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Welcoming our new ‘Lion’ of Jerusalem

Moshe Lion, who beat Ofer Berkovitch in the election runoff, will be the first Sephardic mayor of Jerusalem. This alone is a cause for celebration.

Newly elected Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion celebrates his victory with supporters at his campaign headquarters after winning the Jerusalem municipal elections on Nov. 14, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Newly elected Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion celebrates his victory with supporters at his campaign headquarters after winning the Jerusalem municipal elections on Nov. 14, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Gary Schiff
Gary Schiff is a Jerusalem-based resource consultant and guide connecting Israel and the United States.

How blessed we are here in Jerusalem. This week has brought us a new “Lion” to lead Jerusalem, the spiritual capital of the world.

Apparently, none of the particularly ugly lashon hara and false accusations that rolled off the tongues of the supporters of other candidates were enough to stop Moshe Lion from becoming mayor. Nor was the haredi infighting and leadership instructions to constituents to stay home and not vote. The Lion is now our leader. Let’s take a moment to appreciate this milestone.

Newly elected Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion celebrates his victory with supporters at his campaign headquarters after winning the Jerusalem municipal elections on Nov. 14, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

First, Moshe Lion is the first Sephardic mayor of Jerusalem. This is a major cause for celebration. Other candidates talked about supporting religious and non-religious neighborhoods, but our Sephardic brothers and sisters, whether religious or just traditional, don’t segregate themselves in religious and non-religious neighborhoods.

There is much that the Ashkenazic world can learn from this. Sephardic religious is not separate religious. And Sephardic secular is not so anti-religious; it is mezuzah-kissing, parent-respecting, Friday-night family-gathering secular. There is no splintering—no Reform or Conservative or Reconstructionist Sephardic—just Jewish. Moshe Lion is part of that tradition—a religious tradition of unity that is hard-wired into his DNA.

Second, this Lion Is religious. He reportedly leads services and even serves as a baal koreh (reading from the Sefer Torah). He served as a chaplain in the Israel Defense Forces and sang with the IDF rabbinical choir. As with his Sephardic brothers and sisters, when he davens (“prays”) in his congregation, he says every word aloud. Reportedly, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that the reason the Sephardim suffered less in the galut (“exile”) is because of the sincerity of their tefillah (“prayers”). We say the Shechinah is still present here in Jerusalem and thank G-d we have a leader who is connected.

Third, we will not have to worry about the mayor of the spiritual capital of the world openly celebrating the desecration of Torah values. (While he is compassionate and understanding, he will not be participating in the gay-pride parade or encourage more bustling nightlife on Shabbat.) While he said he will actively support all Jerusalemites, he will not try and turn Jerusalem into a second Tel Aviv.

Lastly, an honest assessment of his résumé shows how well-qualified and perfectly suited he is for this challenge. His background is in economics and accounting, and he started and ran a successful accounting and consulting business. He was chairman of Israel Railways and chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority. The First Station Complex with all of its restaurants and shops and special events, which so many of us enjoy, was developed during his tenure as chairman. He has a track record of accomplishment, and he has goals for the city that include improved housing, business development and cleanliness.

So this week, we should not be tarnished by all of the name-calling during the election. We have reason to celebrate. Baruch Hashem, this Lion should be successful.

Gary Schiff is a Jerusalem-based natural resource consultant connecting Israel and the United States.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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