Loretta Weinberg, the Jewish Grandma Who's Making Chris Christie's Life Miserable

New Jersey Senator Leads Bridgegate Scandal Fight

new jersey democratic party

By Hody Nemes

Published January 22, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Long before she ever contemplated the prospect of investigating the governor of New Jersey for corruption, Loretta Weinberg had to face down corruption accusations made against her.

The boodle in question was 8 tons of tuna.

It was during the mid-1980s, years prior to her running for office, that the tuna disappeared, under fishy circumstances, from the Bergen Pines County Hospital, in Paramus, N. J., where Weinberg served as assistant executive director. But in Weinberg’s case, when the county leadership fired her because of the security breach at the public hospital, she sued and won a $70,000 settlement.

The tuna caper marked the last time allegations of serious misconduct were ever leveled against Weinberg, who has cultivated a reputation for being tough on corruption in the often scandal-rocked world of New Jersey politics. And now, from her post as the majority leader in New Jersey’s State Senate, the self-described “feisty Jewish grandmother” from Teaneck is leading the senate’s high-profile investigation of the bridge scandal swirling around the administration of her longtime political nemesis, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Weinberg’s star turn in the political klieg lights is a late-life development in a late-life political career. The 78-year-old didn’t run for office until she was in her 50s. But once she set on that path, she rose determinedly through the ranks of New Jersey politics, from Teaneck’s city council to the halls of the state assembly to the state senate and her current position as majority leader. In the course of her storied life, Weinberg has encountered numerous setbacks, including a failed bid for the lieutenant governorship in 2009, and the loss of her life savings in the Bernard Madoff investment scheme.

This is not the first time Weinberg has faced off against a powerful politician. In her first two elections for the state senate, she stared down Joseph Ferriero, the powerful Democratic boss of Weinberg’s native Bergen County, who had thrown his support behind other candidates. Most observers wrote off her chances against his hand-picked candidates. But Weinberg fought back, ultimately receiving the Democratic nomination and winning the Senate seat in 2005. She then fended off a challenger backed by Ferriero in 2007.

Ferriero’s fate afterward reflected another aspect of Weinberg’s political life: She has a knack for outlasting her political rivals, and often gets the last laugh. In September 2013, Ferriero was indicted on charges that he engaged in racketeering and bribery while heading the Bergen County Democratic Party. Ken Zisa, Weinberg’s senate campaign opponent in 2005 and Ferriero’s own choice, is confined to his home pending an appeal of his conviction on charges of insurance fraud and official misconduct while serving as Hackensack’s police chief. It remains to be seen whether Christie, with whom she has also clashed in the past, emerges in better condition.


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!
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • 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.