In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2006 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan 5766

A different campaign

By Eric Fingerhut

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

Orthodox congressional candidates bring Jewish text study techniques to campaigning

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Given the vagaries of gerrymandering, somewhere over the years there might have been congressional candidates from separate districts who lived on the same street.

It's unlikely, though, that the two candidates also belonged to the same Orthodox synagogue, and ran a campaign platform originating with Torah lessons they delivered at shul.

But, that is just what is happening in Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

The candidates are Jeff Stein and Moshe Starkman. They live on opposite sides of the congressional district dividing line of Arctic Avenue in Rockville, and they are the Republican candidates for U.S. Congress in Maryland's 8th and 4th Districts, respectively, facing Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Albert Wynn (D).

They're each serving as the other's campaign managers and are willing to admit — with a little prodding — that they are big underdogs in their heavily Democratic districts.

But they also are bringing a different style and sensibility to the political discourse, creating campaigns that eschew bullet points and sound bites for techniques based on the tradition of Jewish text study.

Stein's campaign literature and the front page of his Web don't include the typical photos of the candidate shaking hands or kissing babies. The only pictures are of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and other founding fathers, former presidents and Supreme Court justices, accompanied by quotes on various issues such as government regulation, property rights and education.

At an interview in his home, where hundreds of Jewish texts fill a bookcase, the 28-year-old Starkman explained that his and Stein's campaign theme came from a project the two developed to demonstrate the similarities between "traditional Jewish thought and values and traditional U.S. principles of good government and liberty" — combining his background in Jewish subjects and attorney Stein's knowledge of early constitutional law.

The undertaking was, in part, an effort to demonstrate that Jews "need to be active and involved in [wider] community affairs" and not be as insular as some tend to be in the Orthodox community, Stein, 31, said.

They gave a couple of Torah lessons at their synagogue, Beth Joshua Congregation — one on the protection of family, the other on the integration of G-d and state. In the spring, unimpressed with the congressional candidates in their districts, they decided to convert their project into a political platform titled "Preserving America."

Their method of presenting quotes on various big issues — such as Abraham Lincoln on the "American Dream" or Theodore Roosevelt on "national virtue" — is inspired by the Jewish tradition of learning and study, Stein explained, in which people are presented with the views of authorities and can debate and argue over how to apply those authorities to the present day.

While their method bucks the general belief that Americans have short attention spans, Stein said they've received a lot of positive feedback on their fliers because the concept is "different, it's interesting."

And it worked in the September Republican primary, when Stein knocked off the candidate with the backing of the Republican establishment, Daniel Zubairi, by a fairly wide 45-32 percent margin.

Starkman ran unopposed in the 4th District, but seems to talk much more about his friend's candidacy than his own. That's because he still considers himself a student of Stein's and his political principles.

"I am ... the young Jedi here, trying to learn my craft," he said, referring to the knights of Star Wars.

Their platform, neighborhood and synagogue membership are only a few of the things the two have in common. They both have three children. And the pair has somewhat similar backgrounds.

Both grew up in New Jersey, Starkman in East Windsor's Twin Rivers and Stein in New Brunswick. And each is a ba'al teshuvah, becoming religiously observant later in life after being raised in a more secular Jewish environment.

Starkman, a senior manager of the Web design and development firm Intersoft Corporation, attended Jewish day school as a child, explaining that his mother — after divorcing his Catholic father when Starkman was a toddler — "felt she needed help" and guidance raising her two kids and felt a Jewish education would be of assistance. By his middle school years, he asked his mother to send him to public school.

With his public school friends getting involved in areas he didn't like, such as drugs and drinking, and his retreat to video games, his mother signed him up for the Orthodox youth group National Conference of Synagogue Youth.

He returned home from a summer NCSY trip to Israel, wanting to keep kosher and observe the Sabbath — to which his mother replied, "Better that than drugs."

Starkman moved to Montgomery County eight years ago, helped found the then-fledgling Aspen Hill Jewish community about six years ago. For the first four years, he served as "community coordinator" working on "recruiting and growing" the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood around the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, a project spearheaded by developer Dennis Berman.

Stein's tale of transformation to Jewish observance is simpler — he "met a nice girl."

Raised attending a Conservative synagogue, he wasn't involved in the Jewish community while attending the University of Kentucky and then the University of Missouri's law school. But that all changed after meeting his wife, Dasha. She kept kosher and observed the Sabbath, so when they got married, he started doing the same.

"It wasn't such a major lifestyle change," Stein, a Chevy Chase attorney, said, noting that instead of eating a hamburger and fries at Wendy's, his wife now makes him the same.

The two candidates say their religious practice lost them the help of some political professionals and strategists for their campaign. When they explained that they would not campaign on Saturdays, said Starkman, they were told, "You're not real, Saturday is campaign day."

But Starkman said they have no regrets. Keeping Sabbath "put us in the good graces of the Lord creator," he said, laughing, then noting more seriously that if they violated the principle of the Sabbath, voters might wonder "are we going to violate other principles."

They emphasize that they don't expect anyone to vote for them just because they are Jewish.

One Jewish leader who has become acquainted with them is Rabbi Herzel Kranz of the Silver Spring Jewish Center, who termed the idea of two Orthodox Jews running in adjacent districts "pretty unique."

He said the duo was "kind of idealistic, but you need that," and praised them for being willing to step up to the plate and run against favored incumbents.

Beating those incumbents is a daunting task, especially considering Stein says he has raised $12,000-15,000, compared with Van Hollen's more than $1.5 million. While he did write a response to Van Hollen's controversial letter over the summer criticizing Israeli military actions in Lebanon and the U.S. response to them, he said he "didn't want to demagogue" the issue or give the letter too much attention because it could undermine the Jewish state and give ammunition to Israel critics.

But he acknowledged that the letter could give some a reason to look at him as an alternative.

Starkman is pinning his hopes on Wynn's slim margin of victory in the September primary despite being a seven-term incumbent.

But even if they do go down to defeat, Starkman said the campaign has strengthened the bond between him and Stein.

"It takes our friendship ... to a new level of purpose," he said, trying to "make things better for hundreds of thousands of people."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washinton and the media consider must reading. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Eric Fingerhut is a staff writer for the Washington Jewish Week. Comment by clicking here.

© 2006, Washington Jewish Week