Pro-Israel stalwart David Steiner, considered to be a top Democratic fund-raiser, is throwing his support behind incumbent Rep. Bill Pascrell in his primary fight against challenger Rep. Steve Rothman in the reconfigured 9th Congressional District.

Pascrell and Rothman have been lining up endorsements for their expected June 5 Democratic primary showdown. On March 1, the Pascrell camp issued an e-mail statement by Steiner, a West Orange resident.

“Bill Pascrell has shown time and again that he will stand and fight for middle-class taxpayers against Tea Party Republican efforts to slash Medicare and Social Security,” Steiner’s e-mail said. “Over the years, Bill has proven that he is a fighter, willing to stand up for families in his district, and unafraid to take on the tough issues and the difficult fights.”

Steiner’s endorsement follows that of Herb Klein, who represented Pascrell’s current 8th CD in Congress from 1993 to 1995, as Pascrell’s camp seeks to shore up support within the Jewish community.

Steiner is a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a major donor to United Jewish Communities of MetroWest. He sits on the board of the National Jewish Democratic Council, is chief executive officer of the Steiner Equities Group, owns Steiner Studios in Queens, and is a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

Rothman also has been touting endorsements from leaders in the Jewish community. This Sunday, Rothman will be hosted by NORPAC, a pro-Israel PAC, at a Teaneck fund-raiser. NORPAC has endorsed Rothman in the 9th.

In February, the Rothman campaign mailed out an announcement from a score of Orthodox synagogue presidents in Passaic urging their Republican-affiliated congregants to switch party registration in time to vote for Rothman in the June 5 primary.

In an interview, Steiner explained why he was backing Pascrell over Rothman, who is Jewish and outspoken in his Israel advocacy.

“Bill Pascrell has been a stalwart supporter of Israel ever since he has been in Congress, and that is why I am going to continue to support him,” Steiner said. “I think he has been very good for Israel. Every time I have called him, I have gotten a good response. I think he deserves to be reelected.”

Pascrell has drawn NORPAC support in the past, but critics have pointed to occasional votes and positions he has taken that were not supported by AIPAC. Pascrell’s district includes the large Arab-American population in Paterson.

Until the redrawing of district maps, Rothman had represented most of Bergen County, which has a large Jewish population.

“I think Steve Rothman does a great job up in Bergen County, and it is one thing to be able to stand up and speak for Israel in Fair Lawn and Teaneck,” said Steiner, referring to two towns with sizable Jewish populations. “But it takes a lot more courage to do that in Paterson.”

Responding on Rothman’s behalf, spokesperson Aaron Keyak wrote in a March 2 e-mail that, while “we appreciate Mr. Steiner’s judgment…, [Rep.] Rothman’s pro-Israel credentials speak for themselves.”

New Jersey Jewish News