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The race for Congress

Boteach attacks Pascrell’s ties to imam, again

 
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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Republican candidate for the Ninth Congressional District, is using a recent interview with controversial Paterson Imam Mohammed Qatanani to continue his attack on Rep. Bill Pascrell, his Democratic opponent.

In an interview with The Blaze, a conservative web site owned by Glenn Beck, Qatanani addressed the furor over the anti-Muslim movie that sparked rioting around the world.

“People there [in the Middle East] don’t understand the American Constitution and freedom of speech,” Qatanani said, according to the Blaze report. (The brackets were inserted by The Blaze, which published the interview at http://bit.ly/Wklox4). “We have to understand each other because misunderstanding is a killing issue…. The issue of Prophet Muhammad is very delicate — they [Muslims] will not accept in any way, anybody who talks badly about Muhammad.”

“They [Muslims] think our [American] freedoms are too much,” Qatanani was quoted as saying. “The freedom of the American people is so different from their [Muslims’] freedoms. We believe freedoms have limits and rules, otherwise we will get people into trouble… Freedom according to Islam must be according to the Quran and Sunnah. You can do [anything] you like within the teachings of these two resources. This is the difference and main reason [for the conflict].”

“We, as Americans, have to put limits and borders [on] freedom of speech,” he reportedly said.

“He basically took the position that criticism of Islam should be banned, and that we should repeal our First Amendment rights,” Boteach summarized

Boteach said that Pascrell’s support for Qatanani’s legal efforts to remain in the United States “is a serious erosion of Bill Pascrell’s commitment to uphold the Constitution. He’s doing everything in his power to keep in this country someone who is trying to repeal our Constitution, our First Amendment rights.”

Pascrell’s spokesman repeated an earlier statement about Qatanani: “Congressman Pascrell was raised by his parents to be a bridge-builder, and he has spent his entire career attempting to bring people together.”

Qatanani heads the Islamic Center of Passaic County, one of the largest mosques in New Jersey. His legal struggle, which has also been supported by Republican Governor Chris Christie, will enter its next stage shortly after the election in November, when the federal immigration judge who originally stayed deportation proceedings will try the case again, following an appeals court ruling against Qatanani in 2009.

At a time when some Orthodox Jews, in particular those affiliated with the charedi Agudath Israel organization, have said they would resist government efforts to require reporting of child abuse or warnings of the danger of the metzitzah b’peh circumcision ritual, Boteach said he condemns “in the strongest words any rabbi who tells Americans to break the laws of the land.

“Imagine if a rabbi were to say that criticizing Judaism should be a criminal offense? That rabbi would be a nut, would be a certified lunatic. He would be fired from his post the very next day,” Boteach said. “If a rabbi said anyone who criticized Israel should be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, what would the reaction be? There would be an absolute chorus of condemnation!”

Boteach reiterated his criticism of the “surrender” of the Englewood-based NORPAC, one of the leading pro-Israel political action committees, which has not taken sides in the race and is not opposing Pascrell.

“It’s part of the Jewish surrender, especially in the city of Englewood. Englewood has 800 modern Orthodox Jewish families. They pay 80 percent of the taxes, and they don’t have one person on the local government who represents their interests. They won’t even organize politically. Its an amazing thing to watch. The chasidim of Boro Park, the yeshivah families in Lakewood, are infinitely more savvy and politically more organized than the modern Orthodox Jews of Englewood,” he said.

Boteach said he had a chance to speak with Qatanani personally last week at a fundraiser for Christie.

“Qatanani said, ‘You’re being very unfair to me, bringing up my immigration woes, when religious men should stand together.’

“I said, ‘You were the first person I called when I won the primary. I said I wanted to speak with you. I wanted to show respect to your community.’

“I said, ‘Muslims are my brothers, Arabs are my brothers and sisters. When I was the rabbi at Oxford I had some Muslim students who were at my Shabbat table every Friday night, including the son of the Jordanian ambassador. Some of them would come to drink the kiddush wine. I would slowly convince them not to drink alcohol.’”

Boteach said his campaign staff is trying to get a date to speak in the Paterson mosque. “If they’re serious, we’ll get a date,” he said.

Boteach said his campaign’s polling shows that he has 40 percent support among the Arab community in Paterson.

“The Arabs know I was one of the foremost champions of the Arab Spring. I have repeatedly condemned any kind of Islamaphobia,” he said.

