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November 7, 2016 7:54 am

When Rabbis Sell Out Jewish Values for Political Access

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Former President Bill Clinton. Photo: Israel's Channel 2/screenshot.

Former President Bill Clinton. Photo: Israel’s Channel 2/screenshot.

A number of years ago, I pushed my colleague in Englewood, New Jersey, Rabbi Menachem Genack — who is national head of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division — to walk to my house on a Friday night and meet my close friend, Cory Booker, who was, at the time, the mayor of Newark.

But had I known that, a few years later, Rabbi Genack would insert himself into my relationship with Cory, and do everything in his power to grant Senator Booker the political cover necessary to vote for the Iran nuclear deal that has threatened Israel’s survival, I might have thought twice.

While Cory was being shunned across the entire American-Jewish community for legitimizing a government sworn to the annihilation of the Jewish people, Rabbi Genack was busy inviting Jewish leaders to meet the senator and Obama administration officials, in order to restore Cory’s reputation.

Rabbi Genack has been rewarded ever since with close proximity to Cory, something he is now seeking with a vengeance with Hillary Clinton.

Rarely have I read a more sycophantic piece, written by a religious leader, in support of a presidential contender, than that just penned by Rabbi Genack for Hillary Clinton. The piece’s bizarre title, “To the Orthodox: Vote for Hillary,” sounds like a commandment addressed to an ethnic group too ignorant to think for itself.

Rabbi Genack assures us that Hillary is a nice person, despite the fact that, as he confesses, “These qualities are not evident in her public persona.” The proof? Why, she has granted access to Genack, of course! She even wrote a letter to his new baby grandson. And she allowed him to accompany her on a trip to Israel.

Not aware of just how starstruck he sounds, Rabbi Genack then makes the incredible argument that “Hillary knows the Jewish community — including the Orthodox community.” And what makes her an expert on American Jewry? “When I informed Hillary during the primary that she had been endorsed by both Kiryas Joel and Williamsburg community leaders, her response was, ‘What about Boro Park?’ Clearly, Hillary knows the Orthodox world well.”

Here you have one of American Orthodoxy’s greatest scholars — and Rabbi Genack is a walking encyclopedia of Jewish knowledge — telling us that a candidate for the American presidency knows the Jewish community because she has heard of an Orthodox neighborhood.

Just imagine a candidate for office bragging to the African-American community that he knows their concerns because he has heard of Harlem.

And what of Israel? Worry not. Because Rabbi Genack, ever present in Clinton’s orbit, has “watched Hillary interact with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and, unlike President Obama, Hillary has a strong working relationship with the Prime Minister.”

Of course, this is curious. Last year, Hillary bragged of serving as President Obama’s “designated yeller” at Netanyahu. Who even talks like that? Who brags about treating a leader of one of America’s foremost allies like an errant child?

Most disappointing is Rabbi Genack’s defense of Hillary’s support for the Iran nuclear agreement, and of her claim that she is its original architect. While Rabbi Genack allows that Hillary was wrong to support the catastrophic deal, “her position is not the same as that of President Obama.”

How so?

Well, “According to recent interviews conducted by the Jerusalem Post with Hillary’s inner circle, she ‘was uncomfortable with Obama’s approach from the start.’” Aha. So, Hillary publicly praises the Iran deal at every opportunity — including in her debates with Donald Trump before an audience of 80 million — and brags in interviews that she is responsible for the agreement. But Rabbi Genack knows that, deep down, according to an anonymous “inner circle,” that she doesn’t really mean it and was always uncomfortable with the deal.

Rabbi Menachem Genack with former President Bill Clinton. Photo: Book jacket of "Letters to Bill Clinton."

Rabbi Menachem Genack with former President Bill Clinton. Photo: Book jacket of “Letters to Bill Clinton.”

Without even realizing it, Rabbi Genack is endorsing, in effect, the sad opinion that a majority of Americans have of Hillary, which is that she is a dishonest politician who will do and say anything in order to get elected.

