Cory Booker thanks God in Hebrew after Democratic debate
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Cory Booker thanks God in Hebrew after Democratic debate

NJ senator also says he’s ready to give a Torah sermon at any synagogue; Rahm Emanuel compliments him on his ‘Yiddish’

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker speaks during the third Democratic presidential primary debate at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 2019. (Robyn Beck/AFP)
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker speaks during the third Democratic presidential primary debate at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 2019. (Robyn Beck/AFP)

US Senator Cory Booker thanked God in Hebrew following the Democratic presidential primary debate on Thursday and said he would be happy to give a sermon on the weekly Torah reading at any synagogue that will have him.

“Thank God, Baruch Hashem, that we’re doing multilingual tonight,” Booker told ABC News on the sidelines of the debate, which was also broadcast in Spanish.

Booker, from New Jersey, has previously showed off his knowledge of Hebrew on the campaign trail, accusing US President Donald Trump last month of lacking the Jewish values of “tzedakah” and “chesed.”

At a CNN town hall in March, he quoted a line of Hebrew scripture from the Torah, which he studied while at Oxford University.

Booker’s most recent use of Hebrew caught the attention of Rahm Emanuel, the Jewish ex-mayor of Chicago who was a chief of staff to former US president Barack Obama.

“I actually think your Yiddish was pretty good,” Emanuel, the son of a Hebrew-speaking Israeli immigrant, told Booker.

“I’ll get you into the synagogue. You’re just going to have to pay for the High Holidays,” joked Emanuel.

Booker pounced at the offer.

“I’m ready for the Dvar Torah this week and any synagogue that welcomes me to come speak, I’m ready,” he said.

“Your Yiddish is great, man,” Emmanuel said in response.

Booker’s love for Judaism can at least partially be traced back to the roots of his friendship with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom he met while studying at Oxford. Boteach was a spiritual leader for Oxford students at the time.

The New Jersey senator keeps a Hebrew Torah on his desk, stayed close with Boteach until Booker supported the Iran nuclear deal, and has used Hebrew and Jewish concepts in speeches throughout his political career.

Jeffrey Goldberg, now the editor in chief of The Atlantic, said in 2013 that Booker knows more Torah than most of the Senate’s Jewish members.

Booker is currently ranked eighth among Democratic presidential hopefuls in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls.

JTA contributed to this report.

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