It’s no secret that one of the most visible voting blocs in Bergen County is Teaneck’s large observant community, many of whom are affiliated with Orthodox synagogues. Fourteen months ago, when Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) was elected to represent district 5, which includes Teaneck, Englewood, Bergenfield, New Milford, Paramus, Mahwah, Upper Saddle River and Fair Lawn, he made sure to do significant outreach in these communities, attending synagogue events, parlor meetings and shul dinners. He even reached out to us at The Jewish Link to share his story and has returned to the paper multiple times to address the community and its interests.
While Gottheimer is not up for re-election until next November, he is neither resting on his laurels nor taking breaks from actively reaching out to the Jewish communities in his district. For example, last Sunday, March 11, Gottheimer visited Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck. The shul welcomed him in a community forum context, with additional support from the Orthodox Union’s (OU) Advocacy Center, Teach NJS and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. Approximately 75 people attended.
Gottheimer told the group that a primary focus for him has been to bring back to New Jersey more money from the federal government and noted that the state currently is only getting $0.33 back for every dollar its taxpayers send to DC every year. He explained that he is helping towns across New Jersey apply for more federal dollars and that federal funds coming back to the state have risen in the past year. This was a topic on which he expended a lot of energy during the 2016 election, criticizing the fact that his predecessor (then opponent), Rep. Scott Garrett, disagreed with federal pork barrel spending and opposed federal funding for many New Jersey projects on principle.
Gottheimer, savvy that he is a Democrat elected in a conservative district that narrowly voted for Trump (and in fact, voted for a Republican for president in each election since 2000), casts himself as a moderate, noting he actively works to cross the aisle and work together with Republicans. As co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that meets to find areas that Republicans and Democrats agree on and to see what kind of legislation can be brought to fruition, he has most recently interacted with the group in the areas of healthcare and gun control laws.
When discussing the special US-Israel relationship, Gottheimer applauded the Trump administration for its recent move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and stated that he is committed to keeping Israel a bipartisan issue, so much so that he refuses to sign or co-sign any letter on Israel that does not have bipartisan support. He also stressed that he is doing his best to try and ensure that his Democratic colleagues understand why supporting Israel is so important to the US and our country’s safety and security.
For the final half hour of the session, Rep. Gottheimer fielded questions from members of the audience, including a number of local high school students who asked him a series of questions on topics ranging from anti-BDS initiatives to Israel-US relations.
By Moshe Kinderlehrer