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“Initially, I was fairly reluctant; I did not have my sights set on Washington,” Scott told JTA in an interview. “He was crucial in helping me to get to that conclusion.”
Scott instead had his eye on the state’s lieutenant governorship, which is what first drew the men together in 2009. The lieutenant governor oversees the state’s Office of Aging, and Muzin, a lawyer with an medical degree from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, was interested in health policy. So Muzin sought out Scott, and the two bonded over policy – and curiosity about each other’s beliefs.
“He’d be studying Bible all the time in his office and we would talk regularly about what I was learning in Daf Yomi every day,” Muzin said of Scott. Daf Yomi is the page-a-day Talmud study program. “He had a real appreciation for Jewish people and for religious people.”
The appreciation became evident early in the campaign when Scott told Muzin he wanted to release a statement on the May 2010 clash between Israeli commandos and a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine Turkish nationals dead.
“I want to go on record saying that Israel was within its rights in international and maritime law to intercept the flotilla since Hamas, a terrorist organization in control of Gaza, has sworn to annihilate the Jewish people and regularly transfers weapons into Gaza,” said Scott, at the time a House candidate in a state where the Jewish vote barely registers.
The notion of an African-American Republican from the South making Israel a focus, as Scott has throughout his congressional career, has even become a target of writers at “Saturday Night Live.” In a skit over the weekend that didn’t make the final cut for the show, cast member Kenan Thompson plays Scott grilling defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel on his fealty to Israel.
“As an African-American Republican from South Carolina, love of Israel is in my blood,” Thompson said to audience titters.
In Muzin’s case, his political trajectory baffles even some of his friends. In 2000 he rallied for the Gore-Lieberman ticket, but in 2004 he told the Yale Daily News that encounters with liberals at Yale had driven him rightward.