Is Popular Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Making a Run for Congress?

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The popular rabbi known to some as “America’s Rabbi” just made New Jersey’s newly-formed 9th congressional district race a little more interesting. Best known for his book “Kosher Sex,” his television show “Shalom in the Home,” and his, for a time, spiritually advising Michael Jackson, Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has thrown his name - or as he says "yarmulke" - in as a possible candidate for the Republican primary. Boteach sent a letter of intent to Bergen County Republican Organization’s (BCRO) offices before the January 31st deadline stating that he is considering running, according to “PolitickerNJ.” The letter of intent doesn’t mean he’s running for certain, as Boteach said via Twitter on February 3rd:

The next day he sounded more resolute:

Boteach laid out his reasons for considering a House run in his Jerusalem Post column, revealing he turned down an offer in 2008 from then-candidate Barack Obama to co-chair “Rabbis for Obama,” because he disagreed with him on too many issues:

And now, in the same spirit, I have cast my yarmulke into the ring by declaring my desire to seek the Republican nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s ninth district where I live. I am now actively exploring the viability of my candidacy and my ability to integrate existing responsibilities into the considerable effort a successful candidacy will entail. Why would a rabbi run for Congress? Because the problems we’re seeing in our great nation are not caused by an economic downturn but by a values erosion, and I intend to be the values voice that Congress so desperately needs. The values that have dominated the American political landscape for decades are the American obsession with gay marriage and abortion, to the exclusion of nearly all others, which explains why our country is so incredibly religious yet so seemingly decadent. It’s time to expand the values conversation and policy agenda.

Detailing his platform, he described his plan to save the institution of marriage by promoting legislation to make marital counseling tax-deductible. As the son of divorced parents, his show “Shalom in the Home” aimed to keep families together. He mapped out his ideas to combat materialism on which he blames the economic collapse and supports a moment of silence in public schools:

And while we’re at it, let’s consider legislation to recreate an American Sabbath so parents have an incentive to take their kids to a park rather than teaching them to find satisfaction in the impulse purchase. Bergen County, where I live, has Blue Laws that keep shopping malls shut on Sundays allowing families to coalesce around the dinner table rather than the department store. Beyond helping the family this will also help counter the growing materialism that continues to poison the American soul leading to the near-collapse of a $10 trillion economy just three years ago when we had homes that were never large enough, cars that were never new enough, and designer labels that were never fashionable enough. Eighty-one percent of 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed in a Pew Research Center poll said getting rich is their generation’s most important or second-most-important life goal, while 51% said the same about being famous. I am pro-wealth, but only when it is consecrated to a goal higher than mere consumption. That is why I propose a moment of silence to start the day in public schools so children are given time to reflect on issues and a Being larger than themselves.

Boteach says he believes in the separation of church and state, but not “chasing God from public life.” He supports a flat tax, school vouchers, values-based education and a dress code in public schools. On foreign policy, he believes “President Obama has allowed America’s global leadership to seriously weaken.” On the Middle East, he wrote:

…it seems that under our president’s watch Iran will build a nuclear weapon. I will push for and support the drastic measures necessary to ensure that so dangerous and murderous a regime never acquires a doomsday device. President Obama has, thankfully, reversed course on his unfair pressure on Israel and deserves credit for increasing military and intelligence cooperation with the Jewish state. But who is to say that this has not happened because of his shellacking in the 2010 midterm elections and that the pressure won’t resume if reelected? For this reason, and because Israel is America’s most stalwart and reliable ally – championing American-democratic ideals in the world’s most dangerous region – I intend to be Israel’s staunchest supporter in the United States Congress, should the good people of the New Jersey’s ninth district see fit to choose me as their representative.

Boteach told the Jewish Standard he will base his decision on his ability to recruit the funds necessary to launch a race he estimates as requiring at least a million dollars Boteach has authored many books including the best-selling “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Adultery – Seduce and Sin with Your Spouse.” His latest book, “Kosher Jesus” has garnered controversy among some rabbis, one of whom called it heretical. According to Boteach, the book aims:

to offer to Jews and Christians the real story of Jesus, a wholly observant, Pharisaic Rabbi who fought Roman paganism and oppression and was killed for it. While many Christians will be confused by its assertion that Jesus never claimed divinity and not only did not abrogate the Torah but observed every letter of the Law, they will find comfort in my tracing most of Jesus principal teachings back to Jewish sources, this before he was stripped of his Jewishness by later writers who sought to portray him as an enemy of his people. This is especially true of Jesus' most famous oration, the Sermon on the Mount, which is a reformulation of the Torah he studied and to which he was committed.

Boteach has close relations with evangelical Christians. In 2004, he wrote:

I am a Jew who is deeply in love with evangelical Christians. Although I am at odds with them on various issues, they today constitute the most potent force for good in all America, and the most influential constituency who consistently demands that America be a nation of justice, standing up for the persecuted and living up to its founding ideals of serving as a global beacon of freedom.

If he runs, Boteach will face the Democratic primary winner – either Rep. Steve Rothman or Rep. Bill Pascrell. Two other Republican candidates submitted letters of intent according to PolitickerNJ: Blase Billack of Saddle River, an associate professor of pharmacology at St. John’s University, and Bruce Wrede of Saddle River, senior technician at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission. Boteach is the father of nine children, including a son who was nominated to West Point and a daughter who is set to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. About a month ago, the rabbi’s name was floated as a possible choice for chief rabbi of the UK. He has been a guest on the Glenn Beck Program on GBTV, most recently in September.

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