Cleveland Heights mayoral candidate Barbara Danforth sat for an endorsement interview with Cleveland Stonewall Democrats this summer. Her responses to their questions were so shocking that they issued a rare statement against her. As the CSD President Dara Adkison (who is Jewish) explained in the Buckeye Flame, “[Danforth] said she would need to ‘ask the Jews,’ how they felt about trans people using the bathroom they want.” Since then, Danforth has refused to answer questions about the antisemitic statement. Furthermore, she denied it ever happened.
Predicating her support of trans rights on receiving permission from the Jewish community is not only grossly transphobic, but subtly antisemitic in its conception of “Jewish power” exerting influence on politics. Worse, it erases actual people who live in Cleveland Heights – transgender and cisgender Jews who care deeply about the lives and safety of themselves and their trans neighbors.
Who does Danforth mean to ask when she says she must “ask the Jews?” How can she serve as mayor to Jewish and LGBTQIA+ Cleveland Heightsers when she demonstrates no understanding of either?
If Danforth wants to be our mayor, she must be honest about her errors and seriously commit to deepening her understanding of and respect for the Jewish and LGBTQIA+ communities.
And what of the great silence from local Jewish institutions on this matter? There were scant public statements or coverage on this issue within the local community. If local Jewish institutions want to stay relevant, they must do right and do better.