By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
Newark, New Jersey (CNN) – Mayor Cory Booker waits in his wood-paneled city hall office for his next visitors. His life, even on a Sunday, is tightly scheduled. He checks the time on his cell phone and lets the ribbing of his two friends, who are now late, begin.
“Jewish time is even worse than black time,” he says, “although I should never drag all the Jewish people down with Shmuley.” And then, about the other guy: “I thought Mormons were always 15 minutes early?”
If the friendship between these men – a black Christian mayor, a rabbi running for Congress and a Mormon university president – wasn't so real, this would sound like a bad joke. Instead, it’s a reflection of how three men from profoundly different backgrounds met 20 years ago, connected and changed one another.
So when this unusual trio got together for a rare meeting this spring, we jumped at the chance to join them.
But before the others arrive, let’s introduce the players.
There’s Booker, the 43-year-old Democratic mayor of Newark, a rising political star and headline grabber, a man who was recently lauded for saving a neighbor from a burning building and grilled for his perceived off-message remarks on a Sunday talk show. He was raised by parents who fought in the courts to integrate the northern New Jersey suburbs where he grew up.
Mayor Cory Booker takes a break on a Sunday from running Newark to dish about his old friends – two men from profoundly different backgrounds. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)
The two men he’s waiting for are no schlubs themselves.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 45, is a TV personality, former radio host, prolific author - his books include “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Jesus” - and now Republican congressional candidate in New Jersey. He was also an unofficial spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson. He was raised by a single mom in Miami.
And Michael Benson, a 47-year-old political scientist and president of Southern Utah University, comes from Mormon and Utah royalty, of sorts. His grandfather is the late Ezra Taft Benson, secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the 13th prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
With his wife and two young children in tow, the Mormon shows up first.
“Brother Benson,” Booker booms, addressing his friend in Mormon-speak as he stands to give him a big hug.
The last time these two had seen each other was five years ago, when they both helped celebrate the rabbi’s 40th birthday in New York. The massive party, as described by the mayor, was “a mosh pit of yarmulkes and sweat.”
CNN's Belief Blog: the faith angles behind the big stories
Boteach, who lives in New Jersey and sees the mayor often, rushes into the room on this Sunday a half-hour late.
“Let the record reflect, the Mormon got me lost,” he says by way of hello. The rabbi then glances down at Benson’s two little ones, who sweetly peer up at him.
“They’re a little too Mormon perfect,” he quips. “When Mormons walk into a hurricane, does their hair move?”
Booker, whose nearby desk features a stack of religious texts including the Bhagavad Gita and the Quran, watches as a crowd streams in behind Boteach. The mayor has box seats for this afternoon’s Cirque du Soleil performance of “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour,” and he wants his friends and their families to join him. But first he demands to know of the rabbi, “How many people are with you? … They just multiply.”
“Are you kidding?” Boteach shoots back. “We have 30 kids.” Actually, he only has nine.
Long before he became an author, TV personality and now congressional candidate, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach ran a popular student organization at Oxford University, which is where he met Benson and Booker. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)
The three men and their very different worlds collided in the early 1990s at Oxford University in England, where they overlapped for two years. Booker was there on a Rhodes scholarship; Benson on a Rotary scholarship - "but if I slurred, it sounded like Rhodes,” he says. Boteach was there as an emissary for Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement in Orthodox Judaism.
The first one to arrive at Oxford was Boteach, in 1988. His official mission was to serve as a rabbi to the students, but by 1990 he’d broadened his outreach by establishing the all-inclusive L’Chaim Society, a campus organization to promote the universal values of Judaism while celebrating differences. The society, whose Hebrew name means “To Life,” became the second largest student group on campus, surging to 5,000 members – no more than 800 of them Jewish.
The Mormon arrived in 1991, having spent six months in Israel at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center. Benson, who earned a doctorate at Oxford, would write his dissertation on President Harry S. Truman and eventually write a book about the Jewish influences in Truman's life and his contributions to Israel’s founding. (The “Mormon perfect” son in the mayor’s office, it turns out, is named Truman.)
