Cory Booker and Richard Joel
John Taylor and Debbie Boteach
Booker In The Hood
At 86th Convocation
seems to find himself in the right places at the right times.
Two decades ago, as a 22-year-old Rhodes scholar at Oxford, he
found himself one night at Shmuley Boteach’s L’Chaim
Society, a Jewish cultural center on campus.
He was invited by a young
woman for a Simchat Torah celebration. When he walked into
Chabad House everyone froze. He looked for his date but found
men with beards and skullcaps.
Disappointed on not
finding his date, he turned to leave when the rabbi’s wife ran
over. "The young lady who was to meet you couldn’t make it," she
said. "Please join us."
"This is a scene from
Yentl," he thought.
She sat him down next to
Rabbi Boteach. They explored each other’s culture, and began to
study Torah late every night.
Booker learned that
Judaism is all about values. Boteach asked him to lead L’Chaim
Society. "Now I know you’re meshugah," Booker said.
Booker even lit Oxford’s
Chanukah menorah alongside Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
"The rabbi’s wife,
Debbie, changed my life," Booker related at Yeshiva
University’s 86th annual convocation in December at
the Waldorf-Astoria, where he received an honorary degree along
with Laurie Tisch, Emanuel Gruss, Arthur Hershaft and
"Why was I so drawn to
Judaism?" Booker said at the YU convocation. "Because this world
needs people who will choose to live those values. The world
needs Jews who have recognized their chosenness. It should not
be an insular faith, but ennoble people to change the world. I
came to Chabad House that night to find my bashert and found a
Ten years ago Booker
introduced Boteach to his half brother, John Taylor, who
now works as national director of Boteach’s Turn Friday Night
into Family Night. The outreach program aims to promote family
values among Jews and gentiles alike.
Re-elected mayor of
Newark this year, Booker again found himself at the right place
at the right time.
In July he found himself
seated next to billionaire Mark Zuckerberg at a dinner in
Sun Valley, Idaho. They must have gotten along famously, for two
months later the founder of Facebook announced a $100 million
grant to improve Newark’s school system.
As Yeshiva University
President Richard Joel placed the hood over Booker’s
shoulders and handed him a diploma of honorary degree of doctor
of humane letters, he said, "When speaking to Jewish groups you
implore them to be Jewish, to live by Jewish values of tzedaka
and healing the world."
Joel announced to the 800
assembled guests, "The mayor is 41, single and needs a shidduch