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Out of the Loop

Rahm Emanuel won’t be Chicago’s next mayor, because the city won’t elect a Jew

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Rahm Emanuel campaigning at an L stop. (John Gress/Getty Images)

It doesn’t matter how big a war chest Rahm Emanuel can accumulate, to whom he sends dead fish wrapped in newspaper, or how many folksy features the New York Times runs to give his campaign legs. “Rahmbo” will never be mayor of Chicago.

I am hardly the only one to be un-wowed by the former Congressman’s announcement that he was leaving his position as White House chief of staff to campaign for mayor of the Second City. But the early blogosphere reaction got everything wrong: Chicago’s Jewish voters may shun Emanuel because his politics are either too conservative or not conservative enough (in other words, Jews are either disappointed with Obama or critical of his position on Israel), one ventured. An equally boilerplate line of thinking speculated if Emanuel does not win it is because he is “too Washington” and “not Chicago” enough, as one timorous blog ventured after his resignation from the White House.

This is all ridiculous. Emanuel doesn’t stand a chance here because, as one longtime Chicagoan put it to me recently, he is “too Jewish” in a city that has never had a Jewish mayor and a state that has never had a Jewish attorney general or U.S. senator, despite having the fifth-largest Jewish population of any U.S. city, according to the World Jewish Congress.

“He has a potty mouth,” another bystander put it, basically repeating the sentiment.

I grew up on the East Coast, but I’ve lived in Chicago for 10 years—as long as I lived in New York as an adult—and by now I am all too acquainted with this sort of thinking. Emanuel’s brash public persona, which in New York and Washington is synonymous with the allegedly Jewish qualities of ambition, striving, and aggression—all desirable qualities, or at least ones that get you talked about on Sunday morning news shows—does not play in the power corridors here.

Chicago might be rough and tumble, but where Jews are concerned the most racially and ethnically segregated city in the nation prefers repressed politesse, a country-club attitude more pre-Civil Rights than post-racial. Whenever I complain about this to New Yorkers I get bewildered stares and shrugs. They’re too concerned with Palestine to bother with what’s going on in a flyover zone.

As everyone who has not been asleep for the past two years knows, since Emanuel’s arrival in the White House, he has traded on his Jewishness in the casual, shorthand way familiar to anyone who has lived on the East or West Coast, now mentioning his bar mitzvah, then talking about his Tel Aviv-born father. Every fact in every article about him, from his getting accepted to Juilliard for ballet to his doing yoga (full disclosure: I once practiced Vinyasa a few mats away from him) gets measured against the fact of his Jewishness. None of that is worth a dime here.

One piece of evidence in the Emanuel-is-too-Jewish-to-win argument is simply numbers: Whereas Jews make up 9 percent of New York City’s population, the percentage of Jews in the Chicago metropolitan area is about 2 percent.

Irving Cutler’s The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb, the classic work on the subject, tells the story of the vanishing urban Chicago Jewry with a mournfulness only bested by Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers. The percentage of Chicagoland Jews living in the suburbs grew from 5 percent in the 1950 to 70 percent in the 1990s, Cutler reports.

Indeed, given that Emanuel grew up in the North Shore suburb of Wilmette, to cast his appearance in Chicago as a homecoming is as absurd as saying that Jersey Shore’s Snooki is from New York City.

This is my second tour in the city. The first one began in 1982, when I arrived at the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

It’s hard to say which was more shocking to me initially: the fact that six years earlier neo-Nazis won the legal right to march in Skokie, a Northern suburb where many Holocaust survivors settled, or that one of the first things my college boyfriend, a Polish-American from the Northwest side, said to me was that he had never met a Jew before. I had never been a victim. Nor had I had a chance to be the Other; I had no idea how to play either of these roles.

As a sophomore, I watched the ugly mayoral race between Harold Washington and Bernard Epton, both of whom were from Hyde Park, which the rest of the city scorned as out of touch until Obama got elected.

Washington was an African-American Democrat, and Epton was a Jewish Republican. Epton campaigned with the slogan “Epton. Before It’s Too Late.” Washington won and became the city’s first African-American mayor, but he died in office.

