The Neocon, The Messiah, and Cory Booker
How did Cory Booker end up so close to a right wing cult that promotes deep-rooted racism, violent Islamophobia, medieval positions on abortion, homosexuality, women’s rights and more?
Cory Booker, the Democratic candidate for New Jersey Senator, has been endorsed by the New York Times as the next progressive hope… a younger, more populist version of Barack Obama, a guy who’s not afraid to get down and dirty.
The Times’ op-ed wizards described Booker as a “deeply unconventional politician,” known for “once rushing into a burning house before the fire department arrived— saving a woman and traumatizing his security detail,” and they predicted that he “will be able to use his political star status to fight for the neglected, the powerless, people who are working and people who need to work in New Jersey and nationally.”
Unconventional indeed. But there’s one unconventional side to Booker’s progressivism that has received much less recognition. His political career was launched with the help of the Chabad-Lubavitchers, a rabidly rightwing Hasidic cult that considers its dead Rebbe a messiah and that pushes a regressive right-wing worldview that would horrify Booker’s prog supporters: deep- rooted racism, violent Islamophobia, medieval positions on everything from abortion to homosexuality and women’s rights, and a nasty tendency to normalize sexual abuse and protect serial sexual predators in its ranks.
In the early 1990s, Chabad’s passive-aggressive racism helped trigger a three-day race riot in Brooklyn. Earlier this year, a prominent Chabad rabbi mocked victims of childhood sexual abuse who went public, comparing their sexual abuse to “diarrhea” which is “embarrassing but it’s nobody’s business.”
Booker’s relationship with the sect goes back to the early ’90s, when he became an active member of Chabad outfits at Oxford and Yale. The connections he forged through Chabad have provided him with a wealthy and powerful right-wing donor network that helped seed his political career.
But the relationship was more than a simple political alliance: Booker became mesmerized with Chabad’s teachings and began studying with Chabad rabbis. He now reads Hebrew, recites portions of the Torah from memory, helps Chabad fundraise and—most disturbingly—genuinely shares the sect’s messianic worldview. As Booker told a room full of wealthy Chabadnik funders in Morristown, New Jersey, back in 2000, when he was a just a lowly Newark council member:
“…the reason why I say that I am humbled to stand before you is that I am truly empowered by the Lubavitch movement, and specifically by a number of Lubavitcher rabbis I have come to know over the last few years. They helped me take seeds that were planted by my elders, my parents and my grandparents, and nurture them in a way that allowed those seeds to flourish and blossom into the kind of work to which I have dedicated my life. “Right now, I am on the streets of Newark, battling what I think is one of the most important battles in the city, in this nation, to try to make the spirit of God alive and well. As one of my rabbi friends told me—to try to truly bring about, through effort and sweat, or whatever necessary—the Messianic Era.”
Yes, you read that right. Cory Booker, progressive star and likely future Senator of New Jersey, is “humbled” and “empowered” by Chabad, and helping “make the spirit of God alive and well … to truly bring about … the Messianic Era.”
What the hell is going on? Why is Booker throwing in with a far-right apocalyptic Jewish cult? And what does it say about his politics? To understand why Booker’s relationship with Chabad is so disturbing, you first have to understand what Chabad is all about.
Adapted from NSFWCORP Print, issue #6, published August 25, 2013.