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Rahm Emanuel: Chicago ‘Did Not See Me As A Jewish Mayor. They Saw Me As A Mayor Who Was Jewish.’

Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sounded off about anti-Semitism and his leadership style on a May 13 episode of “Chicago Tonight.”

When asked by interviewer Paris Schutz if he believed anti-Semitism played a role for those who opposed his mayorship, Emanuel took a broad historical view.

“A trope of anti-Semitism – the threat of anti-Semitism for thousands of years is that the Jew is ‘other,’” Emanuel said, elaborating that when he, the son of an Israeli immigrant father and a native Chicagoan mother, ran for Congress he was the only candidate made to produce a birth certificate. Similarly in his run for mayor, Emanuel had to provide proof of residency.

“Now, you could say, ‘Oh that’s not explicit anti-Semitism,’ and that is true. But if a Jewish mayor, the first Jewish mayor, or the Jewish member of Congress representing a historically Catholic district, has to prove that they are a member of the community rather than somebody else, it has a thread that has historically been,” Emanuel said.

Still, Emanuel believed the people of Chicago’s good values have always rung through. Even if he “internally” viewed the scrutiny of his citizenship as “a normal piece” of historic anti-Semitism, he never expressed it in those terms because he knew his constituents’ hearts.

“I know the people of the city Chicago,” Emanuel said. “They did not see me as a Jewish mayor. They saw me as a mayor who is Jewish. And they embraced the same ideas and ideals that I had.”

When asked if his way of getting things done might be characterized as brash, Emanuel stressed his belief that likability was overrated and counterproductive to effective leadership.

“My goal wasn’t to be liked,” Emanuel said. “My goal was to get the city moving and I think through that process, to be appreciated.”

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected].


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