The Observer has learned that Senator Cory Booker, who is under fire from Jewish supporters who had long treated him as one of their own, has convened an unusual emergency meeting to shore up his support in the wake of his decision to support President Obama’s deal with Iran.
Around noon on Friday afternoon, Mr. Booker’s Deputy Chief of Staff, George Helmy, started emailing leaders of the Jewish community to invite them to a hastily assembled “small roundtable discussion on the JCPOA in his office.” The meeting, which will take place at the Gateway Center on Tuesday at noon, will be joined by Treasury undersecretary Adam Szubin, who will help explain how, “After weeks weeks [sic] of study and consultation, Senator Booker made the decision he feels [sic] in the best interest of Israel, the United States, and our allies.”
The invitation appeals to its recipients’ vanity, assuring them it is only being “sent to his dearest friends and those whom he relies on for counsel.” For those still not feeling the love, another Booker staffer, Matt Klapper, larded it on hours later, sending a follow-up note asking to “discuss the JCPOA, as well as steps that need to be taken to keep Iran in the corner given the new challenges we’ll soon face.”
The invitation lists comprise a who’s who of influential Jewish leaders in New York and New Jersey, including Raphael Benaroya, the managing director of Biltmore Capital Group; Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union Kosher Division; Lori Fein, the New Jersey Director of the Zionist Organization of America; Ben Chouake, the Englewood, NJ, doctor who heads Norpac, the national PAC that supports Israel-friendly candidates; and Rabbi Aaron Kotler, who leads an important congregation in Lakewood, NJ.
Rabbi Genack told the Observer that he intends to attend. “I am going,” he emailed. In a later phone interview, he said, “I am going. I’m profoundly disappointed in his decision. I’ve been talking to him about it all along and I’m disappointed.” Reflecting the charged atmosphere—or perhaps the lack of courage on display throughout this episode—Mr. Genack tried to roll back his critical remarks moments after making them. After twice characterizing himself as “profoundly disappointed” by Mr. Booker’s decision, the rabbi thought better of his words and told the Observer that he had intended his remarks not to be attributed to him. However profound Mr. Genack’s disappointment, he also helped organize a conference call two weeks ago during which Mr. Booker explained his position to the Jewish community, before he had announced which way he’d be voting.
Given the anger among the community, some are shocked by how readily Jews have lined up to attend a meeting hosted by someone who days earlier announced his support for a deal widely perceived – among this very same community at least – to represent an existential threat to the state of Israel. One prominent rabbi told the Observer, “I think even Booker’s staff is surprised how quickly the Jewish leaders said yes.”
If I were Jewish, I’d be gravely disturbed to see my religious leaders lining up to go anywhere, especially if it was to pay tribute to an enemy of my race.