Okay, this is another one that goes on both blogs, because I feel the personal and political impact are both important.
No, not the light from the tower at Newark International Airport. This is a light far brighter. This is a light that will reach much further. This is a light that has warmed my soul, brightened my heart and illuminated my brain. This is a light called Cory Booker.
I’ll get into the specifics of the evening in the next blog, but let me focus on one, extremely inspirational beacon that emanated most brightly from last night’s AIPAC dinner.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a group that has been around for over half a century working toward maintaining and strengthening the key US-Israel relationship. They are considered to be the pro-Israel lobby group, and I am happy to say that I will be at the national conference in DC this Spring!
The key note speaker was Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, NJ and, coincidentally (although not to his publicist, I am sure…) he was just a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. The irony was that we came home from the dinner, fell into bed, turned the TV on and there was Cory!
To say he is intelligent is an understatement. He has two degrees from Stanford, a B.A. from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar and a law degree from Yale. Did I mention that I was a double Yale reject?
To say he is articulate, is an understatement. He spoke without notes, and with such deep knowledge, that I will be e-mailing him for his life’s reading list.
To say he is passionate is an understatement. He let you into his very soul and made you realize the positive power that one human being can have on another.
He quotes from the bible, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and old Jewish teachings and traditions like an expert in all of them. And the thing is… he makes you realize how they all go hand in hand… how all human beings who believe in justice and equality can find and share common ground. All it takes is an openess and a dialogue.
Who would have thought that a large black man (his self reference) would teach a room full of Jews something about Judaism they might not have known? He did. He makes me want to be a better Jew, but more importantly, a better person.
When he says we need to go way beyond “tolerance” he is right. This is something I have thought for a long while. Tolerance is a good start, but acceptance and identification are far stronger and far more vital to our survival and happiness. It shows thought and consideration. We may have different beliefs, but human beings are, or at least should be, one community. That is not to say we abandon who we are, not at all. We need to celebrate who we are, celebrate our differences… but there are so many things we can borrow from others… things that will give us a sense of spirituality, strength, pleasure and pride… a way to look at the world, a way to act…
He said that his immersion into Judaism strenghtened his own faith and his own beliefs. This is what makes me proud to be Jewish. I have always been taught to learn and explore other faiths and religions. And it has strengthened my own beliefs, too. Let us not exclude, but include… and not just with others, but with ourselves. There is so much out there to empower us and make us better human beings… and there is not a single group who has the market cornered!
Jews and Israel are under fire now, literally and otherwise. Nations are calling for boycotts of goods, services, and perhaps worst of all… culture. They do this with ignorance and blindness. Judaism has so much to teach the world… so much about justice and equality and the very notion of healing the world. Judaism is beautiful… not something to be afraid of. It has so much to offer.
And a large black man quoting Martin Luther King and James Baldwin told me that. A large non-Jewish black man inspired me about my own beliefs and religion.
My only gripe is this… why didn’t you play football for Northwestern? We’re smart!