The Lakewood Vaad endorsed Chris Christie on Tuesday during the New Jersey governor’s visit to the township, citing the Republican for his support for a bill that would benefit yeshivah education and his conservative philosophy they say is aligned with Torah Jews.
“He earned our hakaras hatov,” Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, a senior member of the Vaad, said at an event in Yeshiva Toras Aharon.
It was a turnaround for the Vaad from the previous election, when they gave their backing for then-Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat in an ultimately losing battle with Christie. But the majority of Lakewood’s population voted for the Republican.
Rabbi Weisberg said that the Corzine endorsement came out of hakaras hatov for his support for expanding FamilyCare, which he said was “a tremendous thing for the kehillah,” but admitting that “it was a “tough call.”
“Christie didn’t have a track record at that time,” he said. “But over the last four years Christie developed a track record.”
Rabbi Weisberg mentioned Christie’s support for a scholarship fund, which would allow a tax deduction for corporate donations for education, private or public. He added that Christie backs expanding FamilyCare.
“But most importantly,” he said, “his political positions and his own personal philosophies are very close with the kehillah.”
The 11 members of the Vaad met with Christie privately before the campaign-style rally, which was open to the public. They decided that since they are endorsing Christie anyway, they may as well come out with it early, a half year before the November elections.
“By now you know that the majority of the Orthodox community that we represent is wall-to-wall Christie country,” Rabbi Weisberg told the crowd on Tuesday.
“The community here in Lakewood cares so much about issues that I care about too,” Christie said. “And I know, here in Lakewood, nothing is more important for the families that moved here and that is the education of your children. We need to make sure, as we move forward, that [a child’s] education is of the parent’s choice.”
While the Vaad has not met with Christie’s Democratic challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono, she has expressed interest in a meeting. Rabbi Weisberg expects to meet her within a few weeks.
A recent poll showed Christie with a 36 percentage point lead over Buono.