When Cory Booker Met JFN

Cory Booker was sworn in today as the newest senator for New Jersey. We thought that occasion would be a good excuse to journey back to 2009, when Booker was a guest at the JFN International Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Booker, then the mayor of Newark, N.J., was part of a discussion with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to talk about urban poverty and public-private partnerships to aid cities, efforts that could involve philanthropies. Booker began by speaking about his long-time affinity with the Jewish world and how he often read the Torah and other Jewish texts.

“We just studied a few parshas ago…” Booker said, before realizing some in the audience may have been startled that he used the Hebrew word for the weekly Torah portion. “Yes, I know the parsha of the week!” he added to laughs.

Booker said the idea of tikkun olam needed to be applied on a broader scale in order to take on the more intractable problems that face many cities, including persistent poverty and underperforming schools.

“We are here in this world for a purpose that we cannot deny,” he said.

You can watch the discussion here. The whole 47-minute session is lively and informative, but if you want to jump right into Booker’s remarks, he begins about 11 minutes in.