The governor attended a Holocaust memorial ceremony in Springfield yesterday, which dredged up some bad memories.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich joined Jewish leaders for an annual ceremony observing the Holocaust on Wednesday, the first public gathering since he angered many of them by standing by his appointment of a Louis Farrakhan aide to a state panel.
Federation leaders publicly thanked Blagojevich for his participation in the program, jointly sponsored by the governor’s office and several Jewish federations from around Illinois.
But several community leaders said relations are still strained with the governor, who has refused to remove Claudette Muhammad from his hate crime commission. Muhammad is the minister of protocol for the Nation of Islam and has declined to condemn recent anti-gay and anti-Semitic statements by Farrakhan.
After the event, held at the Old State Capitol, Blagojevich said he thinks his relationship with Jewish leaders is strong.
“Relationships have always been very good and, I think, continue to be very good,” he said. As for whether the Muhammad controversy had harmed his relationship with Jewish voters, Blagojevich said, “Those things don’t enter my mind.”
But others who attended the Holocaust commemoration said they think Blagojevich still needs to repair his bonds with the community.
The Sun-Times adds:
But key Jewish leaders said Blagojevich must engage in serious fence-mending if he intends to keep Jewish voters from aligning themselves this fall with Republican gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka, who attended Wednesday’s observance.
“Without him attacking this and coming up with some solutions to resolve this issue, he’s going to alienate a lot of Jewish voters,” said state Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), who was among the speakers at Wednesday’s event. “If he lets this fester, it’ll get worse.”
Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, said he was encouraged by Blagojevich’s presence at the Holocaust observance but agreed that the governor has not done anything to ease the frustrations Jews have experienced from his handling of the hate-crimes commission controversy.
“For us, the issue is one of important principle, and there continues to be disappointment and pain connected to this matter,” Nasatir said.
Claiming everything is fine when it obviously isn’t is probably not a good idea. At best he looks disingenuous. At worst he looks like an uncaring jerk.