Since then, the most prominent role Jews have played in Chicago politics is that of scapegoat. One of the most embarrassing events occurred in the spring of 1988, when Steve Cokley, a conspiratorially minded aide to Washington’s successor and Chicago’s second African-American mayor, Eugene Sawyer, speculated that Jewish doctors injected the HIV virus into black babies. It took Sawyer a week to fire him. The story made the national news, and several New York Times pieces accused the Second City itself of anti-Semitism. Op-ed columnist Anthony Lewis, channeling Arthur Miller, thundered “Attention Must Be Paid.” Other writers argued that the majority of African-Americans supported ejecting Cokley from office and that the city’s two African-American newspaper columnists, as well as Richard M. Daley, then Cook County State’s Attorney, spoke out against him. Lewis’ piece quoted Michael Kotzin, now the executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Chicago: “There has been some conspicuous silence,” he said. “Anti-Semitism gets out there in the marketplace, and leaders ignore it.”

It’s absurd to say that anti-Semitism flourishes in the Midwest more than anywhere else—hatred does not respect geography. But Kotzin’s observation resonates for me. Midwestern reticence, which New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin once summed up with three words, “no big deal,” combined with a shrinking Jewish community and warring constituencies, seems to lead to a climate where, in some neighborhoods, it is still considered acceptable—even politically advantageous—to voice anti-Semitism. In 2009, Rev. Jeremiah Wright said about the president who had already distanced himself from his fiery friend: “Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me.” The same year, Jewish cemeteries were vandalized and swastikas defaced buildings at my university.

Alderman William Singer, an Obama supporter and a candidate for mayor in the 1970s, addressed the city’s reputation where Jews are concerned in a Daily Beast article on Friday: “[T]he city has become more mature” since anti-Semitic taunts were hurled at him, he said.

Maybe so, but it still seems lamentably stuck in adolescence. Last year, the most improbable Jewish candidate for lieutenant governor was Scott Lee Cohen, whom the local press dubbed the “millionaire pawnbroker.” Initially ignored, Cohen was ousted by Democratic leaders after he won in the heavily Jewish districts in the city. Then the local media reported that he was a steroid-pumping, prostitute-dating, high-school drop-out, that he allegedly once held a knife to ex wife’s throat and that he owed back child support. Obviously no prodigal son.

After Emanuel announced his candidacy, I took a spin downtown to see the new Spertus Museum exhibit, Chicago’s Jewish History.

Where’s the new exhibit? I asked the guard.

“It’s behind you,” she said.

I turned around. Chicago’s Jewish History was crammed into a tiny 400-square-foot space at one end of the lobby, roughly the size of a budget New York hotel room.

In a space this size, I don’t know where Emanuel can fit in.

Rachel Shteir, a professor at the Theatre School of DePaul University, is the author of three books, including The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, to be published next year.

NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Illinois has never had a Jewish state senator. It also misidentified Richard M. Daley’s job title in 1988. He was Cook County State’s Attorney not attorney general.

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In a city that lauds Louis Farrakhan and the likes of Rev. Wright, why would any Jew think he could go anywhere in a political forum?

Jerome says:

Being a Jewish Chicagoan something about the tone of this article pisses me off. It reeks of the New York Jewish superiority complex. In its content it suggests the Emanuel’s chances of becoming mayor have more to do with some type of underlying anti-semitism than the reputation he has built over the past several years. In Chicago, to truly succeed you must build a machine starting from the ward level. Emanuel has not anything like this.

Notwithstanding some ugly incidents that were actually loudly condemned when they occurred over 20 years ago, it is true that Chicago voters do tend to vote in ethnic blocks and the population of Hispanic, Black, Polish and Irish voters exceeds that of Jewish voters. This preference for one’s own group does however make one an anti-semite.

As to Independent Patriot’s comment, the “city” does not laud Farrakhan and Wright. Some small segments of the population do, but to suggest Jews can get no where in politics here flies in the face of actual experience.

Barry Meislin says:

Won’t elect a Jew? Or won’t elect a farshtakanah idiot?

I suspect you also bet against the election of a black president!

The comments of this publication reminds me of my Bubby’s hand-wringing generation. All of the insane, irrational hysteria about the EHR KUMT sermon and the alleged probability of the inability to elect a Jewish American as Mayor of Chicago makes me realize that even in these more sophisticated times we can’t seem to get a grip.

Thanks for your message of hopelessness.

Get your facts correct. There are many Jewish State Senator’s in Illinois. Moreover, Illinois elected it’s first Jewish Governor over 70 years ago. This author knows nothing about Chicago. Mr. Emanuel’s chief obstacles have little to do with religion.

mike mitchel says:

maybe its time for rahm to return to israel to settle down and run for mayor of tel aviv and who knows maybe prime minister. i think God is going to bring the jews of north america home to israel soon.

