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Despite reports, Boteach is not running for Congress — yet

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Shmuely Boteach, who bills himself as “America’s Rabbi,” is not a candidate for Congress in the newly formed 9th district. That does not mean, however, that he will not be on the ballot come November.

The website and other sites have reported that Boteach is seeking the Republican nomination to run against either Rep. Steve Rothman or Rep. Bill Pascrell, who will face each other for the Democratic nomination in June. The report was based on the fact that Boteach sent a letter to the offices of the Bergen County Republican Organization informing it that he is considering running.

To be considered by the Republicans for the nomination, Boteach told The Jewish Standard, meant sending a letter of intent no later than Jan. 31. Boteach said he did so at the last minute, but has yet to decide whether to actually enter the race.

He said he has about two months to make up his mind. Among the factors that will go into his decision will be the amount of financial support he can count on. Boteach said that such a race will be an expensive one and that he would need to raise at least a mllion dollars in order to run an effective campaign.

Boteach said that he is considering running for Congress because he feels he can make a difference. He wants to bring Jewish values into the political discourse, the rabbi said. He also said that the focus by the political right on such hot button issues as abortion and gay rights has deflected the country’s attenton from the real values-oriented issues facing the country, especially that of divorce. As a congressman, Boteach said, he would seek to introduce legislation that would make marriage counseling a tax-deductible item. He said he has sought support for such a law from GOP lawmakers in the past, but while they expressed interest, nothing ever came of that interest.

Boteach said that although he was a Republican and may seek the Republican nomination for Congress (two Saddle River men also filed letters of intent — Blase Billack, a pharmacology professorat St. John’s University, and Bruce Wrede, senior technician at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission) — he also said he was a social moderate. He was not certain how that would go over with Bergen County’s Republican base.

Boteach currently is engaged in an effort, as yet unsuccessful, to get the City of Englewood, where he lives, to rezone his property for use as a synagogue. He insists that his filing of a letter of intent with the county Republicans is not related to that effort.

The rabbi writes a syndicated column that appears in a number of on-line and print venues, including the on-line Huffington Post and the daily newspaper The Jerusalem Post. He also appears every other week in The Jewish Standard. If Boteach becomes a declared candidate for the Republican nomination in the 9th district, his column in The Standard will be discontinued pending the outcome of the race.

Blase Billack of Saddle River, an associate professor of pharmacology at St. John’s University, and Bruce Wrede of Saddle River, senior technician at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, also submitted their names in search of the nomination.

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‘It’s valuable to hear both sides’

Ridgewood man discusses Israeli, Palestinian narratives

Jonathan Emont — a 2008 graduate of Ridgewood High School who celebrated his bar mitzvah at the town’s Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center — always has felt a deep attachment to the state of Israel.

Still, the 23-year-old said, he never expected that country to be at the center of his professional life.

Things changed, however, when the recent Swarthmore College graduate went to Israel on a tour the America-Israel Friendship League offered to young journalists.

“I did journalism in college,” he said, explaining that although he majored in history, he also was the editor of Swarthmore’s Daily Gazette.


Walling off, reaching out

Teaneck shul offers discussion of Women of the Wall

It is not an understatement to say that the saga of Women of the Wall is a metaphor for much of the struggle between tradition and change in Israel.

Founded 25 years ago by a group of Israeli and non-Israeli women whose religious affiliations ran from Orthodox to Reform, it has been a flashpoint for the fight for pluralism in Israel, as one side would define it, or the obligation to hold onto God-given mandates on the other.

As its members and supporters fought for the right to hold services in the women’s section, raising their voices in prayer, and later to wear tallitot and read from sifrei Torah, and as their opponents grew increasingly violent in response, it came to define questions of synagogue versus state and showcase both the strengths and the flaws of Israel’s extraordinary parliamentary system. It also highlighted rifts between American and Israeli Jews.


Yet more Pew

Local rabbis talk more about implications of look at American Jews

The Pew Research Center’s study of American Jews, released last October, really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As much as the Jewish community deplores the study’s findings, it seems to exert a magnetic pull over us, as if it were the moon and we the obedient tides. We can’t seem to stop talking about it. (Of course, part of that appeal is the license it gives us to talk, once again, about ourselves. We fascinate ourselves endlessly.)

That is why we found ourselves at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly last Wednesday night, with the next in the seemingly endless series of snow-and-ice storms just a few hours away, discussing the Pew study yet again.



Doing well, doing good

Israeli band full of New Jersey locals hopes to tour U.S.

If a crowd-funding appeal is successful, the Israeli band G-Nome Project is coming to the United States.

This is not the scientific kind of genome project having to do with decoding DNA, but a musical project launched by four young expatriates — two of them from Teaneck.

It’s also a kind of chesed project. The band’s proposed 10-city “Giving Tour” aims to combine nightly gigs with days of good deeds such as visiting nursing homes and working in a soup kitchen.

This unusual twist was inspired by drummer Chemy Soibelman’s volunteering with Israeli children suffering from cancer.


Less is more

Moriah to institute new tuition affordability program

Good news for the middle class — and for Jewish day school affordability.

The Moriah School in Englewood, which runs from prekindergarten through eighth grade, has announced a new tuition affordability program, which will cut tuition for parents making as much as $360,000 a year.

Full tuition at the school ranges from $12,000 for kindergarten to $15,425 for middle school. (The prekindergarten program is not eligible for the tuition breaks.)

“We’ve been talking, as a board and as a community, about tuition affordability and the tuition crisis for years,” said Evan Sohn, the school’s president. “We decided this was the year we were going to address that issue.”


Scrolling through Jewish art

Local exhibit looks at text and images in old and new ways

The English letters that Harriet Fincke of Ridgewood learned when she was young are straightforward symbols that combine to form words, just as they are for everyone else.

But Hebrew letters — ah, they are something else again. “They always seemed kind of solid,” she said. “They seemed more like things,” objects in their own right, opaque. “It’s both the meaning and the look, and the relationship between them,” she said.

Those letters were a foundation part of her childhood — she went all the way through school at the Yeshiva of Flatbush. “I’d always had a kind of richly ambivalent relationship with my religious upbringing, and with the text,” she said.

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