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Furthermore, stark income differentials are more visible in New York than they are in other places. A crowded and diverse city, filled with immigrants and minorities, New Yorkers literally live on top of each other; and they watch with despair as neighborhood after neighborhood in Manhattan and Brooklyn becomes gentrified, out of reach of those on the lower rungs of the middle class. And because the city is a financial center, the glittering dinners, benefits, and receptions of the super-rich fill the tabloids daily. This is great fun when all are sharing in the good times, but a source of bitterness when they are not.
Bloomberg should have gone off quietly into the night, expressing sympathy for the plight of struggling New Yorkers. But the Mayor was incapable of this. His now famous interview with New York magazine drew attention mostly because of his observations on Bill de Blasio’s interracial family, but his other comments were more important. He said—and I am not making this up—that the very best way to help New Yorkers would be to get more Russian oligarchs and billionaires from around the world to move to New York. He reminded the poor that things weren’t so bad because 80% of them have air-conditioning. He could think of no reason to be critical of the financial industry. And he managed not to utter a single word of support, encouragement, or understanding for the plight of those who live in his city.
After 12 years as a pretty good mayor, Bloomberg presented himself as an arrogant, out-of-touch billionaire, not only tone deaf to the problems of average New Yorkers but contemptuous of their concerns.
It is time for Bloomberg to go, and it is no surprise that Bill de Blasio won the primary (or so it appears as this is written) and got the largest share, by far, of Jewish votes. It was de Blasio who showed understanding of the insecurity and anger of so many New Yorkers. It was he who spoke of shared sacrifice, challenging the entrenched and calling our leaders to account. It was he who talked the language of ordinary working New Yorkers.
The supporters of Republican candidate Joseph J. Lhota are confident that New York Jewish voters, who backed Bloomberg and Guliani and have not supported a Democrat in 20 years, have moved permanently to the Republican camp. Perhaps, although Lhota seems to be singing mostly from the Romney songbook, and that did not work out too well for the Republicans in 2012.
My guess is that de Blasio will win the Jews on November 5th. Jews will likely support him out of self-interest—most Jews, remember, are not on Wall St.—and out of a sense that at a moment when America’s priorities are warped, the Jews care not only for their own but for the injured of other tribes and other races. De Blasio is no radical, but an establishment liberal who is committed to capitalism while knowing that fairness matters—something that, sadly, the good Mayor Bloomberg appears to have forgotten.
*This opinion piece first appeared on Haaretz. Read more at Haaretz.com
Rabbi Eric Yoffie is the former leader of the Union for Reform Jewry. He writes on his ericyoffie.com website.