Yes, the writer is ignorant. Illinois has had Jewish Governor’s. Chicago has had Jewish Aldermen and women. The writer’s article has no merit. Tablet’s “read” nears some rereading.

Sorry, but this article is really out of whack with the usual standards of Tablet. It needs fact checking on a basic level and should be labeled “editorial.” Real nonsense.

Ken Besig, Israel says:

As a Jew I would normally do my best to support another member of the tribe in his quest for political office, but I cannot support Rahm Emmanuel in any of his endeavors and if possible I would actually work to stymie him in any way I could.
This is because of his at best lukewarm support for Israel, and his enthusiastic support for Barack Obama, perhaps the President most hostile to Israel and antagonistic towards the Jewish People since the Haman Jimmy Carter darkened the halls of the White House.
For me, and probably many, many other Jews, Rahm Emmanuel is anathema and only deserves the harshest punishment for his abandoning Israel to her enemies, including President Barack Hussein Obama.

Marty Janner says:

As pugnacious as this guy is,he may very well suprise the so called pundits.Not being a Chicagoan, and living in the sunny south it’s easy for me to come to this conclusion, however the Daley Machine is the issue. Will they use their clout to support his electoral mission?

The judgement lies with the populace, who fully know what this guy is!
IF he is a candidate, this should be a very interesting event.

I honestly believe that Emmanuel has a chance to make a good run if he actually reaches out to all people based on what’s really bothering them. They need to feel safe in the city, secure about its services and most of all, hopeful about investment and jobs in the community, and soon. If he talks to all groups as Chicagoans, respecting their cultural differences and grievances, the fact of his Jewishness will matter less than his message. A ‘smart’ guy that gets things done is not unknown in Chicago politics!

Mr Mel says:

Yet he got elected to Congress, I believe 3 times.

Lisa Kaiser says:

I have never lived in Chicago or in Illinois, so will admit I don’t have nay knowledge of Chicago politics. but it seems to me that if Eamnuel does organize at the ward level,puts out some workable postive ideas for Chicago, he standa as good a chance to mayor as anyone else running. His Obama connection is what will hurt or help him–not his religion.

After reading this downer article, I think, I will have to send Rahm a campaign contribution just to make some effort toward his candidacy,

I’m not sure which is worse: the article’s ignorance of Chicago or some of the commentators’ lack of humanity. One can cherry-pick incidents of anti-Semitism in countless cities all over the US, but that doesn’t mean one individual Jew won’t get elected mayor. A Jewish yeshiva-bokher was murdered in Brooklyn a few years back by blacks during neighborhood troubles, but the city has had black and Jewish mayors both before and after. Nothing comparable in Chicago has ever happened, to my knowledge.
I too was a Univ. of Chicago student, though some years before Ms. Shteir. It always amazed me how neatly carved up the ethnic neighborhoods were across the city, and stunningly most of that has since changed. Mayor Daley, Sr. was then running the city like a private syndicate, and no believed it would ever become a legitimate democracy, but it has.

will edwards says:

Mr Emmanuel is only a Jew by blood. He appears to be an agnostic by faith. He is the architect of Obama’s two state solution for Israel and has lauded such a solution for years. This man is like one who has been taken from us and turned against us. He only looks Jewish. He is a gangster like all the other gangsters. Who really cares if he runs for Mayor of Chicago? I’m just glad he’s no longer writing policy for the President of the United States. As a Jew, however, I have to recognize his Jewish heritage and accept him as a brother… a wayward misbehaving criminally abusive brother…

will edwards says:

Reform Judaism… whatever you want to believe its kewl… as long as you chip in with your 10%, right? Ha-Shem asks so little of us ( I didn’t say Rabbi now did I?) and we find it so very hard to comply. May I suggest starting again? It’s a perfect time with the beginning cycle of the Torah lessons.

-far from perfect observer

will edwards says:

fyi my mother’s family settled the Lake Michigan area long before there was a United States. We are a Sephardic derivative (I’m a mixed breed from that area of the USA)with absolutely no religious instructions. I only discovered the richness of my heritage in my 50s. Anyway we were there long before those bleeping Christians moved in…

The point is Chicago isn’t a town where religious faith is taken seriously. Emmanuel would make it on his recent history and fame, not his Judaism…or apparent lack of it.