Shortly after Benson arrived at Oxford, a Jewish friend told him about Boteach, saying, “You have to meet this rabbi.”
Boteach admits his previous impressions of Mormons had been pretty negative. Then Benson walked into the L’Chaim Society – and the rabbi’s life – one Friday evening. “Not a hair was out of place,” a slightly disheveled and wild-bearded Boteach says, remembering when they met. “I was fascinated.”
Benson never budged from his own religious beliefs, but he became a devout member and officer of the L’Chaim Society, which held legendary Friday night dinners.
Michael Benson, a grandson of the 13th prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, helped change how his friends – and countless others – view Mormons. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)
Booker arrived on campus a year later. He first met Benson through basketball - they both played for the Oxford Blues - then got to know Boteach with the help of a woman who stood him up for dinner. Booker was supposed to meet her outside the L’Chaim Society; when she never showed, he moseyed inside on his own to check out this mysterious place with a name he couldn’t pronounce.
Inside, hordes of people – many of them drunk – were dancing around with sacred scrolls containing the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. They were celebrating Simchat Torah, a holiday that marks the end of the annual Torah-reading cycle.
“I felt like I walked into a scene from ‘Yentl,’” Booker says.
Booker would go on to become president of the now-defunct organization, taking on tasks like lighting a Hanukkah menorah with Mikhail Gorbachev when the former Soviet leader visited Oxford.
Like Benson, Booker doesn’t drink; together they became allies as well as teammates. At the end of holidays like Simchat Torah or Purim – another raucous Jewish festival where celebrators often get drunk - they bonded as sober men in the room. They also led the Oxford Blues to win a British collegiate championship.
“I was their mascot,” boasts Boteach, whose friends tower above him.
The rabbi and Mormon say the mayor's humanity and heart inspire them. Booker says these two faithful men taught him to love and respect different religions, while helping him deepen his own beliefs and sense of awe. Likewise, both the mayor and Boteach say Benson changed how they and hundreds of others view Mormons.
Booker has been known to have his driver pull over when he spots young Mormon missionaries walking in pairs. He understands they’re often financially strapped, so he gives them some money for food and thanks them for being in his city.
“That’s something I never would have done if I hadn’t met Mike,” the mayor says.
And Booker certainly wouldn’t have pulled all-nighters studying Jewish texts before meeting Boteach. There’s a tradition, the rabbi explains, for a father to stay up and study the night before his son is circumcised. It was the middle of exams at Oxford when the rabbi first roped Booker in to join him the night before his first son Mendy's circumcision. Boteach came back again 11 years ago after the birth of Yosef, to which Booker responded, “Shmuley, you’re killing me” before he agreed to take part.
But the last time the rabbi issued his all-night study decree, Booker wasn’t having it.
“Forget it. Don’t even ask. I’m running for mayor,” the then-candidate told his friend six years ago, after Dovid Chaim was born. At 1 a.m., though, there was a knock on Boteach’s door. “You have 60 minutes. That’s it,” the mayor said as he rushed inside.
“Cory and I see each other whenever he needs advice,” the rabbi likes to say of Booker. And it's comments like this that prompt the mayor to retort, “He needs to get his head examined by a proctologist.”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach rushes in for the reunion, and a hug from Booker, 30 minutes late. Michael Benson looks on, laughing as Boteach blames him, “the Mormon,” for making him late. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)
All kidding aside, these three look out for each other's interests. After leaving Oxford for Yale Law School, Booker became a self-appointed kosher police officer, alerting the rabbi when he heard about Jewish L'Chaim Society members who had stopped keeping kosher. “You really need to do something,” he'd tell the rabbi.
Ever since Boteach learned that Benson’s older brother, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson of The Arizona Republic, had shrugged off religion, the rabbi has said he’s on a mission to bring the older Benson back to the LDS Church.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
The Mormon can’t help but marvel at the rabbi’s chutzpah, but he’s happy to let him give it his best shot. So far Boteach has only e-mailed with the older Benson, but he looks forward to a face-to-face meeting so he, the Jew, can give the ex-Mormon the proper Latter-day Saint sell.
