Israel Obituary Politics

Rest in Peace Mayor Teddy (1911-2007)

I’ve met a few big city mayors in my life (Detroit’s Dennis Archer, Ed Koch of NYC, and Michael Coleman of Columbus), but no one will ever surpass Jerusalem’s Mayor Teddy Kollek, may his memory be for a blessing) in popularity, sincerity, or menschlichkeit.

In July 1996, I was walking in front of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel with my dad and his friend Lazer Dorfman. Lazer pointed to the short, old man standing in front of a car with the car alarm blaring and said, “That’s Teddy Kollek, the old mayor of Jerusalem.” We went up to say hi and he shook our hands explaining that his driver was inside and he accidentally set off the car alarm. I took the keys and quickly turned off the alarm. Mayor Teddy was very thankful for our help and we talked until hisdriver returned.

Whenever I tell this story to a native Israeli, their face lights up and they tell their own story of what a nice guy and great mayor Teddy Kollek was. He will sorely be missed.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Jewish Politics

I’m Going to the Shul!

“Mr. and Mrs. Bernanke, Your son Ben Shalom has just been nominated as the new Chairman of the United States of America’s Federal Reserve, a position some call the most powerful in the world. Where are you going?”

“Um, we thought we’d just go the shul for our adult ed class.”

Rabbi Jason MillerThat’s right, not to Disneyland or either to D.C. to see the Senate approve their son Ben Shalom Bernanke‘s nomination to replace Alan Greenspan as the Fed Chairman.

The Los Angeles times reports that “Bernanke’s parents are staying home in North Carolina because their son has told them there’s nothing to see. They don’t plan on being glued to the TV either. ‘We have a class at the synagogue,’ Edna Bernanke said. ‘We’ll put a tape in the VCR and see if we caught something when we come home.'”

So we learn three important things about the new Fed Chairman’s parents from Mrs. Bernanke’s quote:

A) She wanted her son to become a doctor;
B) Either her rabbi’s a good teacher or the shul serves good coffee at evening classes; and,
C) They don’t have Tivo.

Well, good luck to Ben Shalom Bernanke in his new position. The world (perhaps excluding Mom and Dad) will be watching.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Israel Jewish Politics

Stuart Rabner to become "Ethical Bodyguard" to Governor Jon Corzine

Rabbi Jason Miller and Senator Jon CorzineA couple weeks ago, my friend Stuart Rabner was tapped by New Jersey Governor-elect Jon Corzine (that’s him with me in the photo on the right) to serve as his chief counsel. I didn’t realize what this meant until I read in the New Jersey Star Ledger article that “One source close to the governor-elect’s decision said Rabner would act as Corzine’s ‘ethical bodyguard,’ helping him navigate the dirty waters of New Jersey politics.”

Well, if the new Governor of New Jersey (who by the way used to be the Senator of New Jersey) is in need of an ethical bodyguard, I can tell you from experience that Stu Rabner is your man! Stu is a friend from my days in Caldwell, New Jersey where we lived for three years and I served as Rabbinic Intern at the Conservative synagogue Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex. Stu was a great shul President at Agudath who took the job very seriously.

In the same article, William Megary, former special agent in charge of the FBI in Newark, said Rabner often soothed natural tensions between the agencies.

“He’s got a very calm demeanor and he’s just a very gracious person,” Megary said. “He is as effective as any mad dog prosecutor, but he does it as a gentleman.”
Rabner drives a five-year-old Dodge Intrepid, sings at his synagogue and enjoys doing yard work in Caldwell, where he lives with his wife, Deborah, a dermatologist, and their three children. He doesn’t dispute his low-key image.

“I don’t think raising the volume is going to get you to a better result. My approach is to get more bees with honey,” he said.
Rabner first met Corzine when they both volunteered at a Newark soup kitchen four years ago. They didn’t meet again until Corzine addressed Rabner’s synagogue earlier this year about his efforts in the U.S. Senate to end the genocide in Darfur.
“That resonated with me,” Rabner said. Months later, when Corzine offered him a job, Rabner said, “I knew that I would be very comfortable working with somebody of his character.”

In the New Jersey Jewish News article, the columnist noted that in the NJ section of the Dec. 18 New York Times, columnist David Kocieniewski described Rabner’s credentials as “downright fearsome” because of his lengthy experience prosecuting purveyors of political corruption.

“You’ll have to ask him what he meant,” said Rabner. “My children certainly don’t think of me as fearsome.”

Stuart Rabner and Rabbi Jason MillerStu Rabner is certainly not a fearful guy outside of the courtroom, but he is a mentsch. If anyone can bring some mentschlichkeit to New Jersey politics, it’s Stu. So, mazel tov to him and Debbie, and to their great kids.

[Photo: Congregation Agudath Israel President Stuart Rabner presents Rabbi Jason Miller with the State of Israel Bonds’ Lion of Judah award, 2004]

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |