When Chris Christie, then a candidate for governor, met with MetroWest Jewish community leaders in 2009, he pledged that he would visit Israel if elected.
He kept his promise. Moreover, he brought his family with him. This signifies to me that his April 1-5 trip to Israel was not just political, as characterized by much of the press; it was emotional and visceral.
Witnessing the governor at the Western Wall in a reflective moment, and watching his daughter emoting with her father at the travesties committed against the Jews during the Holocaust, as portrayed at Yad Vashem, indicated to me the emotional impact of this visit on the governor and his family.
And then there's the substantive. The governor met with the Prime Minister, President of Israel, and U.S. Ambassador, where he articulated his unambiguous support for the Jewish State. His words reinforced his landmark speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee several months ago.
We visited A Better Place, a now iconic Israeli company whose national infrastructure for electric vehicles is weaning Israel off of oil — a paradigm for all countries who want a better environment and freedom from relying on their enemies in the Middle East for oil.
The governor, state business leaders, and his staff met with Israeli business leaders to promote trade between New Jersey and Israeli companies. Israel is one of our state’s best trading partners, and because of our mutual synergies in high tech and pharmaceuticals, we hope more business will be generated, benefitting both states.
The governor and his entourage also witnessed that of all countries in the Middle East, only in Israel are all religions free to practice their tenets, something not possible when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem. With the chaotic “Arab Spring” leading to some of our worst nightmares, the ironclad commitment to democratic values we share is the foundation of the Garden State’s relationship with “Medinat Yisrael.”
For decades, the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ has exposed statewide and local elected officials to the natural symmetry between Israel and New Jersey. As the executive vice president of UJC MetroWest, I have had the pleasure of accompanying five sitting or future governors of New Jersey to Israel together with our leadership. Our mandate is not only to strengthen Jewish community but our bonds to the greater community, particularly its political leadership.
Hillel teaches us to not separate ourselves from our community. Through UJC, its sister organizations, the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, New Jersey-Israel Commission, and the networks established between leaders of our community and the rest of the State, we are integrating our efforts for the betterment of the Garden State, our ties to Israel, and the rest of the Jewish World.
Turning from the State of New Jersey to the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers, I am mortified by the travesty committed by the student satirical newspaper The Medium, which targeted a Jewish student activist in a “parody” op-ed “signed” by the student and illustrated with his photo. The fake op-ed delineates the “good” that Hitler did. This was done without the student’s knowledge as an April Fool’s joke. To add insult to injury, the student’s grandparents are survivors.
I’m pleased that the University will investigate this outrage as a bias incident because, as University president Richard McCormick put it in his reaction to the satire, “no individual should be subject to such a vicious, provocative and hurtful piece.”
There are those who would excuse these actions as immature pranks or defend their right to publish this venom under the cloak of the First Amendment. Was showing the Tyler Clementi webcam stream a form of artistic expression? There needs to be “red-lines” on acceptable behavior at Rutgers, which has been pilloried internationally for these breaches of “civilized” behavior.
We will be addressing these concerns in upcoming weeks with the Rutgers administration.
So from Jerusalem to New Brunswick, we literally are journeying from the sublime to the ridiculous.