David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Senator Menendez, Please Sit Down!

Bob Menendez should step down from his Senate seat.

To be clear, I voted for Menendez twice. Few people in the history of the Senate have been better champions of the United States/Israel relationship than Bob Menendez, and the U.S. Congress have known no better lion who consistently stood up to the feckless and evil Iranian regime than the Senior Senator from New Jersey. On almost every issue that I care passionately about, from global warming to sanctions against Cuba to standing up against the JCPOA to gun control and a woman’s right to choose, Bob Menendez and I have stood shoulder to shoulder.

However, the allegations against the senator and his spouse are far too odious and corrupt for him to face them while serving in this honored role.

Of course, Senator Menendez deserves the presumption of innocence and is entitled to due process and a fair trial. I hope he gets those things. But they should not happen concurrently with his position as senator nor while seeking reelection.

There are three reasons why I express these passionate feelings:

First, when allegations like these are made against people holding or seeking elected office, it sullies the position they hold and corrodes confidence in the public trust. These are serious allegations that bring into question not only legal matters, but moral choices. Before someone can continue to hold such a role, this query and process must be exhausted. The job of a United States Senator is too demanding a task with a serious set of responsibilities without any allegations lodged against someone. It is impossible to think that Senator Menendez can stay laser focused on his role that the citizens of New Jersey elected him for, all the while defending himself in this investigation and while a lengthy trial unfolds.

Second, indictments and trials weigh down a constituency. Menendez’s current legal battles and his political future are intrinsically connected. He will be a relentless target of the media. These allegations will pollute the airwaves and becomes fodder for late night quips. The issues and needs of the people Senator Menendez represent will inevitably fall down the pole of importance while he realigns his priorities for political survivorship. I worry that if Menendez is exonerated, retribution will rank higher than governance and then, the public loses even more.

Lastly, Senator Menendez holding onto his Senate seat reeks of hypocrisy. It is impossible for any Democrat to stand on a moral high ground and wag a finger at the likes of Trump, Santos, Giuliani, Flynn, Jordan, Navarro and Gaetz – to name a few – and to ignore the alleged misdeeds of their own. A party has to lead by example, not follow the path of least resistance.

The Jewish tradition that has guided my life and served as my North Star reminds me thrice daily that leadership requires responsibility. Further, it necessitates me to celebrate achievements and demands me to rebuke offenses. I do not write this opinion with relish. It pains me. I am sad for my home State of New Jersey, and my country.

Nevertheless, the moment beckons me to use my religious voice to add to the chorus of leaders asking the Senator to step down for the sake of New Jersey and her citizens. If Bob Menendez really loves the Garden State and its populace, he will do just that, immediately.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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