Senator-Cory-Booker by the Forward

Cory Booker’s Old Pal Rabbi Shmuley Uses Presidential Bid To Scold About Israel

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In an extended selfie video posted hours after Senator Cory Booker announced his 2020 presidential bid, Booker’s old buddy Rabbi Shmuley Boteach warned that the New Jersey senator shouldn’t forget his pro-Israel friends.

Boteach said that Booker’s support for the Iran deal was a betrayal, and charged that there had been a “gradual erosion” of Booker’s support for Israel.

“The Iran deal was a tremendous stain on his reputation,” Boteach said. “It’s a stain on his foreign policy legacy because it shows weakness, and it shows a willingness to appease.”

Boteach and Booker have both spoken extensively about how they met at Oxford University in the 1990s and remained close for decades. Boteach publicly soured on the senator after they split over the Iran deal three years ago. Now, Boteach’s 14-minute video serves as a preview to the sorts of attacks Booker can expect from pro-Israel Republicans as his presidential bid moves forward.

Boteach said that Booker needed to reverse his long-held position on the Iran nuclear deal. “You’ve got to repudiate your support for the Iran deal, completely,” he said. “If you don’t repudiate your support for the Iran deal, and you don’t change your position on Israel, I think it will undermine you in this run for the presidency in a very serious way.”

Boteach recorded the video from Jerusalem, where this week he orchestrated a publicity tour for Roseanne Barr, whose sitcom was cancelled last year after she issued a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former Obama administration official.

In the video, Boteach emphasized the financial support Booker had received from pro-Israel donors, claiming that he was the first to introduce Booker to pro-Israel political circles.

“Cory, you got to be with your friends, man,” Boteach said. “The Jewish community made you one of the biggest recipients of pro-Israel financial campaign support in its history because you deserved it.”

“It broke my heart, it broke my heart,” Boteach said of Booker’s support for the Iran deal, channeling Michael Corleone.

Booker was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford while Boteach led a Jewish religious and cultural program affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic group. Both ended up in New Jersey, where Booker became the mayor of Newark and then the U.S. Senator. In his video, Boteach said that Booker stayed up all night with him the day before his son’s bris; that son’s bar mitzvah is taking place tomorrow in Jerusalem.

Long a pop-culture figure known for his books on sex and relationships, Boteach has focused increasingly on politics in recent years. He ran for congress as a Republican in 2012, losing to the incumbent Democrat Bill Pascrell. He is close with the billionaire Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The couple’s foundation gave $4.9 million to Boteach’s charity, This World: Jewish Values Network, between 2014 and 2016.

“I don’t know how we lost him on Israel,” Boteach said of the now-Democratic presidential contender as the video wound down. “It makes no sense.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis


Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.

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