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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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Stay tuned for the return of comments

 

A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Where greatness lies

A memorial to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

On July 3, 5 Tammuz, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died. He was 89.

He inspired tens of thousands of people directly — and indirectly he inspired millions more, people who have yet to discover that the spiritual approaches they hold dear were invented and graciously shared by him.

Reb Zalman was prodigiously influential over many decades, but he was not proportionately famous. He was not always given credit for his vast learning or for his astonishing array of contributions. And he was okay with that.

The first time I saw Reb Zalman, he was on the bimah of an auditorium that held 2,000 people. His face beamed love at the congregation. I had been leading another High Holiday service, and I was able to join his congregation for the last few minutes of Rosh Hashanah morning.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

RECENTLYADDED

Lessons from the Shoah

Interactive program uses testimonies to give Schechter students a new understanding

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

Is there any way to turn that around? To make any miniscule amount of good come out of great evil?

The Holocaust as living memory soon will flicker out. Survivors who can tell their stories are growing old. Soon it will be just images, photographs, videos, written and spoken words.

The Holocaust was pure evil, the unleashing of the worst human fears and instincts. There was nothing at all good about it. But in a soul-affirming act of reversal, it now is possible, almost 70 years after it ended, to use it to teach students how to become better people.

The first steps in that process are never to forget it, to honor its victims, and to listen to its survivors.

 

Hands-on learning for local rabbis

Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute teaches about war as rockets fall

If local rabbis attend the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to take advantage of what Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner calls “great learning and great people,” this year they got more than they bargained for.

Rabbi Kirshner, religious leader of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, who this year spent his fifth summer at Hartman, said that “ironically, the topic was war and peace in Jewish texts. Little did we know it would be so relevant.

“A lot of rabbis in the diaspora talk about Israel from a distance,” he said. “But to be there, to attend the funerals of the three boys” — Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, whose abduction and murder were the catalyst for the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza — “to be familiar with bomb shelters,” makes a big difference.

 

‘It’s a communal responsibility’

The sages say that before a Jewish community builds a synagogue or buys a Torah, it should build a mikvah, the ritual bath used to observe laws of family purity and complete conversions.

The Teaneck mikvah on Windsor Road, next to Temple Emeth, was built in the 1970s, and the township’s mikvah association opened a second ritual bath this spring. Set across the street from the Jewish Center of Teaneck, it is positioned to better serve families on the south side of town. The two mikvaot serve about 1,000 people each month, but rely solely on donations to cover operating costs. Now, many of Teaneck’s Orthodox synagogues are creating a new kehilla fund fee in their membership dues to help support the mikvah.

“Certain things are communal responsibilities,” said Michael Rogovin, president of Teaneck’s Netivot Shalom. “The eruv and the mivkah are really critical to our functioning as an Orthodox community.”

 
 
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