“Rahm is Jewish, and Chicago (more than other cities, and as a monolith) quietly keeps Jews out of power because Chicago is anti-Semitic.” I suppose this is the kind of thesis you need to get published in Tablet, but it seems off to me.

First, it seems silly to say we’ve never had a Jewish State Senator but fail to mention, for instance, Governor Henry Horner, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, or Daley’s current right-hand man Ron Huberman.

Second, the “they don’t like Jews here” argument just doesn’t ring true to me. Of course, we have Farrakhan and about 15 KKK jerks (who only got to march with the help of Chicago lawyer Burton Joseph). As the author tacitly acknowledges, of course, an angry preacher and a few (threatening) racists does not make a culture. As for the jab at kindly Midwesterners, I (usually) resemble that remark! However, the author’s point about Chicago neighborhood parochialism is well-taken.

Rahm is encountering trouble because he’s shipping in from out of state and his reputation is as a person who relishes cracking the eggs as much as making the omelette. In a city with 50 fiefdoms, every mayoral candidate is a threat to order, and Rahm is the biggest threat of them all right now. To chalk his (week-long?) difficulty up to anti-Semitism simply misses the mark.

As for Spertus, the new building is beautiful from the outside, but I’m with the author on this one–oy, what a mistake!

Are we supposed to be concerned about Rahm Emanuel? Rahm Emanuel is interested in Rahm Emanuel. The Jewish community owes him nothing.

richard j. brenner says:

I have two words for the ignorant writer (and editor) of this shabby piece: Paul Simon. Not the singer, the former U.S. senator.

If they can’t be trusted to get that right, what can they be trusted with?

Richard J. Brenner

will edwards says:

Mr Besig,
Please understand Israel is Israel and the United States is NOT Israel. Barak Obama is a Christian not an Islamist and your emotional attack is yet another lie. Are you sure you don’t work for the nazis…er Republicans? Mr. Obama’s job is to administer the business of the United States government to the rest of the world, not create a remote Jewish colony. Mr Emmanuel has been a traitor to Israel in my opinion, but that’s just the way it is in reform Judaism…again only my opinion. Basically I’m saying hate speech comes from the evil side of the coin, sir.

Paul Simon was not Jewish-He was a Lutheran.

W/r/t Richard Brenner’s comment about Paul Simon…pretty sure he wasn’t Jewish. If only we could claim him! (Wikipedia gives some confirmation to my intuition on this one.)



David Bar-Dov says:

This has got to be the most naive piece of tripe I have had the misfortune to read since I left Chicago nearly 40 years ago. Any simple idiot knows that whoever gets nominated by the Democratic party will automatically be elected. And I will probably vote for this candidate, even though I don’t live there…

Bernie says:

What a strange article. Rahm is smart enough to know if his chances to be elected mayor are good or not.Surely, he has backers who are as smart as he is. I read an article in my local newspaper this morning that Rahm is not brash but rather, effecient, attentive and gets things done. I would vote for him if I lived in Chicago. Best of luck to Rahm.

I would vote for Rahm. He is a breath of fresh air. Some have said he had crocodile tears at the parting speech with Obama. If I may say it, hogwash. I can cry one minute and swear like a fishwife the next. It is called raw honesty.
Another article was stating how he made a welcome back film about comimg home to Chicago but he was still in D.C. Who cares. I am sure he is busy and has to get things done. Are any of us crazy enough to run for Mayor of Chicago in the footsteps of the Dayle’s.
My prayer is that he can fullfill his term and a second one if he is good. Not quit like Palin, be faithful to his wife , at least while he is in office.And bring at least as good of things to Chicago as the rest have been able to muster.The order is Jerusalem, Samaria the other most parts of the world.
Do you know what that means.
It means first your home, then your neighbor, then the other most parts of the world.
Forgive my spelling and grammar, I say this to all of you who look at these things.
Have a good day.

I agree with Jerome. As a life long Chicagoan I don’t agree with your sentiments at all and I don’t think you have your facts straight either. Have you ever heard of Abner Mikvah, Jan Schakowksy, Adolph Sabath, Sidney Yates? All Jewish – all elected. How about Rahm himself – he was elected by Chicagoans to represent them in the House of Representatives. So why wouldn’t they elect him now?