Equally absurd is Rabbi Genack’s claim that Hillary’s “support for the Iran deal comes with strict conditions…that we seriously penalize any Iranian cheating, that we sanction Iran for its terrorist activities.” Seriously? Rabbi Genack, do you not understand that the deal gives Iran $150 billion that every sane person knows will be used to fund terrorism? Rabbi Genack, are you not aware of the planeloads of cash that have already been shipped to the mullahs? And where do you think that cash ended up?

Indeed, it was Hillary Clinton’s State Department that identified Iran as the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism. As for Iran’s cheating on the deal, by now everyone knows about this summer’s report from German intelligence that there have been “extensive Iranian attempts” to acquire illicit materials, “especially goods that can be used in the field of nuclear technology.”

Yet Hillary has not called even once for any sanctions to be re-imposed on Iran.

As for Donald Trump, Rabbi Genack attacks him as having “no real record of engagement with the Jewish community — with our concerns, or our values.”

Let me be clear. I am not an apologist for Trump. I have endorsed no candidate in this race and I have heaped plenty of criticism on Trump for policies and actions that run contrary to Jewish values, including the call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, the making of degrading statements about women and praise for dictators like Vladimir Putin. Trump has said and done things in this election that must be condemned. But, to argue that a man who supported his daughter’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism and who has three Orthodox grandchildren has no connection to our community is a manifest absurdity.

But all of this muddled thinking is just an appetizer to Rabbi Genack’s main course, which is the positively ridiculous statement, “With each passing day – with each new video, recording, or tweet – it becomes clearer and clearer that Donald Trump models the worst type of behavior to our children. Trump has proven to lack any sense of morality, both in public and in private.  This man does not deserve the support of our community.”

Informed readers will remember that few Jewish leaders did more to protect Bill Clinton, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, than Rabbi Genack. Indeed, Rabbi Genack advised Clinton at the time not to apologize to the American people, because his private actions were none of their business.

It appears that Rabbi Genack has now changed his mind.

So, let’s end with some moral light on this depraved election. Many of Trump’s statements and actions in this campaign absolutely deserved to be denounced in the strongest terms. I did so in multiple published columns and social media posts. I did so, despite the fact that I enjoy a friendship with members of the Trump family and am deeply grateful to Donald Trump for his strong support of Israel, his incredible support for his daughter in choosing to be a Jew and his strong opposition to the Iran deal. I criticized Trump even though it would close avenues to the candidate. I did so because, as a rabbi, I have a responsibility first and foremost to try my best to model Jewish values and place my convictions before political access. I did so, despite the fact that I am an imperfect man who makes many mistakes.

I say this not to give myself a pat on the back, but to remind myself, and the rest of us, that while having the friendship of powerful people may address our insecurities, standing up for what we actually believe in is the only true path to righteousness.

Rabbi Genack is one of American Orthodox Judaism’s most prominent personalities. Despite this column, I consider him a friend and there was a time when I considered him a mentor. He is a man of integrity and honor. And for that reason, it behooves him to put the interests of his people and Jewish values before political access.

He can support Hillary all he wants. There is nothing wrong with that. But to sell out the interests of his people by defending policies like Hillary’s defense of the Iran nuclear agreement is just plain wrong.

“When I go to the polls on election day,” Rabbi Genack concludes, “I will be thinking about…respect for the values that Judaism has taught me to cherish.”


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 31 books, including the recently published “The Israel Warrior.” The winner of the London Times Preacher of the Year competition, he is the Founder of The World Values Network, one of America’s premier organizations defending Israel in national media. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • jojojo

    I voted for Trump, but that does not change the fact the Rabbi Genack is a very good man, extremely well respected in the Jewish community. We need to respect each other’s opinions and the right to differences.

