Brandon Johnson, a progressive Democrat supported by the teachers’ union, defeated Paul Vallas in the April 4 runoff election for mayor of Chicago, which sometimes seemed to be close.
Johnson won with 52.1% of the vote to Vallas’ 47.9%. Many of Chicago’s Orthodox Jewish population turned out early before Passover, which started on the evening of the following day, April 5. Vallas, a more conservative Democrat who favored tough-on-crime policies and school choice, won the support of this community.
Some others believed Vallas might win by a narrow margin thanks to the Orthodox Chicago vote. Lori Lightfoot, who lost the general election on February 28, was replaced by Johnson after the results were counted.
The CEO of Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov-Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi (JDBY-YTT), Rabbi Menachem Levine, told JNS there was some sadness, but he wouldn’t call it discouragement. “Even if the vote was closely contested, we will cooperate with the victor in the end.”
Levine, who is in charge of the 70-year-old institution, which, according to its website, has 1,500 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade and is the largest Jewish elementary day school in the Midwest, told JNS that 90% of Chicago’s Orthodox Jews and Orthodox leaders would support Vallas.
Levine told JNS that although JDBY-YTT does not support any one candidate, he and the majority of his community, in his opinion, voted for Vallas.
On election day, Levine stated, “If you go around West Rogers Park, you’ll see lots of yard signs supporting Vallas.” Most Jews in Chicago reside in the West Rogers Park area, a prominent Orthodox Jewish center in the Midwest.
Levine claims that local Orthodox synagogues used WhatsApp groups to persuade their followers to cast their ballots before Passover.
Agudath Israel of Illinois’s email alerts urging Orthodox Jews to cast a vote early if not on Election Day, were also displayed to JNS.
Orthodox Jewish voters in Chicago voted at comparable percentages to those in other areas, according to Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, director of government affairs at Agudath Israel of Illinois, who spoke to JNS.
Crime, antisemitism, and education were the three main problems for Orthodox Chicagoans in the mayoral election, according to Soroka.
He declared that “our neighborhoods have seen an increase in violence that needs to be handled.”
Soroka stated that his community has recently come under an antisemitic attack.
Orthodox Chicagoans likewise worry about the Invest in Kids scholarship tax credit’s impending expiration.
The state’s sole scholarship-based school choice program will be in jeopardy if lawmakers don’t take action to renew the honor during the 103rd general session.
Agudath Israel of Illinois, who congratulated the newly elected mayor, said in a press release that Johnson visited the organization before beginning his campaign and spoke to it and other Jewish leaders on March 24.
According to the press release, “the mayor-elect indicated a strong commitment to ensuring the community continues to be able to live by its values and culture and committed to keep open a direct channel of contact and to continue establishing a good working relationship.”
Soroka told JNS he is looking forward to working with Johnson after Johnson lauded Chicago’s Orthodox Jewish community when the two first met, though he declined to describe how Orthodox Jews in Chicago voted.