Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Leader Share Faith — But Little Else

Firebrand African-American Convert Is Thorn in Mayor's Side


By Menachem Wecker

Published September 10, 2013, issue of September 13, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Last Halloween, 17-year-old Eleanor Glockner threw a red wool jacket over an old black dress of her mom’s. She dyed her hair gray, pinned it into a bun and stuck a homemade Chicago Teachers Union button on her lapel before marching down the street to trick-or-treat at the home of her neighbor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“I was curious to see how he would react,” the Northside College Prep High School senior said mischievously, referring to her impersonation of CTU President Karen Lewis.

Disappointingly for her, rather than the mayor, a bowl of candies on a chair greeted sweets-seekers near the sidewalk in front of Emanuel’s home. But the plainclothes police officer guarding his home laughed and told Glockner he would tell the mayor about it.

Emanuel — a favorite son of Jewish organizations, such as American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Chicago’s Jewish United Fund — and Lewis, an African American who converted to Judaism two decades ago, may share a religious faith. But the clash of these two powerful personalities over the future of public education has seeped deep into Chicago’s consciousness as the two have brawled bitterly over what is, for many Jews, a key Jewish and public value.

Among the high (or low) points, according to Lewis, was a meeting between the two in the fall of 2011 when, Lewis reported, Emanuel “exploded” at her, pointed his finger, and screamed, “F— you, Lewis!” The famously salty-tongued Emanuel declined to confirm or deny Lewis’ account, but told the Chicago Sun-Times: “To tell the truth, she hugged me at the end of the meeting.”

For her part, some of Lewis’ attacks on Emanuel and his education reform program, led by wealthy philanthropists such as local billionaire Penny Pritzker, have been incendiary. Alluding to the reformers’ focus on closing unionized public schools that have performed poorly and replacing them with non-union charter schools, Lewis railed, “When did all these venture capitalists become so interested in the lives of minority students in the first place? There’s something about these folks who love the kids but hate their parents. There’s something about these folks who use little black and brown children as stage props at one press conference while announcing they want to fire, layoff or lock up their parents at another press conference.”

Asked if the city schools should boost property taxes, Lewis said, “Yes. If you look at a majority of the tax base for property taxes in Chicago, they’re mostly white, who don’t have a real interest in paying for the education of poor black and brown children. We don’t want to say that out loud.”

Last month, the Sun-Times referred to Lewis and Emanuel as an “eraser set, involved in a real dust-up.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.