The state treasurer, the founder of an airline, a doctor who served in the Obama administration and a medical services executive who started an independent party make up the unprecedented field of four Jewish candidates running for governor in Massachusetts.
There has never been a Jewish governor here and it still the early days for the 2014 race, but some 200 years after the first Jew was elected to public office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – as Boston Fire Warden in 1805 – the state has a Jewish community deeply active in its civic affairs.
“This moment comes as our community is actively, even disproportionately, participating across the public square,” said Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “It is hardly a surprise that while we are a small community, given how passionate we are about the great issues affecting our society, that we have produced many leaders.”
One in four members of the state senate are Jewish or have Jewish spouses and families, and Massachusetts Jews took a prominent role as part of interfaith efforts to bring about the state’s groundbreaking affordable healthcare act. The Jewish community in Massachusetts has also been highly visible on issues of marriage equality, investment in education, curtailing gun violence, and caring for the disabled.
“If this moment – with four declared candidates for governor – says anything, it says that those who proudly identify with the Jewish community are also strongly and equally passionate about the great debates in our society, and about their visions for the future of our state,” Burton added.
The most prominent of the four Jewish candidates in state politics and Jewish communal life is Steve Grossman, 67, currently the state treasurer and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who also served as national chairman of AIPAC. He’s also raised more money than any of the five candidates, all Democrats except for Evan Falchuk, who is running as an independent. The two best known possible contenders have yet to say if they are joining the race: On the Democratic side, Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, and for the Republicans it is speculated that former U.S. Senator Scott Brown may run.
Grossman’s political roots in the state run deep. His grandfather helped canvas for the reelection of John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald – John F. Kennedy’s maternal grandfather – as mayor of Boston back in 1910.
The connections between the families have endured. Grossman’s parents supported Kennedy in his run for president and later helped fundraise and drum up support in the Jewish community for his brother, Robert F. Kennedy. Grossman was on the campaign trail for him in California the same week he was assassinated. Grossman and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy were close friends and he recently advised Joseph Kennedy III about Israel ahead of his election as a Massachusetts congressman.