By Larry Gordon
Very often we indulge in something that from the distance looks like a really good time or a great idea. But then we get there and the situation—that is the experience of the situation—looks not that good, even bleak.
That was the feeling I had Tuesday night waiting around for the results of the Lawrence school board elections. For those following this issue, Dr. David Sussman most deservingly won a resounding victory while voters in the other two races expressed themselves with clarity by stating that division and derision is not what they want to see played out in this leading American Jewish community.
The result of that expression was that former board member Michael Hatten defeated incumbent Nahum Marcus handily and newcomer, Tova Plaut won a squeaker over Atlantic Beach resident, Jesse Lunin-Pack. Dov Herman, the CC5T candidate came in a distant third in that race. The Plaut-Lunin-Pack race results will not be finalized until Thursday. As of this morning Tova is ahead of Jesse by 37 votes out of about 4,000 that were cast. The voting machines have been impounded and the expectation is that an official winner will be announced before the weekend.
The thing about this race is that everyone involved felt they had good intentions and desired nothing else but to do right by the community. But then those good intentions collide at some point and like some kind of potion create a bad tasting or dangerous mixture.
Yes, political competitiveness is usually a good and even a healthy exercise. Upon reflection, however, I have to state that this is not the case 100% of the time. As an Orthodox Jewish community, the inescapable reality is that we are constantly under some kind of microscope and always under some aspect of scrutiny by those around us. As a result, the challenge is– and that is matched by the reality— that we cannot afford to conduct ourselves and behave like just any other community.
Sure we can manage and synthesize opposing opinions and differences but we cannot afford basic derision and divisiveness that are natural and fundamental characteristics of political campaigns.
Of all the campaign literature and e mailes I have perused over the last few weeks the one that I will always clearly recall is Mr. Lunin-Pack’s communication announcing the good news—that was that the opposition—the Orthodox community—was divided. And , he wrote, that this was the big chance of the community that has a history of attempting to manipulate the system to favor the dwindling public school population in the district over that of private school families to make a comeback after years of being consistently defeated.
This board is filled with sensible and responsible personalities like board president, Dr. Asher Mansdorf, Dr. Sussman, Murray Forman and Abel Feldhamer. They will now be joined by Mr. Hatten and Ms. Plaut (probably) both who are education professionals that bring an important and unique perspective to this important governing board.
Voter turnout was considered shockingly low to many observers. Some see that as broad communal apathy but as TV news personality Glen Beck is wont to say, “Not speaking out, is speaking out and not standing up, is standing up.” So, sure there may have been disinterest but that large swatch of past voters who stayed home also may have been expressing their aversion to what at the end of the day was divisive and in the end counterproductive.
So did the personalities behind CC5T, Josh Schein, Dov Herman, Nahum Marcus and others miscalculate? They apparently did to some extent as evidenced by their double defeat on Tuesday. But their real miscalculation was that because they managed to so effectively and successfully mobilize so many to vote against the #6 school transaction in March that this would automatically translate into a similar number of votes for a school board seat. That was obviously not the case as the two votes were about drastically different and perhaps even incompatible issues.
“I believe that the voters rejected divisiveness and in the aftermath of this election we must unify and move in the direction of working together,” Said board member Dr. Sussman
Unfortunately some bad and negative messages and characterizations emerged from both sides in the course of the campaign. If people want to lead, they have to be leaders and put the campaigns behind them. It is time now to look forward and make an effort to work together.