Dear Congressman Pascrell
Much was made of the nasty primary battle that took place between you and Congressman Steve Rothman. Many believe you prevailed precisely because Rothman's campaign had gone woefully negative. Americans are sick and tired of toxic campaigning and politics. My friend Mayor Cory Booker used the word 'nauseated' when he discussed the negative attack ads being used by both Republicans and Democrats alike.
I agree. People want to be inspired. They look to public leaders to lift them up, not to pull them into some personal gutter of vicious attack.
Now that you and I are the formal candidates of our respective parties we have the ability to do things differently. We can run a positive campaign that stays focused firmly on the issues. We can rise above personality and make this a policy and ideas-driven race. In so doing we can excite not only New Jersey's Ninth Congressional District but others around the country who can learn from the example we seek to set.
In pursuit of that I have a simple idea. You and I don't know each other and to my knowledge have never met. I've heard a lot about you and you've probably heard some about me. Let's start this race by getting to know each other as people before we get to know each other as opponents.
Every Friday night at our Sabbath table my wife and I host all kinds of people. We love having guests and it would be my honor for us to host you and your family either this coming Friday night or whenever it may suit you, although sooner would be better than later.
Over the years we've hosted thousands of people at our home. Many are students, some work in media, others in academia, even more are business executives, laborers, and professionals. Many have been Democratic politicians like yourself, from Governor Jon Corzine, who came several times with his wife Sharon, to Mayors Michael Wildes and Frank Huttle of Englewood. Mayor Cory Booker and I have shared hundreds of Shabbat dinners together, beginning in our Oxford days and continuing into Jersey.
The Sabbath is a day of peace. We don't argue about business, politics, or anything else contentious. It's devoted to higher things. It's the kind of setting where no matter how much you disagree you never become disagreeable. Our Friday night table is a place of warm conversation, spirited discussion, laughter, and inspiration. There would be nothing to separate us, only to unite us.
Joining together for a Friday night meal also allows us to highlight the importance of regular family dinners for the people of our district and beyond. Indeed, together with some leading American personalities and celebrities, I started a non-partisan, non-political organization called Turn Friday Night Into Family Night (website www.fridayisfamily.com) to encourage Moms and Dads to give their children two uninterrupted hours of family time, and to invite guests to the home, every Friday night. Part of the way we promote the initiative is with 30-second web commercials featuring well-known figures promoting the importance of family time. (We'd be very pleased if you would agree to do a spot for us. It takes only about half an hour to shoot and it's painless.)
I suspect, Congressman Pascrell, that you have attended a Jewish Friday night meal. So no doubt you are aware of the unique peace to be found on a day when no one looks at their cell phones, the television is off, and the internet is down. It's liberating and allows one to focus on people instead of all the distractions that currently separate us.
No doubt in the coming months there will be spirited disagreements between us. No doubt you and I will wish clash mightily over issues that affect the residents of New Jersey's Ninth District. But that does not mean that we can't start on the right foot by experiencing a shared humanity that should spur us to running campaigns that are effective yet respectful.
While reaching to you directly to accept my invitation, I have also chosen to make this letter public in order to make it clear to the residents of our district that I am committed to a positive, inspired, and values-based campaign that transcends the politics of personal destruction and hyper-partisanship and focuses squarely on what each of us would do to renew America. After your recent experience, I assume you are in agreement. I eagerly await your affirmative response and my family and I look forward to warmly welcoming you to our home.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Bill Pascrell are the respective Republican and Democratic nominees for Congress in New Jersey's Ninth District. Follow Rabbi Shmuley on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.