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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 “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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Oslo, Birthright, and me

Yossi Beilin, to speak at Tenafly JCC, talks about his past

For a man who never served as Israel’s prime minister, Dr. Yossi Beilin had an outsized impact on Israeli history.

A journalist for the Labor party paper Davar who entered politics as a Labor Party spokesman before being appointed cabinet secretary by Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1984, Dr. Beilin made his mark with two bold policies that were reluctantly but influentially adopted by the Israeli government: the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and the Birthright Israel program.

On Thursday, Dr. Beilin will address “The future of Israel in the Middle East” at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, in a program sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.

Dr. Beilin — he holds a doctorate in political science from Tel Aviv University — ended his political career in 2008, having served as a Knesset member for 20 years, and as deputy foreign minister, justice minister, and minister of religious affairs.


A new relationship in Ridgewood

Conservative, Reconstructionist shuls join forces, work together, retain differences

Last December, Rabbi David J. Fine of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood wrote a thoughtful and perceptive op ed in this newspaper about why the word merger, at least when applied to synagogues, seems somehow dirty, perhaps borderline pornographic. (It is, in fact, “a word that synagogue trustees often keep at a greater distance than fried pork chops,” he wrote.)

That automatic distaste is not only unhelpful, it’s also inaccurate, he continued then; in fact, some of our models, based on the last century’s understanding of affiliation, and also on post-World War II suburban demographics, simply are outdated.

If we are to flourish — perhaps to continue to flourish, perhaps to do so again — we are going to have to acknowledge change, accommodate it, and not see it as failure. Considering a merger does not mean that we’re not big enough alone, or strong enough, or interesting or compelling or affordable enough. Instead, it may present us with the chance to examine our assumptions, keep some, and discard others, he said.


Mourning possibilities

Local woman helps parents face trauma of stillbirth, infant mortality

Three decades ago, when Reva and Danny Judas’ newborn son died, just 12 hours after he was born, there was nowhere for the Teaneck couple to turn for emotional support.

Nobody wanted to talk about loss; it was believed best to get on with life and not dwell on the tragedy.

Reva Judas wasn’t willing to accept that approach, and she did not think anyone else should, either — especially after suffering six miscarriages between the births of her four healthy children.

She soon became a go-to person for others in similar situations, and eventually earned certification as a hospital chaplain. In January 2009, Ms. Judas founded the nonprofit infant and pregnancy loss support organization Nechama (the Hebrew word for “comfort”) initially at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and then at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.

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