Rahm Emanuel’s endorsement may mean more in the 50th Ward than anywhere else in the city. West Rogers Park is home to Chicago’s Orthodox Jewish community -- a neighborhood of synagogues, delis and Hebrew bookstores, where bearded, black-hatted men are seen walking to shul every Saturday morning.
This is the neighborhood where Adam Langer’s novel "Crossing California" took place. On the west side of California Street, the “West Bank” where the Jewish community is concentrated, more than 80 percent of the electorate chose to make Emanuel the city’s first Jewish mayor.
Ald. Bernard Stone, who’s been in office since 1973, has sought to take advantage of this connection. A pro-Stone group called Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward planted “Rahm Emanuel Mayor/Berny Stone Alderman” signs all over West Rogers Park. But Emanuel is actually supporting Stone’s opponent, Debra Silverstein, the wife of committeeman and state Sen. Ira Silverstein. Emanuel made robo-calls for Silverstein before the Feb. 22 election. That helped her make the runoff, with 33 percent of the vote to Stone’s 37 percent.
For an incumbent, 37 percent is a terrible showing. In 2007, Stone barely won a runoff against Naisy Dolar, a Filipino-American restaurateur who has since moved to Florida to open a barbecue joint. (The 50th Ward also has the city’s largest Asian community.) He needed help from Mayor Daley to win. The next year, Silverstein took Stone’s committeeman’s post, with Daley’s support. In 2010, Stone’s ward superintendent and another campaign worker were sentenced to prison for vote fraud, for allegedly pressuring Indian and Pakistani voters to fill out absentee ballots.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect my race,” Stone said, when NBC5 asked him to comment on Emanuel’s support for Silverstein.
Most observers believe otherwise. Stone is very popular with the widows in Winston Towers, the Kedzie Avenue apartment complex where he lives. But there are fewer widows every election.
“Orthodox Jews, especially women, are solid for Silverstein,” writes Nadig Newspapers columnist Russ Stewart. “Stone fatigue is epidemic. He’s paying his workers.”
Electing the committeeman’s wife to the City Council is hardly the “reform” that Emanuel touts. But he wants to sweep out the Council’s old guard. Stone also told NBC5 he’s a “good friend” of Ald. Edward Burke.
Expect Silverstein to win with Emanuel’s support -- and then to unhesitatingly support Emanuel.