Chicago Jewish leaders refuse meeting with Mayor Brandon Johnson on antisemitism in the city

Eric Horng Image
Saturday, April 13, 2024
Chicago Jewish leaders refuse meeting with Mayor Brandon Johnson
Jewish leaders including Ald. Debra Silverstein declined a meeting with Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to discuss antisemitism in the city.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Jewish leaders have declined an offer to meeting in a roundtable with Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to address antisemitism, accusing him of disrespecting the city's Jewish community.

Ald. Debra Silverstein said the mayor's staff reached out last week about convening a roundtable Monday with Jewish leaders to talk about antisemitism in the city. She and State Senator Sara Feigenholtz and State Representative Bob Morgan declined.

The three sent Johnson a letter, telling the mayor, "Before calling for a roundtable on antisemitism a true leader should begin by demonstrating a modicum of empathy for the Jewish community."

"We need our mayor to unite us instead of continuing to divide us," she said. "I do not feel that the Jewish community feels that he's got our back."

Silverstein said the mayor has fences to mend fences with the community.

"I think that the mayor needs to pay attention to everybody in the city of Chicago, and I do not feel that the Jewish community feels that he's got our back," Silverstein said.

The letter takes Mayor Johnson to task for casting the tie-breaking vote to pass the city's Israel-Hamas ceasefire resolution, and for not condemning what they say were antisemitic chants and flyers at a student walkout the day of the vote.

"They were praised for walking out, but what about the Jewish kids that go to CPS, the Jewish kids whose parents call me and say my child is afraid to go to school? What are we doing about them?" said Silverstein.

Silverstein, who is the only Jewish member of the Chicago City Council, said the mayor's perceived silence has enabled city council meetings to, at times, devolve into chaos.

"I think our mayor really needs to lead, and I think our mayor needs to speak out, and I and my community are not feeling safe," she said.

A spokesperson for the mayor declined to comment on the letter. Representatives from multiple Jewish groups were also invited to the meeting, and we've learned the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish United Fund also declined the invitation.

"He has a lot of fences to mend," Silverstein said. "I hope it's not irreparable, but he needs to make a move."