(JTA) — Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as the first Jewish mayor of Chicago.
Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, took the oath of office on Monday. He was elected mayor of the country’s third-largest city in February after sitting mayor Richard Daley declined to seek a seventh term in office.
Emanuel, 51, also worked in the Clinton White House and is a former congressman from Chicago’s North Side. A Hebrew speaker, Emanuel is the son of an Israeli doctor who moved to the United States in the 1950s.
Emanuel faced a residency challenge during the campaign because he did not live in Chicago for a full year before the election, but his candidacy was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court.
He now faces the formidable task of helping the city pull out of serious financial difficulties, including a 2011 budget deficit of more than $500 million.
“In my meetings with Mayor Emanuel and listening to his inauguration address today, it’s clear that he intends to be mayor of the entire city. Thank goodness it doesn’t matter in 2011 whether you’re Irish, Jewish, African American or Hispanic, leadership comes to the front depending on what the job is, and what skills and talent it requires,” said Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, who was among the invited guests at the inauguration. “Notwithstanding that fact, the Jewish community is — and should be — proud that a person who is involved in our community — in terms of synagogue membership, Jewish education, connection to Israel, and as a donor to the Jewish United Fund — has been elected. In that connection we are very pleased and supportive.”
Asked about her son’s status as the city’s first Jewish mayor, Emanuel’s mother, Marsha, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It is awesome, my dear, unexplainable. This is an honor for the people; an honor for us; an honor for the whole culture.”