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Watch Senator Cory Booker Party on Purim at Oxford’s Chabad in the Early ’90s

As a Rhodes Scholar, Booker, the Senate’s most Jewish non-Jew, was captured on tape celebrating the Jewish holiday at the campus’s Chabad House.

Yair Rosenberg
March 23, 2016
Kris Connor/Getty Images
Cory Booker in Washington, D.C., December 2, 2009. Kris Connor/Getty Images
Kris Connor/Getty Images
Cory Booker in Washington, D.C., December 2, 2009. Kris Connor/Getty Images

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is fond of telling the story of his introduction to Judaism. An African-American Baptist, Booker attended Oxford University in the early 1990s as a Rhodes Scholar. There, he had a chance encounter with a young Chabad rabbi named Shmuley Boteach that sparked a lifelong interest in the Jewish faith. Booker would eventually become co-president of Boteach’s L’Chaim Society—its first non-Jewish leader—and would maintain a decades-long friendship with the rabbi and an immersion in Jewish study. As journalist Jeffrey Goldberg once quipped, “I’ve met most of the Senate’s other Jews, and I can say, with a high degree of certainty, that Booker knows more Torah than they do.”

Now, there’s additional video evidence for Booker’s well-documented affection for Judaism. At sundown, the Jewish holiday of Purim commences, a day during which Jews celebrate their deliverance from a genocidal plot with feasting, dancing, and revelry. And while at Oxford, Booker celebrated right along with them. Footage from his time there captures him partying on Purim at the campus Chabad House, carrying Boteach—dressed as clown—on his back.

These few minutes of footage were originally interspersed in a 50-minute home video posted by Boteach to his personal YouTube channel. (The clip of Booker recalling the celebration is from a joint appearance by him and Boteach at a Jewish Federation event in October 2011.)

Today, even as Boteach and Booker have hit a rough path in their relationship over their positions on the Iran deal, the footage stands as a monument to one of the more unlikely interfaith friendships of our time.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.