Thursday, March 23rd | 1 Nisan 5783

August 26, 2019 6:36 am

Cory Booker Weaponizes the Torah for Political Gain

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avatar by Shmuley Boteach


US Senator Cory Booker. Photo: Reuters/Rebecca Cook.

By now almost everyone knows that Cory Booker and I were soul-friends who connected — beginning at Oxford where he served as my student president — over the Torah, Jewish values, and a mutual passion to better the world. Everyone also knows that our relationship hit stormy waters when Cory betrayed the Jewish community, who supported him for decades, and voted for the Iran deal without so much as condemning Iran’s promise to annihilate Israel.

Now Cory, in the midst of a presidential race, is going further, weaponizing the Torah I taught him and the Hebrew words I practiced with him to advance political interests and attack his political rivals. Earlier this year on CNN he quoted a verse from Isaiah that I practiced with him phonetically many times to claim he knows Hebrew. It would have been nice if he had backed up the Torah knowledge I taught him with support for Israel and opposition to genocide. I had never intended to teach him Torah to be used as a parlor trick to impress Jewish or Christian audiences, but to absorb its message and pursue policies based on its values.

Last week, when asked to comment on the president’s remarks that Democrats are disloyal to Jews and Israel, Cory said in a video he tweeted: “I know Jewish values … tzedakah, chesed … there’s an ideal in Judaism about kindness and decency and mercy. … One of the great Jewish writings comes from Micah, that is, do justice, love mercy. These ideals are not being evidenced by the president of the United States.”

I wish to remind Cory that I was the one who taught him the Torah he knows and what I always emphasized is that Judaism’s highest value is the protection and preservation of life. This is something that Cory unfortunately violated in the extreme when he legitimized the brutal and bloody Iranian regime for political gain. When Cory was tested and asked to make the choice between siding with the defenders of a secure Israel and opposing the murderous Mullahs in Tehran, he opted to satisfy the demands of President Obama rather than uphold the Torah values he now claims as his own.

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Jewish values are about having core convictions that do not change with the political winds and are not based on receiving personal benefits, especially when genocide is at stake. I absolutely agree that President Trump’s words, and more important, his actions should be consistent with Jewish values. While I sometimes take issue with his choice of words, there can be no question that when it comes to action this President has done more than any of his predecessors to enhance the security and legitimacy of Israel, especially in international forums like the UN.

Sadly, Cory has gone in the opposite direction, catering to left-wing extremists who despise Israel and the Jewish people. Cory has condemned the decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, he voted in committee against the Taylor Force Act that called for an end to aid to the Palestinian Authority so long as it continues to give financial incentives to terrorists to murder Jews, and now is talking about rejoining the catastrophic Iran nuclear deal if he is elected president.

It is profoundly disturbing to hear how ill-informed he is about the nuclear deal. He has said, for example, that the president “took us out of a deal that gave us transparency into their nuclear program and pushed back a nuclear breakout 10-20 years.” Not even Obama made this claim. To the contrary, he said the agreement would only be delayed by one year. Moreover, we have seen the Iranians violate the deal in recent weeks and quickly ramp up the enrichment of uranium, something we were led to believe would not be possible.

As far as transparency, Cory has not paid attention as the Iranians have refused to allow the “anywhere, anytime” inspections promised by Obama. They have denied inspectors access to military sites, the very places where they would be most likely to carry on nuclear research. Surely, however, he could not have missed the front-page headlines after Israel discovered a trove of documents the Iranians had hidden, which indicated they were retaining the information needed to restart the nuclear program; or the revelation that the Iranians had equipment and materiel related to Iran’s past or possibly on-going nuclear weapons efforts stored in a secret warehouse in Tehran. We were also told by Obama and the deal’s supporters that it “cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.” A recent Harvard study told us the truth:

While Iran’s activities involving fissile material are well-known and subject to IAEA scrutiny, the current location of equipment relevant to weaponization remains unknown, and the modest scale required for weaponization efforts means that overall confidence that such activities are not occurring at secret locations is lower. In short, Iran seems likely to be in a strong position to launch a reconstituted weapons program, should it ever choose to do so, and should it have a plausible path to acquiring fissile material without being detected and stopped.

It is an insult and a shanda – another word I taught Cory – to use the knowledge of the Torah I passed on to him as my student President of the Oxford L’Chaim Society to try and garner Jewish support while refusing to support Israel on an issue of such critical importance to its security. Israeli government officials will tell you that the number one issue for them is Iran, the number two issue is Iran, and the number three issue is Iran.

It appears Cory is increasingly desperate to keep his presidential campaign alive. He has thus far managed to attract about two percent of the electorate, just enough to qualify for the third debate, and is now facing a scandal over the water emergency in Newark. This month, federal officials warned that dangerous levels of lead were seeping into the drinking water and the city told residents to drink bottled water. Cory, who is touting his environmental achievements, was the mayor when leaders of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation were accused of skimming money and obtaining kickbacks. Cory was criticized for his failure to exercise proper oversight. The New York Times wrote this week that “the crisis could also cast a shadow” over his campaign.

But wanting to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is no excuse for weaponizing the Torah for political gain or using its teachings in contravention of core convictions. You cannot quote from the Torah about love and kindness — all of which I taught Cory during hundreds of hours of studying Torah at Oxford and in the United States — while not condemning Iran’s plans to annihilate six million Jews in Israel, just as the Germans murdered six million of our brethren in Europe.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.

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