Jan Schakowsky, community leaders emphasize positive action in politics


Author Mark Caro (left,) U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) and Northwestern assistant Medill Prof. Jon Marshall participated in a panel about politics hosted by Beth Emet Synagogue on Sunday. Members of the synagogue ate brunch as they listened.

Max Lubbers, Assistant City Editor

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) said it is “imperative” Democrats win this year’s presidential election while speaking Sunday at a panel hosted by Beth Emet Synagogue.

“There’s the largest vocalization of activists right now that we need to turn into voters,” she said. “I believe this election is literally existential that this country, this world, this planet cannot afford another four years of Donald Trump.” 

At “Lox, Bagels and Leaders,” Schakowsky and Medill prof. Jon Marshall answered questions about the political landscape in a Q&A moderated by author Mark Caro.

Schakowsky said a woman, Beth Emet member Louise Gross Motel, served her tuna salad at the beginning of the event and asked her to make the audience feel better. Schakowsky added that she wanted to use that suggestion to balance discussions of dark topics with positive remarks. 

Gross Motel said an important takeaway for her was the feeling of hope that Schakowsky gave. 

“I think this has been a tough year, politically,” she said. “I just think for me, it’s really important to hear somebody like that say, despite that, there are some positive things to talk about. I just think we all need to hear it.”

The panel reflected upon the events of last week, which included the Iowa caucuses, President Donald Trump’s acquittal, the State of the Union address and some journalists taking Chicago Tribune buyouts. In January, The Chicago Tribune offered voluntary buyouts to employees to reduce expenses, which two investigative Tribune reporters criticized as jeopardizing journalism’s watchdog function in a New York Times op-ed.

Marshall, a media historian, said the loss of journalists at The Tribune and other newspapers will affect politics in the long-term.

“Overall, what it has meant is a loss in reporting, of people going out, finding information and verifying that information before they publish it or broadcast it,” Marshall said. 

Marshall and Schakowsky also answered questions about broader topics like fair elections and the electoral college.

Caro took questions from the audience and consolidated them. He said there were many regarding the role Trump has played in the rise in anti-Semitic incidents. At the event’s start, an organizer made an announcement about safety measures and pointed out the exits in case of an emergency, which Schakowsky called “a sign of the times.” 

“The hateful way that [Trump] speaks, he’s enabled a language, a discourse, that is so hateful, and I think that has definitely increased anti-Semitism,” she said. “I don’t know if he’s created more anti-Semites, but he’s emboldened them to speak out and worse, act out.”

She added that there is a “Trump effect” worldwide that encourages hate. 

Marshall said he agreed with what she said, but also said the issue of anti-Semitism and others would weaken Republican prospects. 

“In the spirit of trying to find notes of optimism as well, the growing anti-Semitism, the anti-immigrant policies, the racist dogwhistles, the homophobia, all of that may help him with his Fox News, Rush Limbaugh base and rile them up even further,” Marshall said. “But long-term, it is a losing equation for the Republican party.” 

Karen Isaacson, president of Beth Emet, said the event offers members a chance to listen about politics and connect over brunch. To attend, people can donate to the Mitzvah Appeal Campaign, which benefits the synagogue. 

Schakowsky, also a member of Beth-Emet, said she feels at home at the synagogue. 

“I come every year to the bagel brunch, which is to not only meet with the wonderful members of the congregation but to help my synagogue, which I’ve been part of for decades and decades,” she said. “And this is a wonderful progressive community of people here at Beth-Emet.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @maxlubbers

Related stories:

Schakowsky condemns Senate acquittal votes

Schakowsky votes to pass impeachment resolution