Rahm WILL get elected. There isn’t a doubt in my mind. I am Jewish but never really considered Rahm to be Jewish. He will win because he has great experience and the city is looking for somebody WITHOUT Chicago connections. Daley has dirty hands. Its time for change. I’m not saying that I will be voting for Rahm. I just think there’s absolutely no way he doesn’t win.

Bernie Epton, the Jew, came closer than any Republican in recent memory to defeating the Democratic candidate for mayor. The only appeals to prejudice in that race were anti-black appeals.

And Shteir has her chronology wrong with regard to Scott Lee Cohen. He wasn’t dumped from the ticket until AFTER the press reports that “he was a steroid-pumping, prostitute-dating, high-school drop-out [who]allegedly once held a knife to ex wife’s throat and that he owed back child support.”

As to the Spertus Institute (of which the Museum is only a part), like a lot of non-profits, they were badly burned in the economic downturn. They have had to severely restrict the days and hours that the exhibits are open to the public, but the Institute continues to provide advanced degree programs, as well as public programs. It’s unfortunate, but blame the economy, not the fact that it’s a Jewish institution.

I hope that Shteir’s academic work is more scholarly than this article.

The author forgets that Chicagoans overwhelmingly, and somewhat inexplicably, still support Obama. I lived in the city when Obama was elected (Ukrainian Village) and I have never seen a politician venerated the way that Obama was during that time (even aside from the unprecedented nature of the Obama “brand” in the rest of the country). That association easily has the potential to put him in the mayor’s office.

This is the kind of stupid and lazy political punditry that trumpeted that a black couldn’t become president or that a Serb with a funny name (Blagojevich, talk about a pottymouth) would never be elected governor. It’s lame and tired analysis.

Rahm will get elected Mayor of Chicago.

Like Rachel Shteir, I also came from NYC and attended the University of Chicago. You are absolutely right on with regard to those “cultural” differences.

Addendum to what I said earlier. I am from the L.A., but lived in Chicago for awhile. I was surprised how un-Jewish the vibe actually was. There are HUGE cultural differences between Chicago and New York/L.A. But Rahm will still probably win!

Rebecca Rubin says:

Rachel, Rachel, where to begin! Yes, I think Rahm is unlikely to be elected mayor of Chicago for a number of reasons, anti-semitism among them. His style of working is also a total mis-fit for the job and the city. Even with his war chest, backing from Daley and Obama, and his talents and energy, if the blacks and hispanics unite behind one candidate there is no chance Emanuel can win. But I really don’t think you know the city as well as you think you do, a common problem of journalists. I also never experienced openly expressed anti-semitism until I moved to Chicago, but I think things have changed slightly. Also you might want to go back to the Spertus Institute because I think you missed the galleries on the upper levels. Worth the trip, esp. since you work in the neighborhood. You got to get out into the neighborhoods, girl friend and find the real Chicago.

M. Brukhes says:

Prove her wrong, Rahm: prove her wrong!!

T.C. Radzilowski says:

It is worth noting that Rahm Emmauel was elected to the House three times from the most heavily Polish Catholic district in Chicago. (65-70,000 Polish American voters) Despite its size the Polish American community has never elected a Mayor of the city. Some of this may have to do with prejudice but there are a lot of other factors internal and external to the community that are involved. Chicago is a very complex place and if Emmanuel loses it will have a lot more to do with other factors than just some tepid anti-Semitism

Jackie says:

If he doesn’t get elected, it won’t be because he’s Jewish, it’s because of the way Chicago politics works. The fact that he was in Washington and has “name” recognition won’t be much of an asset, because Chicago politics works from the ground up. You establish your base, then you build the base as you work your way up. Daley, because of his father, had an in. There are also coalitions. Black, Hispanic, etc. If Rahm doesn’t win it won’t be because he of anti-semitism, it will be because he doesn’t have a big enough coalition. Chicago isn’t as Jewish as New York or LA, but come on, try San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, San Diego, basically just about any other US city.


This was a great piece and I’m contacting the writer to tell her so.

The Obama administration including Emmanuel is anti-Israel and thus, as far as this originally NY Jew sees it, anti-Jew. Axelrod and the others are Progressive Jews as is Rabbi Michael Lerner, their leader. Share everything, don’t fight, make nice like that rabbi who told the Jews in Skokie “go home and close your window shades when the neo-Nazis march by”. That really helped in Poland didn’t it or the brown shirts on the streets of Germany.
Let';s face it blacks are anti-Jew. They don’t want to know that if it wasn’t for the Jews there would not have been a NAACP much less financing and legal advice for MLK’s marches and everything else. You can say that the Jews created the Civil Rights plans lock, stock and barrel. As a former Freedom Rider I would never do it again. Look how the country turned out. Blacks, 38 million of them and if only 50% were the criminals they are that’s still 19 million.

