I lost my race to unseat Bill Pascrell in New Jersey’s ninth Congressional
district. We ran a vigorous campaign and but in the end could not overcome a
five-to-one democrat to Republican registration advantage. Regardless, in the
last moments of the campaign, I wanted to capture my feelings in the last
moments of the campaign. And I want to do it now because I don’t know how I’ll
feel tomorrow when the race is over. In these last hours of campaigning – and
I’m writing this between stops – I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, like I
have something to say.
First, campaigning has led me to a deep affection
for the people of my district. I’m not just saying that. Before, I sort of knew
them, but now I feel connected to them. Why? Because they’re
With the rarest of exceptions, they all welcomed me so warmly,
laughed with me when I told them to “Vote for the man with the beard,” even if
they didn’t like Republicans. They took a minute to stop and tell me what was on
their mind. If they were in a big rush, they still took our literature and
wished me well. Almost no one treated me like I was a nuisance getting in their
The people who were the nicest? Some standouts were the
Arab-Americans of Paterson. Consistently warm, friendly, hospitable. There was
Raed who owns the Palestine Barber Shop and told me he personally registered 200
people for my opponent, but insisted on tidying up my hair so I looked like a
more professional candidate. There was Ahmed who owns a restaurant, and told me
he was voting for Pascrell because he criticizes Israel, but pulled me and my
kids in from the cold for a half-hour debate on the Middle East. Many Arabs
spoke to me in Hebrew, reminding me they had grown up and lived in
The Community Baptist Church in Englewood is one of the largest
black churches in our area. Polling and the past suggest that most of them will
vote for President Obama and the Democrats. But they hugged me, prayed with me,
welcomed me and treated me like family.
The Dominicans at their banquet.
They got up to take pictures with me, escorted me from table to table, ran
around trying to find me kosher food. And there is no question that the most fun
I had in the campaign was dancing for four hours straight on the back of a truck
at the Dominican Day Parade. (You can see the video at shmuleyforcongress.com)
The Korean Americans, with their exceptionally polite manner. Hosting me at
their debate and at their harvest festival, they wanted me to always feel at
More than anyone else, the good people of the Bergen County
Republican Organization, BCRO, who never flinched for a moment when an orthodox
rabbi became their congressional candidate. To the contrary, they were immensely
proud and treated me like a son at all times. The warmth shown to me by the
Republican leaders of this district has been monumental, and that is especially
true of Bob Yudin, the BCRO chairman.
On the campaign trail, I’ve loved
making people laugh. Normally, when a candidate comes over to you to get your
vote it’s an annoyance. So I walked over to the women and asked them, “How many
times in your life has a clean-shaven man let you down?” All of them said,
“Many.” “Well, then you have to vote for the man with the beard. Case
After 11 years as rabbi at Oxford, I feared I would never
encounter the same level of diversity I found in a university that has students
from all over the world. But our district is one of the most diverse in America.
Meeting with and being greeted by people from every nationality made me
experience a deeper, shared humanity.
In campaigning I’ve also been able
to live the great Biblical teaching that every human being is created in the
image of G-d. Democracy is all about the infinite worth of each individual, and
the powerful see their fate rise and fall by the will of the people.
loved having my kids on the campaign trail. Our little Cheftziba, all of
four years old, walks up to people and hands them our brochures. No doubt she’s
been responsible for more than a few votes. Shterny, my daughter in
university, is the whiz behind so many of my campaign videos, including the
super-popular “Vote for the Man with the Beard” and many in the “Where’s Bill”
series that have received so much national media attention.
Debbie doesn’t like when people are mean to me on the campaign trail. As I said
before, it hasn’t happened a lot but when it did, she bristled. She’s
used to people coming over to thank me for my books. Meeting people who dislike
me for my political party has taken some getting used to.
As far as
democracy is concerned, here is where I’ve become less inspired and a bit more
cynical. I’ve discovered that our democracy needs a severe overhaul with
Congressional districts that are not drawn up by professional politicians who
gerrymander them in proverbial smoke-filled rooms. And I’m sick of hearing about
Ohio. I think every American should be able to decide who their president is.
But I’ll save that for another day.
Vote for Shmuley! Vote for the man
with the beard!
The writer, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous
Rabbi in America,” was the Republican Candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s
Ninth Congressional District. The international best-selling author of 29 books,
he will shortly publish The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging G-d in the Face of
Tragedy and Suffering. His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com. Follow
him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.