Cory Booker, Eying N.J. Senate Run, Banks on Long and Deep Jewish Ties

Newark Mayor Has Emotional Bond With People and Faith

Future Leaders: Cory Booker playfully lifts Rabbi Shmuley Boteach during a year the Rhodes Scholar spent at Oxford University in England.
courtesy of shmuley boteach
Future Leaders: Cory Booker playfully lifts Rabbi Shmuley Boteach during a year the Rhodes Scholar spent at Oxford University in England.

By Seth Berkman

Published June 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

While some Jews struggle to make it through one Passover Seder each year, Cory Booker, Newark, N.J.’s African-American mayor, traditionally attends at least two.

It’s a holiday he equates with Thanksgiving, cherishing the time spent telling stories and teaching lessons. The only tradition he doesn’t approve of is the cuisine.

nate lavey

“The bread of affliction is rough,” he said recently, with a laugh, in his office at City Hall, which is adorned with religious paraphernalia from multiple faiths, including an oversized decorative blue-and-white dreidel and two Hebrew Bibles. “I never wake up craving it. Give me a good, sweet kugel.”

Booker, a Christian and a Democrat, has more in common with Jews than just the disdain many hold for “cardboard-tasting matzo,” as he describes it. For the past 20 years, he has devotedly studied Torah with a small circle of influential Orthodox activists. He has befriended prominent rabbis across the country. He has had poignant conversations with Elie Wiesel and quotes Golda Meir. He frequently spouts Jewish references and extols the virtues of Jewish values in his speeches.

Booker has also assiduously cultivated the support of wealthy Jews in Hollywood and on Wall Street.

Booker, 44, in short, is a conspicuously public philo-Semite.

As he prepares to run for the U.S. Senate seat now left vacant by the death of Frank Lautenberg, those connections to Jews and to Judaism, together with positions supportive of Israel, may help Booker convince Jewish voters that he is the veteran lawmaker’s logical successor. Add to that Booker’s backing for private school vouchers, which would allow Jewish children to attend yeshiva day schools with government backing, and the liberal pro same-sex marriage, pro activist government leader of New Jersey’s largest city may even prove able to win over the Orthodox, who have been trending Republican in recent years.

In a tight race, that support could be crucial. In statewide elections, Jews, who make up about 5.5% of the state’s population, typically comprise 7% of the vote.

Booker’s mayoral tenure has faced critical scrutiny lately. But for the most part, observers say, Booker’s Jewish supporters are uninterested in questions that have dogged the candidate about his effectiveness as leader of this troubled city since 2006.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.