I remember Sokie in the 1960’s. So that’s only 15 years after the end of WW II for those Jews. Louis Brandeis, probably our best jurist in the 20th century, said, “You can’t yell fire in my theater” talking about free speech.

The right to march in a Jewish neighborhood should never have been permitted and the Jews should have armed themselves with guns and shot that rabbi first.

Bill Levy

I hope that anti-semitism in the area has declined since the 80s. I was over an MD survey project related to the Chicago Medical School.
The responses of many MDs in North Chicago were clearly anti-semetic regarding that institution.

Emily says:

This article has no factual basis. As previous comments point out, Illinois does have Jewish politicians, both state and federal. I am a Chicago native, and lived and worked in the Jewish community for almost 15 years. I agree it is the most segregated city – however it is not a “country club” like culture of politeness at all. Maybe in Lincoln Park, where the author works at De Paul University and where I lived for 3 years, but I think if the author took the time to get to know the real Chicago she would find a place very different than the characterization she creates in this article. Very odd…not even sure where it comes from.

Ken Heimbuch says:

Ethnicity is not ignored in Chicago. Should Emanuel not receive the nomination, I would guess it would be because his particular ethnic group comprises 2% of the Chicago electorate. The only group that could reasonably complain of bigotry are african americans, unless of course viewing oneself as a victim is to your advantage.

Don Rose says:

This was a painfully ignorant piece of work–many of the factual errors are noted above, but to add to them, Rich Daley was not attorney general, he was Cook County state’s attorney.(The incumbent state’s attorney is half Jewish) In my considered opinion–having been highly active in electing the two non-Daley mayors of the past half century, Emanuel will be one of the top three finishers on Feb 22, and very likely one of the top two, making him eligible for a runoff on April 5. If he runs off against Tom Dart, he loses. If he runs off against James Meeks or Gery Chico, he wins. His Jewishness (and he is Orthodox, by the way) will be a factor relative to the ethnicity of his runoff opponent–among many other factors. Look–if a state as goyish as Wisconsin, where Joesph McCarthy once reigned, can elect two Jewish senators, Chicago can elect a Jew. “Jewish” New York has not and never did, to my recollection. We are less than 5 percent of the country but have 13 or 14 percent of the US Senate. We don’t win because of numbers and we have overcome political antiSemitism almost everywhere. By the numbers, of not by the electoral college, we elected an Orthodox Jew as vice president of the United States. I am relieved that the author teaches theater and not political science. Her school should be also.

Don Rose says:

Just to clarify, I meant New York has never had two Jewish senators concurrently, as Wisconsin and California have. New York City of course has had two Jewish mayors and one half-Jewish mayor.

Chana Batya says:

New York has had more than 2 Jewish mayors: Beame, Koch, Bloomberg, and LaGuardia, although he considered himself Catholic, had a Jewish mother and so…

Jewish senators: Herbert Lehman, Jacob Javits, Chuck Schumer

Jewish governors: Herbert Lehman and Eliot Spitzer, I’m sad to say

I am not Jewish but I’d vote for Mr Rahm if I had the chance.
I think the Jews are clever people and good for Chicago and America!
Good luck, Jew!

BJKS2 says:

Unfortunately, though the writer states credentials based on two stints living in the city, she clearly has no feel for Chicago today. During the campaign there will be the usual attempts to undermine this candidate with whiffs of antisemitism though they will never come directly from the opposing candidates. They will be condemned by many and retracted, sort of, and the campaign will continue. Most in Chicago aren’t keenly aware of R.E.’s D.C. reputation and it really won’t matter. What will matter is convincing a significant part of the black community that Rahm has a better chance of delivering than Meeks. I’m an easterner and have lived in Chicago for 25 years. It’s a place where a Jew can succeed.

amadeus482000 says:

I remember when a young US Senator named Barack Obama was running for President of the United States of America. Everyone– even “liberal Democrats”– said he wouldn’t get elected because “America will never elect a black president.”

