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Mayor Jackson's State of the City and the Maltz Museum

Thanks to our good friend Mr. Joseph Meissner the subject of immigration was brought up during Mayor Jackson's State of the City speech at Cleveland Public Auditorium on Wednesday, March 4th. During the Q and A, Mr. Meissner asked Mayor Jackson what could be done to attract more immigrants to the Cleveland area. Mayor Jackson replied that we are talking about two different categories of immigrants. The first category consists of people who immigrated to the United States because they chose to do and probably had a job waiting for them at one of our institutions. The second category consists of refugees who immigrated here because they were not safe in their country of origin. Mayor Jackson said that it is for the latter category that we must build an "infrastructure" in order to assist them. We liked it when the mayor said that he had been talking to Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman and Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon about the wonderful work being done at the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy (which we toured with Councilman Cimperman) and was considering making the school a center point/anchor for exploring what could be done to provide the needed resources for a support network. Along these lines, it seems like the city of South Euclid is doing just that to aid the 50-75 Bhutanese refugees who have settled there. We spoke to Mayor Georgine Welo at this event who told us the city let them use one of their community gardens which they tended with vigor. The city helped them obtain some fruit trees for their garden and the results were excellent. The big challenge is the Bhutanese children, about 12 in number, who are struggling to learn English as a second language and keep up with their other subjects in school at the same time. But, according to Mayor Welo, community members have stepped forward to tutor the children so their future looks very promising indeed.

As for the rest of Mayor Jackson's State of the City, it was conducted via the same format that was employed last year with an interviewer; in this case Ms. Beth Mooney, CEO of KeyBank; asking the mayor questions about important topics.

First, Ms. Mooney asked Mayor Jackson about the progress that Cleveland has made since he become mayor in 2006. The mayor said that the during his first term the city was in tough financial straits so conditions needed to be stabilized. In the second term he built the foundation for success and he wants to devote his third term to institutionalizing it. Mayor Jackson wants to make sure that Cleveland's prosperity is shared with all of its neighborhoods and that Cleveland delivers good services to all of its people. A considerable challenge to this is the fact that Cleveland had more money in 2006 than it does now in 2015 due to such factors as state cutbacks, a shrinking property tax base, and loss of revenue due to no longer being able to employ traffic cameras.

In terms of priorities, Mayor Jackson actually had education at the top of his list and believed that overall we are moving forward under the Cleveland Plan. Overall the goals must be excellent education for the children, to achieve maturation for the children through the education process; and to provide a safe environment for the children while they are at school.

Ms. Mooney asked the mayor about neighborhood progress and Mayor Jackson said that neighborhoods can make or break a city and that each neighborhood was "unique" because each has its own assets and challenges. He said it was up to the city to create incentives to help neighborhoods grow through strategic planning and investment.

Then Ms. Mooney asked the question that most people were thinking about which concerned police relations with the community and the scathing Department of Justice report regarding the Cleveland Police Department. Mayor Jackson took the positive route and said that we must see this as an opportunity to make reforms but we must go about this carefully because he didn't want any quick fixes that are doomed to fall apart shortly but we must instead strive for positive long-term reforms that can be institutionalized even if they are not politically expedient. The mayor emphasized that if we do things together as a community we will be successful and that we must come together on this and "get past ourselves" by working for what is best for the community. He went on to say that "this could be a growing experience for us all."

According to what our friends from the City Club told us, there were almost 900 people there at this event. We sat at one of the few unreserved tables and ate lunch with three members of the board of the Cleveland Municipal School District who were Mr. Robert Heard, Ms. Anne Bingham, and Ms. Lisa Thomas. We also sat with Ms. Judith Mansour who told us that Ms. Margaret W. Wong helped several friends of hers on matters pertaining to immigration.

Of course we saw a lot of people that we knew there like Mr. Chris Ronayne, Charles Klass, and Sister Judith Ann Karam who all said hello to Ms. Wong.

To be sure, the program ended on an appropriate note when Ms. Mooney asked Mayor Jackson what headline he would like to see when he completes his service as Cleveland as its mayor. Mayor Jackson smiled and said simply, "job well done."

On Wednesday night we went to the Maltz Museum for a program titled "Scandinavia through the Eyes of a Jewish Traveler" featuring renowned art and travel writer Ms. Irene Shaland. Accompanying Ms. Shaland was her husband, Alex, who travels with her and helped put together this program. Ms. Shaland showed some beautiful slides and talked about her travels through Norway, Sweden and Denmark. What she really wanted to do, though, is talk about the recent spike of anti-Semitism that is evident in these countries.

Ms. Shaland gave a presentation that was very well researched with great attention to detail and also very fair in our opinion. She talked about the history of all three of these countries regarding their treatment of Jewish people from ancient times to present day. Her main focus was on World War II and the period afterward. All three countries had better records than other countries in Europe as to how they behaved towards the Jews in this crucial time and Denmark's was exemplary which makes the recent outbursts all the more troubling.

Both Ms. Irene Shaland and Mr. Alex Shaland spent a lot of time talking to all kinds of people in these countries (some were scholars and some were the people they encountered along the way) and at the end of their trip they had more questions than answers as to why this was happening but were  still able to draw about a few conclusions. Among these were that the people that they spoke with made a prevalent attempt to dismiss the violent incidents as a "non-entity" or something that would go away in time perhaps because they hoped that it would; as we said, despite these outbursts, the three Scandinavian countries were more accepting and respectful of others than other European countries; some of the things that might be interpreted as anti-Semitic such as outlawing of circumcision and the kosher killing of animals might have more to do with cultural attitudes such as children's rights and animal rights; anti-Zionism regarding Israel could be fueling the anti-Semitism; some of the Jewish people they interview were palpably apprehensive about their safety and/or just didn't feel like they would ever fit into the Scandinavian society and therefore planned to immigrate to Israel or elsewhere; and that education is the only answer.

We talked to Ms. Shaland and reviewed her biography. She immigrated to the United States from Russia about 33 years ago and became a citizen in 1987. She has a tremendous "passion for travel with a higher purpose" and she and her husband have "visited over 60 countries with many trips resulting in research articles and a series of multi-format knowledge sharing events." All told Ms. Shaland has written two books and over 20 articles that have appeared in distinguished publications.

She and her husband live in Lyndhurst and, from what we saw on this occasion, they are a notable asset to Northeast Ohio. Her website is and we really liked it when she concluded her presentation by saying, "I think that the Maltz Museum and libraries are the only solutions" to this disturbing trend.

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