But one thing many still do not know about Booker is that he is one of the most Jewishly knowledgeable non-Jewish politicians in America, tracing back to his days as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, where he became the unlikely president of the local Chabad House.
You can watch him tell the story of his Jewish journey, drop divrei torah and other gems of Jewish thought in the video supercut I compiled:
Booker is often compared to another charismatic African-American Democrat: Barack Obama. In fact, the first person to have drawn the parallel may have been Booker himself. “Cory was obviously someone who was identified early on as someone who may be the first black president,” recalled Booker’s friend Ben Karp. “I was in the car with him in 1999,” Karp went on, “and I said to him, ‘Well, who do you think your rivals are? Harold Ford or Jesse Jackson Jr.?’ And Cory said to me, ‘Yeah, but there’s this guy in Chicago and his name is Barack Obama, and he’s super-talented.’ ”
On paper, the two men share many attributes. Both have distinguished academic pedigrees—Obama’s law degree is from Harvard, Booker’s is from Yale. Both began their political careers as community organizers. And both were deeply affected by their early encounter with the Jewish community. But like many of their surface similarities, this last one proves superficial. Each man found his way to very different parts of the Jewish world—a distinction that points to very real divergences in their personal and political outlooks.