Boteach has fallen for the national parks of Utah, where the LDS Church is headquartered. He has lectured a handful of times at universities where Benson has been affiliated. Benson has led the way in scrambling to find kosher food for the rabbi before the two have headed out for weekend hikes.
Booker reflects on his old friends and says, “I love the fact that those two have kept such a good friendship. They’re very different. Mike is humble and soft-spoken; Shmuley is loud and bordering on obnoxious.”
Noticing the time, Booker rushes off to squeeze in a meeting before Cirque du Soleil.
The mayor's friends, at home in his office, take their time leaving. They stroll down the empty and echoing hallways toward the exit of Newark City Hall. The Mormon throws his arm around the rabbi's shoulder.
“I have to get back to Utah soon,” Boteach says. “It's been too long.”
“This time, we'll get you baptized,” Benson tells him.
The suggestion of a Mormon conversion, even in jest, might stop other rabbis in their tracks. But Boteach doesn’t skip a beat: “If it'll get me votes, fine.”
Jesus said that there would be only one true religion, but that there would be many false Prophets... So all these together with many others are all in the same bag! Very far from what was the real Christianism of the first century that eventually became a counterfeit christianism 300 to 400 years after Christ died!
You have to ask this, which Church still practices as the Church Fathers of the first, second and third century account.
Christianity was created by the Romans many years after Jesus died. Any argument is a good argument to pretend a persons fake religion is better than others fake religion.
Junior- The church fathers your saying, are already included with in the false Prophets foretold in the bible by Jesus and that were already coming out from "in between us" as apostol John said in the book of 1 John. Some of there belifs were biblical twisted...the church fathers belived for example that Jesus was God, that theres a hell, and they were in politics something Christ or his followers never did. Those church faters were the ones that healped creating the Roman Catholic and orthodox church!
Junior- The question to ask is not what church follows what the so called church father said...the question that people should have is what church is actually following what Christ told us to do? Homework for you. But the problem is that people are not looking to follow what Christ said cause its hard to follow what he said...rather there looking to follow what ever sounds better to there ears!!
Zooni- I dont agree with you, romans didnt create Christianity, they created a counterfeit Christianity... called Roman CATHOLIC church!
All of the gods that have been worshiped since the beginning of history would fill 10 football stadiums, but of course YOURS is the only one that's real. Delusional much?
Chalk it up to the Kenites that walk among us.
These three wonderful, awesome, talented guys couldn't find a gay guy at Oxford to be part of the club???
You may want to check out the closet, next time you visit Newark.
As coleagues they support themself because their concern is political no religious, if they go to religious doctrins the shock will be catastrofic since the mormons are building tabernables around the world, Jews are awaiting por their Messianic messenger and the new Jerusalen' s temple be re-build, so if they spend time together is because materials things no espiritual things, in other words all they are part of the world too and their living is the same.
That's what they get for never reading Luke 24:25-27.
It is nice to see friends who think the others' salvation is flawed care so little about each others' eternal lives that they can all get along.
How come a Imaan from the Mosque isn't invited; isn't that a discrimination of religion?
I'm sure he'd be too lazy to read Luke 24:25-27, too.
Friends, yes and they suffer from the same Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in their religions. A quick cure.
• There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
Added details available upon written request.
A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.
"The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.
Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "
There is probably no Love in you.
Pastafairianism readily admits to the contradictions and BS in the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and since the pillars of the religion, Pirates, are both historially proven and still exsist to this day, you can see it is the most honest and peaceful of all the religions.
RAmen....Peace and Love from the FSM
I don"t think the catholic cardinals would have the cojones (like new, never used) in this day and age to drag somone into the street and draw and quarter them or burn them at the stake, just for putting a little extra parmesan on his/her plate of spaghetti and meat balls or chugging down a couple of pitchers of beer. But be vigilant you never know if they will regress.
