[Rabbi Shlomo] Soroka said that Lightfoot herself pitched the visit to West Rogers Park, the city’s biggest Orthodox enclave, after the Poway synagogue attack in April.
“It was her idea – ‘What do you think about me coming to visit on a Shabbos and seeing firsthand what you’re describing, and impart to the people a sense that the mayor cares,’” Soroka recounted.
Lightfoot spent part of the Sabbath afternoon after synagogue services concluded walking the streets of neighborhood, meeting with leaders and talking with passers-by, learning about their security concerns and some of the particular needs of Orthodox communities, like eruv wires.
The visit was not publicly announced by City Hall; there are no pictures of the visit on the mayor’s social media pages, and the mayor’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.
But Soroka said the lack of a photographer on Shabbat showed Lightfoot’s sensitivity to community concerns, as well as proving that this was a genuine concern to her and not just for show.
“In advance of the visit, we requested that we shouldn’t have photographers on the Sabbath, to keep with the sanctity of the day – it may not violate the letter of the law, but the spirit of what it’s supposed to be,” Soroka said. “And that’s a tall order….Pictures are important and messaging is important. And the message I got back is, ‘She’s not coming for the photo op, and if this is something that’s a cultural sensitivity, she would like to respect that.’”
People who were there told the Forward that Lightfoot was a big hit with the crowd. A rabbi gave her a blessing that God should grant her wisdom; people on the street offered her water bottles; someone else gave her two challahs, a bottle of wine, and a saltshaker “because she’s going to shake things up,” Soroka said.The story also notes that no Chicago mayor had done such a visit in decades, including its recent Jewish mayor Rahm Emanuel. I'm neither Rahm's biggest fan nor his biggest detractor, and I do think that some of Rahm's absence is attributable to (as the article notes) the suggestion the members of ethnic minorities sometimes don't feel the specific need to reach out to their own community.
That said, I do think Lightfoot is demonstrating a distinct shift in style here, particularly her decision to avoid doing it is a photo-op or a big press flaunt. She's just quietly going about her business, listening to constituents, and apparently blowing crowds away. Good on her. And it's nice to see a story about politics that really is just ... nice, in a completely uncomplicated way.