Adam Dickter reports in The Jewish Week:
For 30 years, Hank Sheinkopf has been offering his advice to candidates and his analysis of the political landscape to the media. Now, he’s also fielding questions about halacha and offering comfort to the spiritually afflicted – as a newly ordained Orthodox rabbi.
Rabbi Sheinkopf was granted smicha on July 5 from Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Yaroslavsky of Kfar Chabad, the Lubavitch enclave in Israel (COLlive note: The rabbi lives in Kiryat Malachi).
Since the rabbi speaks no English, Sheinkopf completed his exam in Hebrew, which he has been studying at home on the Upper West Side.
“I studied very hard,” said the consultant, 61, who is perhaps the most quoted pundit in the city, and has worked on the 2001 mayoral campaign of former Public Advocate Mark Green, the 1998 attorney general bid of Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 re-election campaign, among many others. “I had to learn four portions of the Shulchan Orach [code of Jewish law].”
Sheinkopf became Orthodox 18 years ago before the birth of his son, Isaac. He and his wife, Dr. Debra Budick, also have a 15-year-old daughter, Sarah.
He said he pursued smicha because of his sense of being blessed with a successful life after a rough start, living in a poor and volatile home in the South Bronx, the son of teenage parents, and later in an upstate orphanage.
During the unhappiest times of his childhood, he often dreamed of being a rabbi.
A member of The Jewish Center of the Upper West Side who also attends services at the Chabad on W. 97th Street, Sheinkof said he has already fielded some halachic inquiries from friends and acquaintances.
“I tell people that sometimes God puts things in front of you that you have to overcome, because God put them there so you can overcome them,” he said.
He has no immediate plans to give up political consulting, however.