A Jewish audience in New Brunswick expected Newark Mayor Cory Booker to share his vision of how his city could overcome the challenges of poverty and crime.
Instead, he gave them some wisdom from their own religion while explaining how crime had been reduced in Newark and sharing ideas about economic renewal in New Jersey’s largest city.
“I’m going to give you a bit of d’var Torah,” said Booker after pushing the podium to the back of the stage at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick April 6 so he could stride back and forth. But “before I go into this week’s Torah portion I want to tell you why this goy is talking about Torah.”
In a wide-ranging speech that relates the Book of Leviticus to America’s founding ideals, Booker compares our ideals of “under God, indivisible” to outmoded policy decisions that have a negative impact on Newarkers.
Although the state budget has earmarked more than $1 billion for corrections and it was the largest part of his city’s budget, the state continues “to grease the slopes of recidivism” by failing to address cyclical poverty and other factors perpetuating crime.
Moreover, the state doesn’t fund halfway houses, despite evidence that counseling and supervision to those reentering society “dramatically” cuts the rate of recidivism.
“They’d much rather have the taxpayers pay much more on the back end,” said Booker. “We’ve got to stop the insanity.”
The Mayor was once the first non-Jewish president of the L’Chaim Society while studying at Oxford University. (Hat tip to Miss Tam-Tam at Newark Speaks.)