While he has no date to speak at the mosque, Boteach did have an ecumenical appearance last Saturday at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new Mormon meeting house in Englewood.

“I walked over before shul,” Boteach said. “I’m a great friend and admirer of the Mormon church and the Mormon people.” At Oxford, he said, one of his students was the grandson of the head of the Mormon church, Ezra Taft Benson. “I’ve been granted audiences with the Mormon prophet,” as Benson was called. “It’s been quite a special relationship.”

Also last week, Boteach hosted a meeting between the foreign minister of Rwanda, Louise Mushikiwabo, and prominent Jews, in particular his supporters: billionaires Michael Steinhardt and Sheldon Adelson, and Jerry Levin, president of UJA-Federation of New York. And on Saturday night, he met with Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame.

Boteach said that in addressing the Jewish group, Mushikiwabo “spoke about how many people are trying to deny the Rwandan genocide, and how similar it is to attempt to deny the Holocaust. We took her to meet Elie Wiesel.” Boteach visited Rwanda earlier this year to bring attention to the genocide there.

“As a potential congressman, I want the United States to enact proper genocide legislation,” he said. “The United States is a signator to the U.N. antigenocide convention, but it is so seldom invoked.”

The event with the Rwandans was not a campaign event, he said. “I want genocide to be nonpolitical.”

 

More on: The race for Congress

 
 
 

Local candidates to discuss issues

Shuls to host event co-sponsored by the federation and this newspaper

With the election barely four weeks away, organizers of three candidate forums have begun mapping out questions for the events. The first of them will take place this Sunday, Oct. 7, and feature 5th District Congressman Scott Garrett, the Republican incumbent, and his Democratic challenger, Teaneck councilman Adam Gussen.

“I’ve got six topics, but chances are we will only get to four,” said Dan Kirsch, who will moderate that first event. Kirsch is the past chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which is sponsoring the forums together with The Jewish Standard.

 
 

Gussen and Garrett spar over meaning of House vote

Did the entire Republican majority in the House of Representatives betray Israel’s security in a procedural vote last October?

That is the claim of Teaneck Councilman Adam Gussen, the Democratic challenger to Congressman Scott Garrett in New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District.

“Scott Garrett has stood with Israel on many occasions,” acknowledged Gussen, in a letter sent to this newspaper. “However, when Israel’s security was actually being threatened, Scott Garrett put partisan politics ahead of the safety of every Israeli man woman and child.”

At issue was a bill that would award land in Colorado to Rio Tinto, a multinational mining company whose subsidiary operates a uranium mine in Namibia. The Iranian government has owned a 15 percent stake in the mine since 1975.

 
 

Schedule of candidates forums sponsored by the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Standard

5th Congressional District

Congressman Scott Garrett (R) Adam Gussen (D)

Sunday, October 7

9:30 - 11:00 a.m.

Temple Beth Haverim Shir Shalom,
280 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah

 
 
 
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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.

 

Shabbat in the White City

Fair Lawn man aims for Guinness-record dinner in Tel Aviv

Jay Shultz is determined to set a new world record while promoting Tel Aviv — usually cited for its nightlife and startup culture — as a great place to spend Shabbat.

The 37-year-old Fair Lawn native, who has lived in Israel since 2006, has earned a reputation as the “International Mayor of Tel Aviv” after a series of grand-scale initiatives geared at positioning his adopted city as welcoming haven for young professional immigrants.

His latest exploit: Through his popular White City Shabbat program, which offers communal meals for young Israelis and immigrants at local synagogues, Mr. Shultz launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to sponsor the world’s largest Shabbat dinner.

 

Testing for genetic diseases

JScreen provides easy, low-cost screening for people of Jewish lineage

Looking for a novel engagement or bridal shower gift? “Forget a blender or another place setting. Give a JGift and help them ensure the best future for their family,” advises the website JScreen.org.

For $99 you can “give the gift of screening,” said Hillary Kener, JScreen’s outreach coordinator. Ms. Kener was referring to the online genetic screening program that is coordinated through the department of human genetics at Atlanta’s Emory University. With this unique program it is possible to be screened for up to 80 genetic mutations. Along with screening, the site provides education and access to genetic counseling related to the screening tests. And all of this can take place in the comfort of your own home or dormitory room.

 

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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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