Chicago's new mayor, Lori E. Lightfoot, walked the streets of West Rogers Park neighborhood over Shabbos in a visit coordinated by Agudath Israel of Illinois (AIOI). The mayor engaged hundreds of Orthodox Jewish families on a nearly mile-long tour of the neighborhood led by Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, AIOI's director of government affairs, and Rabbi Yaakov Robinson, who in addition to serving as the executive director of AIOI's Midwest Council of Synagogue Rabbis, is the rabbi of Beis Medrash Mikor Hachaim and a fourth generation Chicagoan.
After the deadly shooting attack in Poway on the last day of Passover, then Mayor-elect Lightfoot reached out to Agudah to discuss what the City of Chicago could do to address concerns over public safety. The ensuing conversation included addressing challenges with synagogue security and the feeling of vulnerability among families simply looking to connect with G-d and each other. Orthodox Jews don't drive on the Sabbath and are easily identifiable to potential attackers as they walk to synagogue. The mayor thoughtfully suggested visiting the neighborhood on a Shabbos morning to observe firsthand some of the unique vulnerabilities, and to personally convey that the city cares about the safety of its Orthodox Jewish residents. Mayor Lightfoot has made public safety her top priority and has taken a particular interest in addressing the challenges facing the Jewish community.
In advance of her visit, the mayor's team inquired about cultural sensitivities and the mayor truly went out of her way to accommodate the community in every way possible.
Upon her arrival, she was greeted by a large crowd, as well as the local alderman, Debra Silverstein (50th Ward), State Senator Ram Villivalam and State Representative Yehiel Kalish. As she proceeded to walk the streets, she was welcomed by rabbinic and lay leaders, grateful passersby and groups of neighbors gathered on street corners. Rabbi Robinson pointed out the many synagogues along the way, shared the historical background of the various neighborhoods and how vibrant the growth has been over the last decade.
Mayor Lightfoot reiterated her commitment to doing everything within her power to keep residents safe, and this visit was one of the many ways she has demonstrated her sincerity. "This visit was really historic in that the mayor of the nation's third largest city took the time to engage the community simply to convey that she cares," said Rabbi Soroka. "We feel most fortunate to enjoy a close working relationship with our mayor."
Agudath Israel of Illinois is grateful for Mayor Lightfoot's leadership on this issue of security and public safety, and thanks her for taking the time to visit the community.