(JTA) — As he has launched his long-shot campaign for the Republican nomination, Chris Christie has taken aim squarely at the man he once enthusiastically endorsed: Donald Trump.
But alongside portraying the former president as a danger to democracy, Christie has singled out another person for criticism who is not running for president, and who may not even work on a campaign: Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and senior adviser.
The Christie-Kushner feud goes back two decades, dating back to when Christie prosecuted a case that sent Kushner’s father to prison. The feud played a decisive role in freezing the former New Jersey governor out of the Trump administration and is making a reappearance as Christie tries again for the White House, following a news-making but unsuccessful 2016 run.
It’s also one of the many ways Christie’s career, forged in a state with more than half a million Jews, has intersected with Jewish issues and public figures. Whether the Garden State candidate claims the nomination or plays the spoiler, as he did eight years ago, here’s what you need to know about Chris Christie and the Jews.
He grew up in North Jersey with Jewish friends
Christie was born in Newark, but raised in Livingston, a heavily Jewish town in northern New Jersey, where he made a lot of Jewish friends at high school.
Among them was Harlan Coben, the bestselling author of potboilers, who once told a Christie biographer, “If you were to ask who in our class would end up being governor, most people would tell you Chris Christie.”
Another was David Wildstein, a top aide whom Christie named to a senior position at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and who pleaded guilty to involvement in what became known as “Bridgegate,” a scheme to shut down toll lanes for the George Washington Bridge. (Christie claimed no knowledge of the scheme.)
His brother Todd is married to a Jewish woman. A COVID-19 outbreak at their son’s bar mitzvah in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, led to the temporary closure of a middle school.
He also has intersected with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author, onetime Republican candidate and New Jersey denizen. In 2015, with Boteach looking on, Christie condemned the Iran nuclear deal spearheaded by President Barack Obama.
He advanced Orthodox-friendly policies as governor
New Jersey has a substantial Orthodox Jewish population, and Christie advocated policies and put forward messages that have traditionally appealed to Orthodox voters. Like another Republican candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Christie advanced school vouchers and other changes that would drive public money to private Jewish schools, although Christie was unsuccessful in launching a voucher program in his state.
As governor, he traveled to Israel and signed a bill prohibiting the state from investing in companies that boycott Israel. But foreign policy has never been his focus or strength: Israel rates no mention at all in his 2019 autobiography, and in 2014, he apologized to the late Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson for using the term “occupied territories” in reference to the West Bank at a Republican Jewish Coalition event. Supporters of Israeli settlements dispute that Israel is occupying the area.
He clashed with Jared Kushner — and lost
In 2004, real estate mogul Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to tax fraud, witness retaliation and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and spent 14 months in prison in Alabama. It was a victory for Christie, then a U.S. attorney.
But 12 years later, that victory would lead to a defeat. Christie was the first among the primary candidates in 2016 to drop out and endorse Trump, and worked hard to secure him the nomination and the presidency. Trump wanted to reward Christie with a top job and named him transition chief. Almost immediately, however, Jared Kushner, Charles’ son, got Christie fired.
Christie saw it coming, he wrote in his 2019 book, where he described the younger Kushner’s initial attempt to talk Trump out of naming Christie transition chief. “It wasn’t fair,” Christie quoted Kushner telling Trump regarding his father’s imprisonment. “You don’t know what it was like for me. Almost every weekend, I flew to Alabama to visit. He didn’t deserve to be there.”
After he was fired, Christie wrote that he learned that a 30-binder transition plan he scripted for Trump had ended up in a dumpster.
Christie remains focused on the Kushners. They earned a place in the subtitle of his autobiography, “Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the power of in-your-face politics.” An NPR review of the book says, “Christie’s main beef is with Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump. Christie blames the young Kushner for ousting him from Trump’s inner circle.”
Kushner and his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, also occupied a dubious place in Christie’s campaign launch in New Hampshire on Tuesday night.
“The grift from this family is breathtaking, it’s breathtaking! Jared Kushner and Ivanka Kushner walked out of the White House, and months later he gets $2 billion from the Saudis,” Christie told the crowd. “You think it’s because he’s some kind of investing genius? Or do you think it’s because he was sitting next to the president of the United States for four years, doing favors for the Saudis? That’s your money. That’s your money he stole and gave it to his family. So that makes us a banana republic.”
He has drawn a parallel between Trump and an antisemitic right-wing movement
Christie has made no secret that his principal aim is to neutralize the man he was among the first to endorse in 2016, because he now sees Trump as a menace. Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual conference last year, he illustrated his criticism of Trump via a comparison to a foe of Israel — Iran.
“Every day we need to stand with the only democracy in the Middle East with Israel and stand against the terrorism of Iran, all across the world,” he said. “Because whether you’re talking about Iran, or whether you’re talking about those who aspire to this in our country, authoritarian dictators only want one thing — they just want one more chance to fool the crowd one more time.”
Reelecting Trump, he said, would diminish America’s standing in the world. “But if we’re not doing [democracy] here, we can’t stand up in those other countries and tell them to do it,” he said. “It’s time for us to get our house in order.”
Christie, who was cheered throughout much of his speech, knew the room, which was packed with donors and activists who appreciated Trump’s vehemently pro-Israel foreign policy, but who were wary of his mercurial personality and his flirtations with the far-right. Christie also drew a parallel between Trump and the right-wing John Birch Society of the mid-20th century.
“It was a dangerous time where Republican politicians throughout the country were afraid. They were afraid to speak out. They were afraid to oppose these folks. Because what they were told was if you oppose them, you cannot win a Republican primary. You cannot be a nominee.”
He also was among the first and most outspoken Republican voices to condemn Trump last year for dining with antisemites Kanye West and Nick Fuentes.
Over the years, Christie has had plenty of Jewish donors, including veteran Virginia-based fund-raisers William and Bobbie Kilberg. It’s not clear yet whether past contributors, including hedge funder Steve Cohen and Nick Loeb, the innovator of Onion Crunch, will back him this time.
“Somebody has to directly take on Trump and make it clear that he’s a danger to the future of democracy and that we cannot have him as our nominee,” Bobbie Kilberg told The Philadelphia Inquirer last week. “Chris is running to do that directly and forcibly. Only time can tell whether he can succeed, but it’s exceedingly important to put yourself out there.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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