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Why Shmuley Boteach was banished from Cory Booker’s memoir

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Despite many years of close association and mutual support, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach does not appear in Senator Cory Booker’s recent and highly autobiographical book United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good, and the rabbi attributes his excision to a public and increasingly personal campaign against The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, widely known as Obama’s Iran deal.

In recent articles, Boteach reveals his lobbying efforts for Israel and against the deal, such as his frustrated attempt to bring Booker together with another old friend– Israel’s ambassador Ron Dermer. He defends the chiding tone of a full-page advertisement placed in the New York Times, and stands by his efforts to expose the Iranian regime’s danger to Israel and Jews, and to remind Booker of his longstanding support by America’s Jewish community. Claiming biblical and historical precedent, Rabbi Boteach considers facing Iran’s alleged intentions “to murder innocents around the globe” as having been worth risking the good will of his “soul friend.” “Public figures have to understand that criticism comes with the territory,” he observes, “It’s nothing personal. But genocide is deadly serious.”

The dynamics of their teetering friendship wouldn’t be interesting without the larger social and political context for Boteach’s complaint about Bookers actions, in particular the rabbi’s appeal to the reciprocal bonds he thinks the senator forsook, not just as a former “student” and friend, but as an enthusiastic and plentiful recipient of campaign donations from the Jewish community. Booker, he claims, “promised eternal friendship to a community that made him the foremost recipient of contributions from Jewish supporters of any candidate in the United States”

In “No Holds Barred: The Vanishing Jews of Cory Booker’s Memoir,” Boteach develops the theme of Booker’s alleged abandonment, wondering: “How could Cory have written a memoir that barely acknowledges the vast Jewish contribution to his life and career, if at all?”

These claims are troubling. Consider the toxicity of Boteach’s repeated suggestion that a United States senator should pledge obligation to any subset of the body electorate beyond his constituency, especially in return for generous donations. Booker joined his fellow Democrats and in fact a –majority- of Jewish legislators in supporting their president’s efforts for a peaceful resolution with Iran.

And Cory’s memoir is in fact filled with Jews, such as individuals who helped his family integrate their suburban New Jersey neighborhood and who were involved generally in Civil Rights, a lasting inspiration. Jews, for example Einstein, are also found among quoted luminaries, and the book’s acknowledgement page not only includes Jewish individuals, but more than a few who have also been friends, political mentors and supporters from Booker’s first campaign for Newark city council. 

However much his contact with Jews and Judaism widened and enriched his knowledge, the implication that this experience set his moral compass is even more pernicious than the fragile claim that his book erases them, as if young Booker was a moral blank slate before his careful molding during, by Boteach’s estimate, their “thousands of hours” of Torah study. In fact a pattern emerges from the many articles written in the Jewish press over the years about the pair, often presented as a kind of symbol of black-Jewish relations. Boteach constantly refers to “my student,” “my president” (of Boteach’s L’Chaim Society), while Booker always expresses the mutuality of their bond. The hierarchical perspective may be the cause of Boteach misremembering Booker’s actual position at the Yale Jewish Society. He was not, as the rabbi recalls, a chosen student president serving a rabbi; he was in fact a founder and a partner.

Shmuley might genuinely believe that he schooled Cory in American politics while inculcating the Seven Laws of Noah, and is therefore perpetually owed, along with his particular Jewish religious and political community. In fact both assumptions; his right to demand political quid-pro-quo, and that of Cory’s foundational tutelage, are incorrect and inappropriate, and the self-referential overreach is almost certainly the actual cause of the rabbi’s banishment.

Jews, except one, haven’t vanished from United. Cory’s narrative, however, starts with his family tree and roots itself in his own authentic and worthy African, European and Native American and Christian  heritages. This shouldn’t surprise or offend anyone who respects Booker as his own person.

Ben Karp

Ben Karp teaches courses on culture and identity at an international university in Tokyo, Japan. He worked on Cory Booker's first mayoral campaign and was a co-founder with Booker of the Jewish Society at Yale.

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18 Responses

  1. Keith on March 21, 2016, 4:34 pm

    SHMULEY BOTEACH- “It’s nothing personal. But genocide is deadly serious.”

    This from the consummate hypocrite who praised genocidaire Paul Kagame.

    “Paul Kagame and his mentor and fellow warlord in neighboring Uganda, President Woseri Museveni, were given the green light by the West to kill and steal at will in Central Africa. They are the two main architects of the genocide in the eastern Congo, where some estimate six million people have died since Rwanda and Uganda invaded the region, in the mid-Nineties. The soldiers of these two U.S. henchmen are still there, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, looting precious minerals for sale to multinational corporations under cover of tribal warfare – wars created and nurtured by Kagame and Museveni, themselves, for the sake of power and profit and the favor of the United States and Europe. Kagame and Museveni have more blood on their hands than any combination of men in Africa – which makes them heroes to the West.” (Glen Ford)

    ” In recent years, Boteach has assumed the mantle of promoting Kagame in the Jewish community and to other Americans. He has urged the Rwandan government to continue to strengthen its alliance with Israel, the rabbi’s other foreign cause.

