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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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Praying while female at the Kotel

Women of the Wall representative to speak locally

What’s going on with the Women of the Wall now?

What’s happening with gender equality and pluralism in Israel, now that the Israeli election is over?

Women of the Wall, made up of women from across the Jewish spectrum, has fought for the right to pray at the Kotel — Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the symbolic center of Jewish life, the magnet that draws observant and non-observant Jews, non-Jews, poets, and often even skeptics, close to it, as if they were pure iron filings.

The group, which was formed in the late 1980s, has been bolstered by legal wins. Its most important recent victory was the April 2013 decision by Judge Moshe Sobel of the Jerusalem District Court, who ruled that the city police were wrong when they arrested five women for the crime of wearing tallitot at the women’s section of the Kotel.

 

‘Oy vey, my child is gay’

Orthodox parents seek shared connection in upcoming retreat

Eshel, a group that works to bridge the divide that often separates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews from their Orthodox communities, is holding its third annual retreat for Orthodox parents of those LGBT Jews next month.

Although most of its work is done with Orthodox LGBT Jews — who may or may not be the children of the parents at the retreat — the retreat offers parents community, immediate understanding, the freedom to speak that comes with that understanding, the chance to learn, and the opportunity to model healthy acceptance.

“There are particular issues to being Orthodox and having a gay child, although it varies a lot from community to community,” Naomi Oppenheim of Teaneck said. “You worry about what the community is thinking about you. Someone — I don’t remember who — said, ‘When my kid came out, I went into the closet.’”

 

Twenty years later

Stephen Flatow remembers his murdered daughter Alisa

When you ask attorney Stephen Flatow of West Orange how many children he has, his answer is immediate.

“I have five children,” he says.

Not surprising. What father doesn’t know how many children he has?

And how are they doing?

Four of them are flourishing; they are all married and all parents. Mr. Flatow and his wife, Rosalyn, have 13 grandchildren, and another one’s on the way. (And three of the Flatows’ children live in Bergen County.)

But the fifth, his oldest, Alisa, was murdered by terrorists when she was 20; her 20th yahrzeit was last week. She has been dead as long as she was alive.

“Just because she isn’t there now, that doesn’t mean I’m not her father,” he said. “I just don’t have any recent pictures of her to show.”

 

RECENTLYADDED

News from a Jersey girl

CNN’s Dana Bash talks at a benefit for the Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School

Dana Bash is CNN’s chief congressional correspondent.

At 43, she has more than a decade of high-visibility work for the network behind her, and she will provide its coverage of the almost ludicrously crowded Republican field, as more than two dozen candidates compete for camera time and voter approval.

Ms. Bash is also a graduate of Pascack Hills High School, a self-proclaimed Jersey girl, and a deeply committed Jew.

Ms. Bash will speak on Sunday, May 3, at Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, to benefit the Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School in Oakland. Laurie Nahum and Rick Krieger will be honored that evening for their service to the school as well.

 

A Jewish day school with a difference

Shefa School helps students with language disabilities

It took “a giant leap of faith” for Gila Cohen and her husband to send their son from Teaneck to the Shefa School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for fifth grade.

The school, after all, was just opening its doors.

But her son, who had been diagnosed with dyslexia, was struggling at his Bergen County Jewish day school.

“They were helping him but not giving him the skills to read himself. They don’t have time to do that,” Ms. Cohen said.

She in fact had been looking for a non-Jewish school that could help with his disabilities. Then she heard about the Shefa School “and we decided to apply.” The Shefa School promised to be a Jewish school for children with language-based learning disabilities.

 

Press for marriage rights in Israel

North Jersey Board of Rabbis advocates for civil marriage, pluralistic possibilities in the Jewish state

Last week, the North Jersey Board of Rabbis, representing local non-Orthodox clergy, voted unanimously to endorse a resolution to “support a pluralistic approach to marriage in Israel.”

Beginning by saying, simply, clearly, and unequivocally, that “We love the State of Israel. We want it to succeed in every way possible,” the rabbis who signed the document put their names to the call for freedom of religion in Israel.

That would include the chance to have a civil rather than a religious wedding ceremony, or to have a Jewish couple’s wedding officiant belong to a stream of Judaism other than Orthodoxy.

“The North Jersey Board of Rabbis is transdenominational, and we have debated informally for a while if we should be taking stands on public issues,” Rabbi Steven Sirbu of Temple Emeth in Teaneck, its president, said. “This issue is one that non-Orthodox rabbis have grappled with for a long time.”

 
 
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