Tablet needs to take its staff and have a complete review of the of the ABCs of basic journalism. One of the first tenets of basic good journalism is to make sure one has correct and verified facts before publishing them. From the look of this “article,” I’m guessing this, and subsequently many other statements, would coming as an embarrassing surprise.

rebbe tex says:

Seems right on target, considering what I;ve felt the the times I’ve spent in Chicago. The anti-Semitism up there is so thick, you feel you can cut it with a knife. Chicago seems years behind everyplace else I’ve lived in terms of this open bigotry being acceptable.

That;s not to say Emmanuel is any bargain. If I his the misfortune to live in Chicago, I wouldn’t vite for him. He’s bad news. But his being Jewish will certainly be a major factor if he loses.

I’m betting on Emmanuel. He has Obama behind him and probably can command 90% of the Black vote overriding any Ward considerations. In addition the Ayers-Dohrn combine is probably behind him which also override Ward connections. He will get a minimum of 20-30% of the White vote just because he’s Jewish. I’m not a Chicagoan but from here it looks like a shoo-in.

This is a stupid argument. These people already elected him to congress.
He was instrumental in electing a Democratic congress. He’s a powerful
politician. The writers of this magazine often get things wrong. Patty

Many good points in this article; however, what if he loses because he is not the right candidate for the job, not because he is one of us?
I don’t vote based on religion, race or political party (registered Ind since I began voting decades ago). I know this may sound naive but if we can’t just vote for the person we believe is best for the job, we may as well not vote at all, even here in sunny Los Angeles.

Morgan says:

It is somewhat apparent in this article that you haven’t gown up in Chicago. Chicago politics = polite, what planet have you been living on? Also Wilmette is a part of Greater Chicago. If you knew your city and its history you would know that the surrounding towns in Cook County are more culturally analogous to an outlying neighborhood in a borough of New York than New Jersey. Also he was elected to Congress by Chicagoans … just sayin.

Marcos El Malo says:

If his Jewishness is a liability, he could run as an Israeli-American? (True, he’s never become an Israeli citizen, but summer camp and volunteering for the IDF counts for something! Not to mention his father was in Irgun.)

I just think he is too vulgar. I can’t see Chicago electing anyone who is so pleased with himself for using that kind of language.

scott lee cohen held a knife to his girlfriend’s throat, not his ex-wife’s.

I am from Hyde Park originally and now live in California. My grandfather escape from the pogroms to come to Chicago and raised ten children in Hyde Park, many of whom attended UofC. I suppose they hoped that the institutional anti-semitism of Europe, which gave rise to Nazism would not be a part of their new life. Unfortunately, Chicago was and still is a city of neighborhoods, which is code for a city of tribes with all of their racial and ethnic hatreds, largely because the interactions among groups is set against these notions of prior identities. For Chicago to get past this, they will need real integration in the schools, and better education. In the meantime, the city remains stuck in early 19th century ideology and social constructs. When I grew up, a person wasn’t just a guy, he was the Polish guy from Pulaski area, the Black guy (or worse), a mick, a dago, a wop, a yid, heb, and on and on. And most people had potty mouths, every other person is an asshole and often an asshole with a gun in their glove compartment. Smile, stay in your hood, and don’t rock the boat. Chicago is a big cow town with all its love of statis, with an overlay of old world antipathies. I, for one, am glad that I never have to tell anyone “what I am” anymore, that is, what my ancestry is.

Jim Ridings says:

Illinois has had many Jewish state senators and representatives, judges and so on. One of the most legendary was Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz (who famously said that he was named for the 16th president because his parents thought Lincoln was Jewish. “His name was Abraham and he was shot in the temple.” That may be just a legend). Illinois also has had two Jewish governors, Henry Horner and Samuel Shapiro, among the most revered in this state of crooked governors. The point is, Emanuel was ruled ineligible because he is not a resident of the city of Chicago, not because he is Jewish.

Sam Stephan says:

This is a shoddy article, however, I do agree with
the main point which is Chicago is probably too
prejudiced to elect a Jewish mayor. There never
was one when the city was teeming with Jews and
there probably won’t be one now.

Taylor Shapiro says:

Ten years in Chicago, does nopt a Chicagoan make–especially to understand the complexities of Chi-town politics.

You had to have grown up under Daly, Part 1 and read columnist Mike Royko every day to speak with such authority.

Rahm and his brother Ari are two of the most powerful men in this country. Do you think they don’t know what they are doing, here?

In case you missed it folks, Chicago already had a Black Mayor, Harold
Washington in 1983 and he was a disbarred, convicted felon in the most segregated Northern American city.