    The personal relationship Boteach forged with Kagame has intensified as Rwanda has become a leading African ally to Israel, despite the fact that Israeli dealers sent arms to the military when it was slaughtering Tutsis in the 1990s.” (Alex Kane)

    • echinococcus on March 21, 2016, 4:45 pm

      Do we need Rwanda while the genocide of Palestinians continues apace?

      • Boo on March 22, 2016, 10:48 am

        If we focus only on the spider, won’t we get caught in the web?

    • Keith on March 21, 2016, 4:54 pm

      BEN KARP- “Despite many years of close association and mutual support, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach does not appear in Senator Cory Booker’s recent and highly autobiographical book….”

      Cory Booker’s “many years of close association and mutual support” with Shmuley Boteach does not speak well for Cory Booker. One would hope that elemental considerations of morality played a part in Booker’s decision to distance himself from the odious Boteach.

  2. JWalters on March 21, 2016, 6:23 pm

    Sounds like Corey Booker might be one of those rare politicians who puts a higher priority on facts, logic, JUSTICE, and the COMMON GOOD, rather than on money, blackmail, lies, and war profiteering.

    I hope so. The world needs such people, especially as leaders.

  3. Nevada Ned on March 22, 2016, 2:02 am

    in the past, Cory Booker has been criticized for being a fervent Zionist, and for being in fact more fervent than required to raise campaign funds and political support. So what has changed? My guess is that Israel’s image has become more toxic recently, as the Palestinians are starting to get their side of the story out. And the political winds are shifting, and ambitious politicians sense the shift

  4. Citizen on March 22, 2016, 2:34 am

    Imagine you had to live in a house with Boteach and Dershie….

  5. RobertHenryEller on March 22, 2016, 8:12 am

    Shmuley is the ultimate Hollywood Heebroo Hustler, Herr Shekel Grubber supremo. A shameless self-promoting hypocrite.

  6. Abern on March 22, 2016, 9:30 am

    People like Boteach can never figure out why people do not want them around anymore.

  7. wondering jew on March 22, 2016, 9:38 am

    Boteach is someone who seeks the spotlight, a symptom of our celebrity culture. Trump is also a symptom of our celebrity culture, but Trump has tapped into American white rage and Boteach is a minor blip in comparison.

    • Boo on March 22, 2016, 10:50 am

      Bacilli are small too — but they can kill whales.

    • Mooser on March 22, 2016, 11:17 am

      “Boteach is someone who seeks the spotlight, a symptom of our celebrity culture.”

      Gee, and I thought he was a Jewish Rabbi? What happened to Rebbe Boteach’s “group consciousness”?

      “Trump has tapped into American white rage”

      Well, well somebody has a problem with his “group consciousness” Maybe “Yonah’s” pod hurts?

      • Miriam on March 22, 2016, 2:51 pm

        Not to forget Smiley Botox’s felonious relatives…..his sister’s son Ephraim Deveroli, who was racketeering at age 20 in weapons for profit as a contractor with Uncle Sam…along with his partner, massage therapist David Packouz, 8th son of Miami rabbi, founder of Aish Ha’Torah and co-felon…for passing off ancient chinese ammo for soldiers in Afghanistan ..profiteering about $250MILLION bucks…prosecuted but little info about him ever serving prison time…Also Smiley’s brother who ran a handgun biz in Watts until US Congresswoman Maxine Waters all but ran him out of the neighborhood…Rolling Stone made faux heroes out of DeVeroli and Packouz enough to lead to a Hollywood film script “Arms and the Dudes” which may /may not actually complete for release? Who knows, maybe Arnon Milchan will underwrite such dreck….what else can an old mossadnik in Hollywood do?

  8. RockyMissouri on March 22, 2016, 5:11 pm

    JewishVoice for Peace is most honorable group. They are not Zionists.

  9. gamal on April 3, 2016, 7:32 pm

    “Cory’s narrative, however, starts with his family tree and roots itself in his own authentic and worthy African, European and Native American and Christian heritages.”

    “authentic and worthy” and one even has native in it, whatever that means, looks good though, he has five good identities each contributing a unit of authentic ‘identity’ to his gestalt.

    “the self-referential overreach is almost certainly the actual cause of the rabbi’s banishment.”
    of TBK
    “He worked on Cory Bookers fist mayoral campaign and was co-founder with Booker of the Jewish society at Yale”

    Boteach might be gone but you hanging in there, wonder what the unworthy ersatz identities are doing tonight, as if you care up there with all the cool kids.

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