Corzine, good for the Jews?

Corzine, good for the Jews?

Jacob Berkman
Lois Goldrich

Now that the mudslinging is over and Sen. Jon Corzine is the state’s governor-elect, Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs chairman turned liberal politician, has pledged to pull the state’s politics away from special interests, focusing instead on what is good for New Jersey as a whole.

And, New Jersey Jews seem excited about working with the governor-to-be.

"Clearly, this is a significant victory. The people have spoken," said Jeffrey Maas, the executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, which represents the state’s federations in Trenton. "The Jewish community has a long-standing relationship with Jon Corzine, and we look forward to continuing to grow that relationship."

Maas said that Corzine was "very, very friendly" with the Jewish community and that he had "deep contacts" within the community. Corzine, he said, is an advocate for Israel and has visited the Jewish State on a number of occasions.

Maas also feels that Corzine’s agenda for New Jersey will sit well with the state’s Jews. "He has expressed concern for [Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities] on the federal level," he said. "With his position on things like Medicaid, and other social stands he has made, he has shown a concern for meeting the needs of those who are less fortunate in society."

Rabbi Menachem Genack, the head of kashrut for the Orthodox Union and the rabbi of Englewood’s Cong. Shomrei Emunah, is encouraged by Corzine’s potential to be sympathetic to Jewish concerns as governor.
The O.U. is a consultant for the U.S. Department of Corrections about the religious concerns of Jewish inmates, and Genack said that Corzine has been instrumental in seeing to it that all of the state’s Jewish inmates can practice their religion.

The O.U. called on Corzine earlier this year when those Jewish inmates in New Jersey who were not on the general kosher food plan had trouble getting kosher-for-Passover food.

Responding to the O.U.’s concerns, representatives from Corzine’s office met with several deputy commissioners within the corrections department. As a result, the O.U. has been able to help inmates acquire more religious tools. Incarcerated Jews even had a sukkah this year.

"Because there is such a small population in the state of Jewish prisoners, there was a limited program. Kosher food was a problem. Tefillin were a problem. Getting a sukkah was a problem, and inmates have a tendency to be too intimidated to ask for help. Corzine felt strongly about this," said Genack. "He told me during this process how happy he was that this is being taken care of."

"We look forward to working with Governor-Elect Corzine. We have had success working with him in the past, when he was a senator," said Joy Kurland, the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the UJA-Federation of Northern New Jersey.

Kurland said that the JCRC most recently worked with Corzine to help drum up support for its Darfur advocacy program. Corzine, she said, was a co-sponsor of the Senate’s Darfur Accountability Act.

"He has showed support for the federation," she said. "When we have had missions to Washington and there are issues on the Jewish communal agenda, we’ve always met with both Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Corzine, and they have always been supportive of the Jewish community."

State Senator-elect Loretta Weinberg is "overjoyed" that U.S. Senator Jon Corzine has been elected governor. Weinberg served as the honorary campaign co-chair during his run for the Senate and considers him a good friend.

Noting that they shared their first cup of coffee at Louie’s on Cedar Lane in Teaneck, she said that Corzine encouraged her "to take the next step" in her own career.

She believes Corzine has "stood up" as a U.S. Senator and believes "in her heart" that he will "make the tough decisions" that need to be made in New Jersey, making "basic changes in how we pay our taxes and doing something about the inappropriate behavior" in the government.

Otherwise, "he will have me to answer to," she says.