America’s Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Scores Eric Cantor’s Endorsement

Allison Yarrow on the cleric-to-the-stars’ bid for elected office.

It’s kismet—”America’s rabbi” has won the endorsement of his friend and Congress’s only Jewish Republican. It also comes with $5000.

The Super PAC supporting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, ERICPAC, gave a maximum campaign contribution to Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author, sex expert, and self-help maven who’s running for New Jersey’s 9th District House seat. “I appreciate your congratulations,” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told me on the phone from his car just before the sun set, when I mentioned the money. “I’d appreciate it if you matched it.” He said he hadn’t realized how big a role fundraising plays in running for office, and that it has been his least favorite part of the experience.

“Eric and I are close friends. We’ve studied Torah together,” said Boteach, who is running as a Republican. “We have a strong spiritual relationship based on mutual Jewish values and observances.” He said he and Cantor had discussed the possibility of his running for years, and that he admires Cantor’s ascent to become arguably the highest Jewish government official ever. “Jewishness is central to his identity. I find that inspiring,” he said.

The bromance goes both ways. Cantor extolled Boteach’s leadership and ability to “create job growth and end runaway spending in Washington” in a press release.

But the 45-year-old cleric-to-the-stars counts all sides of the aisle in his brood. Politicians he said he would model himself in addition to Cantor include Corey Booker, Newark’s Democratic mayor, Allen West, a Florida Tea Party Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut’s Independent senator.Boteac, running as “The Values Voice,” has emerged as the Republican favorite in a newly drawn, Democratic-leaning district that’s pitting two incumbent Democrats, Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell, against in each other in a heated contest. The rabbi has framed his bid as an effort to shift away from the polarizing social issues toward points of conservative consensus that strengthen families, a position he says is intrinsically Jewish. He laments that America is ensnared in a debate about gay marriage, when he says we should instead address the staggering rate of divorce.

“If we want to save America, we need to stop talking about gay men and women. The only men who want to get married America are gay.”To fix America, Boteach says, Jewish values should help bridge the social divide.

“We should not be relying on our evangelical and Catholic brethren to do it,” he says.