RAmen....PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE FSM.
Reality is brain washed into ushering in the NWO, as he worships satan.
AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD
Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)
"Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."
Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;
Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).
Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)
The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.
Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.
Some added references to "tink-erbells".
"The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:
"TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."
And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:
"In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."
"The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "
"The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "
For added information see the review at:
Scribes, Pharisees, Tares, Kenites. Look them up since you obviously have all your posts saved on CDs.
As we "thu-mp" along with rational thinking, conclusions and reiteration to counter the millennia of false and flawed religious history and theology!!!------––
What? Why not 2000+ comments on this story? Maybe because it's not focussed on Christianity, so all the atheist haters had to go outside for fresh air this weekend.
Wayne, stupid much?
I'll take your answer as a yes. Thanks!
All those atheists never read Luke 24:25-27, not to mention, anything of Jesus Christs truth to save their souls. There will be no eternity for them.
Love Rabbi Boteach!!! We should all learn to get along like that despite our religious and/or political different views!
The problem is when people want to impose their religion on everyone else.
Jesus Christ's word (the Bible) is truth about life and the hereafter. Anyone that doesn't read, comprehend, and abide in His truth are not going to spend eternity with Him. Luke 24:25-27, is a good start.
I have decided to convert from atheism to Solipsism. The ceremony is going to be a blast, I will be having all my friends and family over and un-validating their existence. Then it will just be a free-for-all. I will also be getting a tattoo of my own face on my a.s.s.
That sounds like fun, but since you are a figment of my imagination, i can't imagine it would be more fun than if i just stay home and watch cartoons.
Enjoy this life Alien, for, there will be no eternity for you.
We'll talk again the day they walk into a BAR
A liberal, a moderate, and a conservative walk into a bar.
Bartender says, "Hi Mitt!"
Now that is funny! However, it reflects on a person not a religion.
It is a good thing you are not running for president. Reality is the key here not a political cartoon with out a picture.
Public relation, part of the, its okay to vote for a Romney even though he is a Mormon. This public relation ad/article is very well thought and it caters to the Jewish community and the African American community to steal some of Obama's supporters. I think this article is wasting space. lots of other things going on than 3 people keeping a relationship together.
A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room... everyone else gets a firm grip on his wallet and runs like hell !
@jimbo, lol that's classic
And the atheists believe morals and ethics is hard wired into them ... as they slithered on their bellies, as slime, over hot burning sands, scorched by the sun, for miles, to make it to shaded area ...fast forward ... survival of the fittest, went from slime to apes ... swinging from the trees, peeling and eating bananas.
Ok, God is Jesus, Jesus is God. God wanted (needed?) to have a physical manifestation of himself on Earth and though he created the heavens and the Earth, Adam and Eve, he couldn't manage a “Jesus” so he knocked up a virgin by proxy who then gave birth to Himself and then he waited for himself to grow up so that he could preach the "truth" to those who would listen.
Then he set up his own death (suicide) so that he could suffer on a pole to "die" (even thought he can't die) for the sins of all the many billions of people who would be born who had not yet committed any sins but for whom he has a plan and that plan includes sinning for some unknown reason so he needed to die for them. Then he becomes a ghost, takes a little trip to Hades to hang with the red guy and then he "rises" and walks about frightening people and then disappears after telling everyone he would return (an apparent lie) and never shows his face again.
So my question would be, why?
And I would offer up this counter possibility. Mary got knocked up by the blacksmith. Jesus was a cult leader. Jesus broke the law and was punished and died.
Why didn't Jesus come back like he said he would? Because that is creepy and ridiculous. How do we know Jesus really existed? We don't.
We know through faith that Jesus existed and will return one day, as he promised.
@Correy99 – or not.
Not only were you conditioned to being lazy in order to never read Jesus' truth, you haven't a clue to what the Kenites are?
