This article was originally published on Jewish Insider
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U.S. Republican presidential candidate John Kasich took a pre-Passover learning tour in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York on Tuesday, ahead of the April 19 presidential primary.
Accompanied by Ezra Friedlander, a Democratic strategist and CEO of The Friedlander Group, Kasich visited Eichler’s Judaica in Borough Park, where he was shown a silver-plated Seder tray, a matzah cover, and a Passover Haggadah.
Kasich was amused to learn about the afikoman. As Friedlander described how the children “steal” the middle matzah and ask for a reward for its return, Kasich walked away astonished and mumbled, “pass-over."
When asked by Jewish Insider if he ever attended a Seder, Kasich replied: “Yes."
The Ohio governor and Friedlander also got into a debate over who is the most admired person in the Torah. “I would say, Moses,” Friedlander said. “What about Abraham? What happened to Abraham?” Kasich asked. To which Friedlander explained that the story of the Jewish people accepting the Torah from God started when they left Egypt led by Moses. “What are you talking about? Get outta here,” Kasich dismissed the explanation. “The story of the people are Abraham – when God made a covenant with Abraham, not Moses."
“Yeah, but you know what? In our prayers, we do mention Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" — “Yeah, like they were important,” Kasich interrupted — "but we refer to the laws as the laws of Moses and Israel,” Friedlander tried his luck once again. “So, Moses is up there."
“Yeah, I believe it,” Kasich replied. “So is Isaac and"
Kasich also bumped into a group of local yeshiva students who learn overseas. “What are you studying?” he asked. “Talmud,” one student replied. “Okay, but what are you learning now?” Kasich pressed. “Shabbat laws,” they said. “Do you know who I like? Joseph,” Kasich started lecturing them. “You study Joseph? What do you think about Joseph? Did you hear what was the most important thing Joseph said to his brothers? ‘My brothers, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’ Did you know that? He may have been a little bit of a bragger. A little bit. Maybe. But they threw him in that ditch, they saved him and then sold him to slavery. And that’s how the Jews got to Egypt. Did you know that?”
“Yes,” they responded politely.
“It is a great story, one of my favorites because I can’t figure out what Joseph ever did wrong,” Kasich said.
Kasich said Joshuah is another favorite, describing him as a guy “who didn’t have any flaws. Joshua was another great leader."
“Do you know about Joshua?” he asked the students.
“He was the disciple of Moses,” Friedlander interrupted him.
“I know he was. I know that,” Kasich brushed him off while chuckling. “I am going to have to teach him (Friedlander). I will have to ride around all day to teach him."
Kasich was then showed the yarmulke section. “Yes, I know what they are,” he remarked.
As he concluded the stop, Kasich told those surrounding him, “I admire the Jewish tradition from the standpoint. The greatest saying is ‘Live a life bigger than yourself.’ That’s really important. I think the Jewish culture is so important in our country because people need to realize that you need to live a life bigger than yourself, not be scrambling for your cell phone all the time. That’s what I try telling people whenever I am with them."
Kasich also visited Charedim Matzah Bakery, where he observed a few dozen people rolling the dough and the baker putting the matzah into the oven, before receiving a 1lb box of matzot.
The Republican presidential hopeful addressed a couple of dozen people gathered outside the bakery under the train track, giving a semi-sermon on the holiday of Passover and the parallels between Christianity and Judaism.
“The Jews were instructed to take the blood of the lamb, and to put the blood of the lamb over the lampposts, over the doorposts, so when the Angel of Death came and saw the blood of the lamb, the Angel of Death would pass over their homes,” Kasich said. “The great link between the blood that was put above the lamppost, the blood of the lamb, is Jesus Christ is known as the Lamb of God. And the great link is, it was the blood of the lamb that saved the Jewish people, and in Christianity, it was the blood of the Lamb of God that saves all of us. It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community, the Passover."
The Ohio governor then visited the Shema Kolainu (Hear Our Voices) school for autistic children, where he was peppered with questions from little kids dancing around him and expressing support for his candidacy.
“I’m glad John Kasich was in Borough Park today to visit Shema Kolainu-Hear Our Voices so that he got to witness firsthand how the children’s lives are elevated every day,” Friedlander told Jewish Insider. “I saw compassion in Kasich’s eyes and a genuine interest in learning more about programs for children with autism."
Friedlander said he also enjoyed the “impromptu theological discussion” as described above. “I felt his visit to Eichler’s of Boro Park and the matza bakery is indicative of his sincere commitment to embrace our community,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kasich derided the tone of the election, one that “exploits anger, encourages resentment, turns fear into hatred and divides people."
In a speech to the Women’s National Republican Club in Midtown Manhattan, Kasich listed off a string of policy proposals that his rivals Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have floated during the course of the campaign as a path that “solves nothing, demeans our history, weakens our country and cheapens each of us."
“Some who feed off of the fears and anger that is felt by some of us and exploit it feed their own insatiable desire for fame or attention,” the Ohio governor said. “That could drive America down into a ditch, not make us great again." Instead, he offered a better way to address the fears, and a path that recognizes that “America’s strength is that we are bound by shared ideas, by communities and families and people who are free, creative and giving."
Outlining his first 100 days agenda, Kasich stressed that with increased stability and strength “America can rebuild its military [and] resume leadership of the world When America is strong, less dependent on debt and growing economically, we can reclaim our place as a leader in the world. When America is strong and actively engaged in the world, the world is a safer place and America is a safer place."