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

(page 6 of 6)

Connecting with Newark’s black community has previously posed challenges to Booker, despite high-profile actions he has taken to dramatize his personal commitment to the city’s problems.

Booker moved to Newark in 1996 during his final year at Yale Law School to work for the Urban Justice Center, an organization dedicated to improving the city; he won a seat on the City Council two years later. From 1998 until its demolition, in 2006, Booker, who is single, made his home in Brick Towers, a low-income housing complex with persistently high crime rates and intractable management problems in the city’s Central Ward. Last year, he lived for one week on a food budget of $33 to demonstrate the plight faced by low-income Newark residents living on food stamps.

Despite such efforts, when Booker first ran for mayor, in 2002, he faced racially loaded attacks questioning his ethnic authenticity from incumbent Sharpe James, a Newark native who grew up in the city as the son of a single mother during the aftermath of the 1960s riots. James called Booker a “Republican who took money from the KKK” and denounced him as a “faggot white boy.” He also accused Booker of “collaborating with the Jews to take over Newark.”

In 2008, James was sentenced to 27 months in prison after being convicted of fraud involving the illegal sale of city property.

The city’s disaffected residents responded to those attacks that time. But in 2006, Booker crushed James’s handpicked candidate to succeed him, Ronald Rice, winning with 72% of the vote after a huge national fundraising push that enabled him to outspend Rice 25–1.

Today, Booker is the clear favorite among Democrats to succeed Lautenberg, who had already announced in February that he did not intend to seek re-election. In a recent poll by Farleigh Dickinson University, 50% of New Jersey Democrats favored Booker, while his projected opponents in a primary, Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, garnered a combined total of 11%.

On issues unrelated to Israel, Booker’s positions align frequently with those held by a large majority of Jews. He is a strong advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and spoke at Planned Parenthood rallies at last year’s Democratic National Convention. Booker also favored the most recent gun control legislation.

More controversially, Booker supports private school vouchers, though he has said they may not be the perfect solution.

That issue is important for Jews in Lakewood, one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing towns, thanks to its burgeoning Haredi community.

In February, Booker won over a gathering of Orthodox Jews in Lakewood at a fundraiser for a special education school in the town. Without specifically mentioning any policy position, he wooed his audience with Torah lessons and well-timed jokes, even namedropping local machers, to the crowd’s delight. It was a captivating scene, watching the broad-shouldered former Stanford undergrad tight end, a black man who patrols his streets in the middle of the night, looking for drug dealers, lecturing a room full of ultra-Orthodox Jews on the “spirit of Judaism.”

At the end, Booker received a standing ovation.

Contact Seth Berkman at berkman@forward.com


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!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • 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.