American community during the civil rights era than all other groups combined and what did they get for it? NOTHING! Blacks are the largest and most hostile anti-Semites of in the US outside of the muslims and quite a few Hispanics. It’s time for Jews to build bridges with the white community, especially evangelicals who LOVE the state of Israel and abandon all the minority groups who’d just as soon have all Jews dead. Anyone who thinks otherwise is blind as can be.

  • Martin H. Leaf

    How can you blame Cory Booker when our own Jews betrayed us ? And how can you forget the guy even more important than Bergson, Ben Hecht? And if you really want to honor Bergson, you should heed his words regarding the Holocaust: Don’t blame the Gentiles until we have looked within and admitted our own failings.

    Wise was bad but here is the real truth from Ben Hecht, in his own words, and his words apply equally to the Iran failure:

    See pg 168-169., Ben Hecht’s Perfidy : “The notables on our roster were sufficient seemingly to sweep any cause to victory. That they didn’t was due to two factors—our notables were not all of them on our side all the time. They came and went, like volunteer firemen. And the Jewish respectables outnumbered us. However many senators, congressmen, governors, rabbis, priests, college presidents, and puissant dignitaries of every stratum we could muster, the Jewish respectables could come up with five times as many. And not volunteer firemen, but full-time affiliates.
    This difference is due to the fact that protest is always a part-time activity; and respectability is a life-time job. There was also another factor against us. Most of our high-powered cohorts and endorsers were Gentiles. Out of the five thousand Important Names we were able to pipe to our side, hardly a handful were Important Jewish Names. Thus out Gentile Captains of a Thousand, after winning a battle, felt it their duty to step aside modestly and permit the Jewish leaders of the land to finish the victory. We could convince our Gentiles of our cause, but we could seldom convince them that nearly all of the fine American Jews whom they admired were the enemies of our cause.
    There was no such confusion among these fine American Jews. They knew on what side they were, and they stayed there, battling away vigorously and ceaselessly on two fronts. One was the front of Silence. Directives for this front came from Ben-Gurion, Weizmann, et al. in Palestine. They were the custodians of the Jewish future. They knew what was going on. And American Jewry (like the doomed ones of Europe) translated their cowardly policies of expediency and parochial politics into the noblest of Jewish objectives.
    The second Front of American Jewry’s respectables was to convince the world that we who were shouting the news of the slaughter were liars, publicity seekers, race racketeers and, at best, misinformed cases of hysteria. We were, they said, the Wrong People.
    It is always a losing battle, this trying to outshout authority. Those who have been in one are left with the conviction that it is easier to waken the dead than the living. But what a hopeless world it would be without this record of lost battles.”

  • Eric R.

    Cory Booker, like many, perhaps most American blacks, have betrayed the Jews who supported them in their struggles. Now when we are the ones struggling, they support our Palestinian wannabe killers.

    Rabbi: Booker (who unfortunately is my Senator as well as yours, and I would not vote for a lefty like him in a million years), showed himself to be an anti-Semite in the end.

    Yes, you heard me right. An anti-Semite. If you vote for a deal that enables genocide, when you erase the Jews from your life as though they never existed, it makes you an anti-Jewish bigot. If you had voted to lift an embargo against Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, I am sure he would think you are a bigot as well.

    You should now erase him from your life. It is the fair and right thing to do.