Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s worldwide kosher division, knows something about human forgiveness. When his pal President Clinton erred in 1998 with young Monica Lewinsky, Genack beat back other rabbis’ calls for Clinton’s resignation, saying that the repentant president was “transforming anger into contrition.”
This week, Genack, known as a Democratic mover and shaker in his home state of New Jersey, was at the side of another politician with public marital woes: the Garden State’s new governor, Jon Corzine. During Corzine’s recent campaign, newspapers carried reports about his affair with slinky union boss Carla Katz — and about the mortgage he had paid for Katz’s vacation home. Meanwhile, Corzine’s enraged former wife publicly attacked his trustworthiness in statements that served as fodder for television advertisements of Corzine’s Republican opponent.
In a benediction delivered at the new governor’s inaugural Tuesday, Genack reached back to the Bible for words that seemed to allude to Corzine’s personal failings.
“What we look for in a leader is not perfection, but the ability to admit a mistake, as does Judah, as does David,” Genack intoned, referring to two biblical characters tested by encounters with the fair sex. “We look for a leader who is not isolated but engaged. We seek not perfection, but rather flexibility, humility and the ability to change course based on new realities in an ever-changing world drama.”
Later, in a telephone interview, Genack told the Forward, “People should be judged in context.” He called both Clinton and Corzine “people of character” who “sometimes fall short of the mark.”