I think they can tolerate a Jew now.

How silly do you feel about this article today? Rahm’s victory is all but a done deal.

Haskel Levi says:

Is there anyone writing about Chicago politics that is a bigger ignoramus about its history, moods and moments than Professor Rachel Shteir? Ms. Shteir shamelessly ignore her previous monumental stupidities while posting her most current.
The Tablet labels itself “A New Read on Jewish Life.’ Nextbook should be ashamed of itself for giving a forum to such an ignorant person.

Mayor of Chicago

Election Results — February 23, 2011 – 09:45AM CT

2557 of 2570 Precincts Reporting 99%

Rahm Emanuel 321,773 55%

Gery Chicao 139,635 24%
Miguel del Valle 54,081 9%
Carol Moseley Braun 52,180 9%
others 14,825 3%

Love him. Hate him. Who cares? Emanuel carried 40 of 50 wards including all Black majority wards.

Excuse my poor typing. The 2nd place finisher’s surname is spelled Chico.

So now will you apologize and promise never to write anything again?

We need to get as many of you liberal arts people to stay out of the public discourse as soon as possible. You’re poisoning America just as much as the far right nutcases. You should know that, because it’s true.

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I’ve said that least 4296283 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

Are you sure you’ve been here for 13 years? Maybe you got lost in Arizona. I suspect, strongly, that you were never in Chicago.

“Rahm Emanuel won’t be Chicago’s next mayor, because the city won’t elect a Jew”

I hope that the author’s obvious expertise on the subject of Chicago is rewarded with a piece in the New York Times Book Review.

— MrJM

Wow .. How did the NYT even acknowledge this slanderous and inane perception of Chicago?

commoner says:

Yet, Illinois had a Jewish Governor decades ago.
Governor Henry Horner, 28th Governor of Illinois, serving from 1933 to 1940.

And then there’s Abner Mikva, who served 8 years in the (US) House of Representatives. Representing a Chicago district.
And Jan Schakowsky, a current member of the House. From a district just outside Chicago.
Samuel Shapiro, who served as Governor, the second Jewish Governor in Illinois. He didn’t win election as governor, he became Governor when Otto Kerner was appointed as a judge.
Also, Martin Emerich and Julius Goldzier (and Rahm, of course) served as US House members from Illinois.
Hardly an electorate opposed to electing Jews.
And, I don’t think most people realized Scott Lee Cohen was jewish. But he was sleezy as hell. When the Dems kicked him off the ticket, that was after winning the race for Lieutenant Governor, not for Governor. And he won the race for Lieutenant Governor before any reports came out about his past with threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, being a deadbeat dad, and various other problems that would cause him to be a millstone on the ticket (in Illinois, during the primary season, candidates running for governor and lieutenant governor run independently of one another. However, once the general election rolls around, Governor and Lieutenant Governor run as a ticket – you can’t have one without the other. So, the Democratic Governor candidate would have been stuck with Mr. Cohen. Voters couldn’t pick the Democratic candidate for governor and then a Green party, Republican Party, or Independent party Lieutenant Governor candidate separately).
Oh, and Mr. Cohen IS a millionaire pawnbroker. He wasn’t labeled as such. He owns a chain of pawnshops. And he was/is proud of such. He campaigned on his success as a businessman and did not even attempt to disassociate himself from the business he was in.
I know this article is years old, but it’s also ignorant as hell. And, sadly for Chicago, we did elect the Jewish guy as mayor. And he’s been a terrible mayor. I don’t know that the alternatives were any better. But, as bad as Daley was, and Daley was pretty bad, Rahm’s been worse. Chicago Public Schools, under Daley, had been slowly (and quietly) improving for years. Rahm decided to blow all that up in his quest to privatize public education. The only bright spot, thus far, under Rahm (and the jury’s still out on this) is that City Colleges appear to finally moving toward the right track.

dawnofthundead says:

Yes, Jews play no part in the city, except for the Pritzkers and the Crowns, and the judiciary and traders and the aldermen and Henry Horner and Sam Shapiro,-Illinois’ two Jewish governors, and the stores on Mag Mile and the Spertus Museum and the restaurants and theater and real estate developers and doctors and hospitals and oh my–once again, this woman elevates her narrow life experience to a world view free and unfettered by facts. She is a total horse’s ass.


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Rahm Emanuel won’t be Chicago’s next mayor, because the city won’t elect a Jew

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