Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an Orthodox author and television host, counts Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) among his friends — but that doesn’t mean they always agree.
For example, on Cruz’s call for the U.S. not to take in refugees from Syria due to concerns over terrorism, Boteach said he takes a different approach.
“The Jewish community knows what it’s like to be refugees who are not wanted, which we experienced in the most brutal way at the hands of the State Department during the Holocaust,” Boteach told TheBlaze. “[The U.S.] shut down Jewish immigration almost specifically through Breckinridge Long, who worked at the State Department and was an anti-Semite … who did everything he could to put hurdles in the path of Jewish refugees.”
He added, “We know what that’s like, and we dare not ever, ever forget that.”
Boteach, who The Daily Beast dubbed Cruz’s “favorite rabbi,” clarified that he’s not a spokesman for Cruz and isn’t focused on defending or criticizing the Texas senator’s policies.
“My relationship and friendship and admiration for Senator Cruz is not based on us agreeing on every issue,” Boteach said. “He gets this rap of being ultra-conservative and not sensitive to the views of those who disagree with him, and the truth is he’s a Harvard- and Princeton-educated lawyer. I’ve disagreed with him on endless issues; we laugh together; we talk together; we reason together; we disagree without being disagreeable.”
Still, Boteach put much of the blame for the current situation in Syria on President Barack Obama for not intervening sooner and more forcefully in the Syrian civil war.
“The situation has so deteriorated that this is the greatest refugee crisis since the second world war,” Boteach said.
Jewish refugees were properly vetted after World War II, Boteach said, and only three were found “undesirable.” Similarly, the Syrian refugees should be vetted thoroughly — but they shouldn’t be barred from entry to the U.S., he added.
“Nobody wants a Paris-style attack on our streets,” Boteach said. “We have to make sure that American lives are protected because of the terrible terror attacks, but we have to accept refugees. … That’s what the Statue of Liberty is, a woman holding a lamp. Give me your tired masses. We’ve always been a haven for the oppressed.”
Still, emptying Syria, with refugees leaving behind families and homes, is not the ideal situation, he said. “The ideal situation from the outset was to stabilize the situation in Syria by not allowing Assad to kill 250,000 people.”
The rabbi hasn’t yet made an endorsement in the 2016 race. When asked which candidates besides Cruz are friends to Israel, Boteach mentioned several: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
On Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, “the jury is out,” Boteach said. “As secretary of state, she was a strong friend of Israel, but what worries me is how she was bragging that the Iran deal was of her making, that she was a principal architect of the Iran deal. And that was very disturbing.”
A vast majority of the Israeli people were against the Iran deal, and 73 percent said they were “sure” or “moderately sure” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right when he said the deal posed an “existential threat” to Israel by paving the way to a nuclear Iran.
Cruz has been a vocal opponent of the Iran deal, as well as a vocal critic of the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to ban all flights to Israel during the Gaza War in summer 2014, both of which Boteach cited as reasons he considers Cruz a friend to Israel.
“It’s not about Democrats and Republicans — it’s about individual actions and statements of leaders,” Boteach said. ”I don’t know who I’ll endorse or whether I’ll endorse or when I would endorse: Not everything’s political, especially when it comes to the survival of the Jewish people.”
But in the wake of the Iran deal, Boteach argued that the Jewish people will need champions in American politics more than ever.
“The Jewish people in general and Israel in particular are facing a growing onslaught of hostility, anti-Semitism and terror attacks on Jews in the Holy Land,” he said. “Those who stand up for the human rights of Israel’s innocent victims are men and women who champion American values in every part of the world, and that is the basis of my deep respect and friendship with Senator Cruz.”
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