Could New Jersey elect first rabbi to Congress?

By Jennifer Lipman, October 25, 2012
Tough contest: Rabbi Boteach (Photo: AP)

Tough contest: Rabbi Boteach (Photo: AP)

In a little over a week, Shmuley Boteach will find out whether his mission to become the first Orthodox rabbi to serve as a United States Congressman has been successful.

He is vying for a typically Democrat-held seat in New Jersey. His chances are not great; his opponent has been endorsed by former president Bill Clinton and the district does not tend to vote for the Grand Old Party.

But whether or not he wins, the campaign will go down in the history books — because of its cost. Analysis this week revealed that it is the most expensive race in the state, to the tune of $27.8 million.

Rabbi Boteach, the author of books including Kosher Sex and Kosher Jesus, has reportedly been backed by Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, who are said to have donated to upward of $500,000 to pro-Boteach political action committees.

But he has been outspent by his opponent in the race for the 9th Congressional District — Bill Pascrell, a four-term Roman Catholic congressman with a Master’s degree in philosophy.

In the course of the campaign, the rabbi has accused his opponent of being complacent, stating in an official debate: “You have been in Congress too long.” Rabbi Boteach has also spoken repeatedly about job creation and his belief in smaller government.

Crucially for a Republican, however, the rabbi said he did not advocate overturning the law legalising abortion. “The last thing America needs is a cultural war for the next 40 years, which will stop us from discussing the real moral issues,” he said. “Many people in the Republican party are obsessed with abortion and gay marriage. I don’t want to talk about gay marriage. Us straight people have done a fine job of destroying marriage, thank you very much.”

If Rabbi Boteach manages a miracle win, he will find Washington low on Jewish Republicans. House Majority leader Eric Cantor is the only Jewish Republican congressman currently in office. Mr Cantor, who is campaigning for re-election for a fourth term serving Virginia’s seventh District, is expected to enjoy a comfortable victory.

Last updated: 5:01pm, October 29 2012