Governors of the Garden State tend to be friends of the Jewish State. It’s good politics to support Israel — the state’s large Jewish population is active at the polls, in fund-raising, and in civic service. And it’s good for the state: The New Jersey-Israel Commission fosters partnerships between local companies and Israel, which shares New Jersey’s outsize interest in high-tech, pharmaceuticals, and alternative energy. As columnist David Brooks wrote this week, Israel is “a classic innovation cluster, a place where tech obsessives work in close proximity and feed off each other’s ideas.” Sounds like home.
Even among Israel’s close friends in Trenton, however, Jon Corzine stood out. He was a frequent visitor to Israel and a regular host to delegations of Israeli diplomats and Jewish leaders. He penned a trade agreement with Israel and guaranteed that when the NJ-Israel Commission became a permanent body within the state’s Department of State, it wouldn’t lose its clout or effectiveness.
Corzine proved a strong friend of the Jewish community in other ways. He offered moral support to activists fighting to end genocide in Darfur, a cause Jewish communities have taken up as a historical imperative. He invoked Jewish values like tikun olam and education in pressing for some of the sacrifices made necessary by a grim economy and a state budget beset by crippling structural realities. He fought hard to expand SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and was a champion of three issues of particular concern to the Jewish community — initiatives that give NJ seniors more support as they age in place, a move to prohibit investment by the state’s pension and annuity funds in foreign companies that do business with Iran, and the formation of a commission to study the high cost of private education.
In his own inaugural speech four years ago, he urged voters to “hold me accountable” should he not live up to his own pledge to put New Jersey back on the right track. In a sense, voters did just that, electing Chris Christie as his successor in hopes that the Republican could succeed where Corzine couldn’t. As Christie prepares to take his oath of office on Jan. 19 and Jon Corzine begins his next chapter, we offer our blessing that the new governor find success where Corzine couldn’t, and is inspired by the high standards Corzine set as an advocate for Israel, a champion of the less fortunate, and a model of menschlichkeit.