  • George Goldberger

    The RCA–The Rabbinical Council of America–is better known as the Rabbinical Criminal Association. Genack and his band of merry kappos and extortionists, have aligned themselves with child molesters & extortionists, using their political connections to deter prosecution of their criminal cohorts while, at the same time, seeking malicious prosecutions, based on false charges of their targets of extortion. Real Yuddenrat. Their interest is in themselves and money. They are not men of God. They have no honor. They are hypocrits and don’t abide by their own laws, creed & rules. Thank you for exposing these despicable Jews.

  • Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner

    Too often, the Jewish world is divided by denominations where one side does not know of the other. The bridge between that gulf is usually a courageous person that sees the other and builds relationships which cross divides and unites people one at a time. A bridge builder.

    Rabbi Menachem Genack is such a human being. I know him and am happy to call him a neighbor and colleague. I am blessed to call him my friend.

    I was appalled to read the unabashed and unfounded character assault on Rabbi Genack in this paper penned by one, Shmuley Boteach. While indeed, rabbis and citizens can and should have healthy debate, and can be divided by party, ad-hominem attacks have no place in our orbit, especially among those that claim to be beacons for America and its Jewry.

    I have no inclination to lower myself to the standard operating methods Boteach employs, including mudslinging, false accusations and blinding chauvinism. Doing so would justify his principles, which deserve no acknowledgement.

    What I will bring to the forefront are facts, something blaringly missing from Boteach’s tirade.

    Rabbi Menachem Genack has shared a friendship with President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton dating back to their time in the White House. Rabbi Genack even penned a book, a compilation of letters to and from President Clinton – that the two corresponded over many years. The Genacks and Clintons have since shared a close bond and deep friendship. To claim that Rabbi Genack is offering an endorsement of Secretary Clinton for political expediency is absurd, and seems more like a projection of Boteach’s “What’s in it for me?” operating style than an understanding of how genuine friendship and support manifests itself.

    Before the “deal” with Iran was passed, I met with congressional leaders locally and in Washington to lobby against passing the proposed offer. One senator I met with on multiple occasions was Cory Booker. Alongside me for many of those meetings was Rabbi Menachem Genack.

    In a kind, measured, yet passionate and eloquent manner, Rabbi Genack articulated the serious concern of moving toward an agreement with Iran and the immense repercussions from such an agreement. He was in good company around the table. Sadly, our valiant attempt to persuade Senator Booker and other legislators did not move the needle enough to change the outcome.

    In politics, we win some and lose some. But, our name and integrity transcends all.

    After the deal passed, against the direction Rabbi Genack, myself and countless others had hoped for, Rabbi Genack astutely realized that other critical votes in Congress would surface. Our relationships with all lawmakers will have a sustained future and friendships need to be triaged and carried forward. That demonstrated wisdom and acumen, which is second nature for Rabbi Genack. He spearheaded the effort to strengthen ties and help lobby towards securing overwhelming support for aid packages to Israel along with other important legislation.

    Perhaps the thickest irony of all is Boteach claiming that Rabbi Genack is a sycophant seeking fame and recognition. To know Rabbi Genack is to witness humility and modesty. The twist is this accusation comes from a man that appointed himself “America’s Rabbi” and commonly wedges himself into photo opportunities with any nearby celebrity.

    Shame on those that seek to smear reputations in an effort to win politically. How much more abhorrent when they do so devoid of facts and without decent values and common kindness.

    This election cycle will end in hours. Regardless of the outcome, our country will need ‘bridge builders’ not ‘name callers’ to lead us in to the next days. I am following Rabbi Genack!

  • willylo

    sad that shmuley now stoops to lashon hora

  • walt kovacs

    why are my posts being moderated?
    why are you allowing shmuley to post shtus like this?

  • walt kovacs

    algmeiner should not have allowed shmuley to use its site to spread lashon hora and sina against another observant jew over politics
    shmuley should be placed in cherem over this incident
    i have now paskined…he has din moser

  • jonathan1256

    You’re pathetic Shmuley.

  • “America’s Rabbi.”