Boston has a long and vibrant Jewish history. And while the greater Boston Jewish community is now spread across the towns and cities that make up our region, the city itself has some 30,000 Jewish residents, some 4% of the population – double the national average.
They are also an incredibly diverse community, spread across different neighborhoods: A 2Life senior living community and a vibrant Orthodox community in Brighton; Reconstructionist Temple Hillel B’nai Torah in West Roxbury, home to multi-racial and interfaith families and queer Jews, the historic Reform Temple Israel in Longview that so often serves as an anchor and gathering place for Boston’s interfaith community in times of hope and of crisis; empty-nesters downtown, and young professional families in the South End. These, and others, are the mosaic of our community in this city.
Across this diversity, among the commonalities for this community - an important and sizable constituency – is an understanding about the importance of engaging in civic life and being in relationship with municipal leadership. The Jewish communities of Boston understand how decisions made at City Hall impact them, every Bostonian, and – candidly – the entire region.
And this is a moment of historic transition in Boston’s leadership, one that invites great interest and anticipation. We have our first Black and female mayor. This fall the city will most certainly elect, for the first time, a mayor who is not a white man. The decisions the next mayor will make, in public safety, education, transportation, climate, development, and equity, will impact every citizen of Boston and, in fact of the entire region, which for all intents and purposes, shares a single economy and eco-system.
So, it was an important evening this past Monday night, when, the Anti-Defamation League of New England in partnership with JCRC, along with fifteen co-sponsoring organizations from across this community, hosted a forum with the candidates for Mayor. Some 200 members of our community came online to hear five candidates (all were invited) address a broad range of issues and concerns.
(And here I will note that ADL and JCRC are non-partisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. We do not endorse or oppose individual candidates nor support a specific party. We do not take sides in electoral politics).
Questions came from a wide range of community members. They asked about how City Hall can help in the fight against antisemitism and expressed concern about the police’s treatment of Black and Brown people, including Jews of Color. They wanted to know what, as Mayor, the candidates, would commit to doing to close the racial wealth gap, and also whether the candidates would commit to opposing a municipal BDS effort such as we just saw in Cambridge (all five did commit). They were asked about their support for the reforms in the Boston Public Schools exam schools, and about the pilot ethnic studies program. They raised concerns about affordable housing, support for immigrant communities and transgender youth. They asked the candidates to support genocide education as a requirement in all schools (they all did).
As I listened to the candidates - John Barros, Councilor Andrea Campbell, Councilor Anissa Essaibi-George, Representative Jon Santiago and Councilor Michelle Wu – I heard different nuances, complexities, areas of focus and thoughts that they added (in addition to the “yes and no” of particular topics). It was an illuminating and enlightening evening and if you are a Boston resident, I encourage you to check out the forum here.
Between now and the preliminary election on September 14th I hope and expect that the candidates will continue to engage with our community. Five have already committed to single-candidate forums hosted by the Agudath Israel of New England, focusing on concerns in the Orthodox community; some are already making visits to 2Life senior living community in Brighton. And I know that our community will continue to engage with the candidates, not only in these spaces but as part of the broader civic fabric that we are a part of.
And for those of you who don’t live in Boston, remember; there are importance municipal elections happening across the region. As a Cambridge voter, I will be very focused on getting to know who the city council candidates are and what they stand for. I encourage you to do your own deep dive into the position of your local candidates on the issues that matter most to you.
Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord in its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper. – Jeremiah 29:7