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NJ pro-Israel PAC raises funds for Cory Booker
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NJ pro-Israel PAC raises funds for Cory Booker

In Englewood, donors give $100,000 toward possible Senate run

A pro-Israel PAC fund-raiser for Newark Mayor Cory Booker brought in $100,000, even though Booker has not yet made his intentions to run for United States senator in 2014 official.

The April 21 fund-raiser at a private home in Englewood was hosted by NORPAC, a nonpartisan PAC that backs pro-Israel congressional candidates.

Its president, Ben Chouake, said 40 people attended the event, where the 43-year-old mayor spoke to “our key concern, Iran.”

“He is a supporter of foreign aid and America’s partnership with Israel, and he talked specifically about Iran, saying it was extremely important that America prevent this terrible danger [of Iranian nuclear attack] from happening,” said Chouake, in a phone interview a day after the gathering.

The event was off-limits to reporters, but Chouake said the Democratic mayor of New Jersey’s largest city was especially popular among Jewish suburbanites.

“He is very well versed in Jewish customs and Jewish history and is deeply engaged with the community — not just going to a synagogue or a Holocaust memorial. On a weekly basis he has been deeply committed for 15 years, and you’ve got to consider it to some extent genuine. He has a proven track record with our community,” Chouake said.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Dist. 6) is a potential rival to Booker in the Democratic race to succeed retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Should he run, he would be able to transfer the $3.4 million raised for his House campaign to a Senate committee, according to USA Today.

But NORPAC’s Chouake said Pallone has not declared nor has he committed to a Senate run. “He has asked us to do an event for him” when he runs for another term in the House, said Chouake.

Booker’s supporters include Hollywood movie moguls such as Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams, Jerry Weintraub, and Rob Reiner; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; basketball player Jason Kidd; and businesswoman Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Donald Trump and daughter-in-law of New Jersey builder Charles Kushner.

“A race for a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey will cost $25 to $30 million,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for NJ Politics at Rider University. “You have to buy New York television advertising, which is the most expensive in the country, and it only covers half the state. You also have to buy airtime in Philadelphia, which is the fourth-most-expensive media market in the country.

“How do you raise that? It helps to have supporters all over the country.”

Dworkin agreed that Booker, who famously headed a Jewish student group while a student at Oxford University in England, has cultivated considerable Jewish support.

“He is popular among the Jewish community because he is pro-Israel and has a strong sensitivity to Israel’s challenges,” said Dworkin. “He is a key player, and folks in NORPAC want to make sure they have a good relationship with him.”

Asked whether Republican as well as Democratic NORPAC members might support Booker for senator, Chouake said, “I don’t know how people vote, but I think he is palatable to our members. People like a moderate Republican or a moderate Democrat; most of our membership is in the middle.”

As an African-American, Booker is a positive force for NORPAC’s cause and its constituency, said Chouake.

If elected, “other than the president, he will be one of the highest black officials in America,” said Chouake. “That immediately thrusts him into national leadership.”

African-Americans tend to be less supportive of Israel than the population at large, polls suggest.

Chouake said he doesn’t know if Booker “speaks to the black community on our issue but he has their ear, and he certainly deserves it. If he does, I am grateful for it.”

The NORPAC official said he was especially impressed by a story Booker related at the gathering. He said that during President Barack Obama’s visit to Yad Vashem last month, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel and child survivor of Buchenwald, told the president the words of the U.S. soldier who arrived to liberate the concentration camp: “We came too late.”

“We cannot be too late for this,” said Booker, echoing the rabbi’s words as he warned of Iran’s possible nuclear intentions.

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