Religious people are in bondage to religion. As a Christian, we are set free from the bondage of religion. The work was done at the Cross, we don't have to try and earn our way into heaven. Salvation is a free gift, can't earn it through good deeds or religion. All you have to do is as Jesus to forgive you of your sins and receive Him as Lord and Saviour. It's a life changing experience that is so awesome. God knows what's best for our lives, we just have to give our lives to Him and let Him take control.
Sorry but Christianity is a religion. Therefore you are in bondage to religion.
Wasn't it Bringthem Young that established the M0r0n Church?
Brett, couldn't agree more. God knows what little boys and girls should be kidnapped r.a.p.e.d. and tortured. What kid’s need a good molesting. Where best to build death camps. Who the best war lords are to commit genocide. Who should be murdered and who shouldn't. What atrocities to enjoy. For him, it is like flipping channels on his big heavenly flat screen, enjoying all of life’s grief and pain from the comfort of his thrown, all the wall loving us to death.
Christianity IS a religion, no different than all the rest. Just ancient mythology and ignorant superst!tious nonsense. Period.
Actually, since you have to ask Jesus for forgiveness, you are in bondage to him. Without his forgiveness, you go to hell, right? I prefer to actually right the wrongs i make in life, rather than ask a god for forgiveness that i no longer believe exists. It may not be the easy way out, but it's the right and responsible way to live.
Does the Bible say the sun revolve around the earth? I belive the English translations of the Hebrew records say that, but have you ever read the actual Hebrew texts? Would you want to be the so-called religious scholars who translated the text to read that the sun didn't revolve around the earth in the time period they were translating. They would have been put in the Tower of London with Sir Thomas. The Bible is "the word of God as far as it is translated corectly".
Brett, finding out who the Kenites are, helps to understand the evil in this world.
Tim, getting folks to read the Bible, comprehend Jesus' teachings, applying it to their lives is the righteous start. Leaving men to preach half his truth and the other half the lies of man is the predicament we find ourselves, worldwide, today.
Tim, read Isaiah 40:22.
This drawing is what the ancient Middle Eastern Hebrews thought the Earth (and Universe) looked like:
Please give me one legitimate reason I should believe any religion. and please try to do it without circular logic.
Now you're being unduly restrictive! It's all they have.
Because God will kill you early and make your afterlife really unpleasant if you don't.
So you can become a politician.
Now those are honest answers!
I agree with jimbo, and pesant is just an ignorant fool
Just askin', Jesus Christ's word (the Bible) is the truth about life and the hereafter. Jesus Christs is the only one that can save your soul. That's if, you want to spend eternity with Him. If not, your choice with the free will He gave to all of us. You choose no eternity for yourself. Jesus will oblige you of your choice.
You ask that a spiritual thing be proven with concrete evidence. You won't accept the recorded history from the Bible. You have designed the test to fail. This is not something that can be subjected to the scientific method. Spiritual events in one's life can only be felt. If God speaks to a person, it is directly to that person, He doesn't publish in the paper or broadcast on tv. So, at best, any evidence would be very subjective. God is something you have to study in your mind and your heart. Faith preceeds the miracle. If you don't want to believe, you will see/feel no evidence. If you truly want to know, then it will be made known.
(Bible) Studies Have Proven Death Is Certain Life is Not. Deu. 30:19-20 – I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live. That you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life, and the length of your days.
The Bible also says the sun Revolves around the Earth and many other ridiculous things. It only reflects the understanding of the bronze age goat herders who wrote it. It's not the word of God but rather a bunch of primitive men's best attempt at pointing in the direction of God.
Quoting blah blah blah nonsense from an archaic book of mythology proves nothing.
Boteach is campaigning for an election? I saw, when he debated Hitchens on religion that he is just a dishonest and hysterical man.
What a great story to read on my birthday as once again God has given us an example of his Love and freedom of thought which these three humans display in their everyday friendship. Thanks CNN for a memorable story. I'm passing it on to family & friends. Joe
The article wasn't about 3 "people" getting along (that's not unusual) .. it was about 3 different religious views getting along .. now that speaks volumes about religions.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.