Controversial city council race shakes Dallas Jewish community
In Dallas council race, police politics divide Jewish community
Jaynie Schultz and Barry Wernick belong to the same Orthodox synagogue in Dallas, Texas. Growing up, Wernick got a scholarship from the Schultz family which helped fund his Jewish education. A few years ago, Schultz invested in a horror film that Wernick was producing. Their children attend the same Jewish school. Now they are running against each other for a spot on the Dallas City Council in an unexpectedly controversial race to be decided in a runoff on June 5 – after Wernick won 38% of the vote and Schultz won 36. % in the first round. Jewish insiderGabby Deutch, of Dallas, has spoken to both nominees as well as an array of personalities from the race community that threatens to fracture the tight-knit Jewish community in Dallas.
All politics are local: While the race is extremely local, it shows how some of the national political dynamics that have erupted over the past year can spill over into elections at other levels. Misinformation about both campaigns was disseminated by surrogates, supporters and black money groups; a conservative tries to portray his more liberal opponent as anti-police; and partisanship erupted in a surprisingly fierce manner. But since both candidates are members of Dallas’ tight-knit Jewish community, the campaign feels more personal than most. A local rabbi called the breed a “touchy subject in our community” and said Jewish insider that he was “having a difficult time talking to the media.”
Public security: âSafety and security is by far the biggest issue in our neighborhood, and Barry has done a really good job of lobbying this issue,â said Bruce Wilke, president of the Hillcrest-Forest Neighborhood Association, where Schultz and Wernick. Wilke does not intend to approve a candidate, since his organization is a non-profit organization. âIt’s a fairly consistent and passionate race, more than I have seen in the past.
Dark Silver Mailers: Residents of the North Dallas neighborhood, in the heart of District 11, received letters last month from a black money group called Keep Dallas Safe, which called Schultz a “leftist radical committed to DEFUNDING the Police … Stands With RIOTS, LOOTERS and GANG MEMBERS. â Wernick has denied any connection to Keep Dallas Safe, but he also did not condemn the senders. Her campaign also sent out mailers criticizing Schultz, using similar language and images that she says distorts her beliefs.
Pillar of the community: After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin and then earning a Masters in Urban Studies at the school’s Arlington campus, Schultz worked with his mother to create a small business retreat center to accommodate conferences and events. His connection to the Dallas Jewish community came naturally. âMy family, which has been a very important philanthropic family here in Dallas, has invested in the local community, through day schools, through creating programs,â she explained. When her four children were under 10, she and her husband took in two Ethiopian boys who had to come to Dallas for surgery. One of the boys eventually returned to live with Schultz’s family when he was in high school, and he recently sent him a video – the 27-year-old works at a travel agency in Ethiopia – explaining why people should vote for her. In the race. âI was actually sitting at the polling station, and he messaged me on Facebook and said, ‘Ima, are you okay with me posting this? and I just started sobbing, âSchultz noted, using the Hebrew word for mother.
Renaissance man: After studying in Russia, Wernick spent time in Israel, working with Russian and Ethiopian immigrants to help them acclimatize to Israeli society. Upon his return to Texas, he became involved in the Zionist Organization of America. Now Wernick is a practicing lawyer, but earlier in his career he tried acting. He shot commercials in New York City and for two and a half seasons he served as a replacement for the character of Mr. Big on “Sex and the City.” But Texas finally called Wernick home. âIt was bucolic. Dallas had it all, âhe says. “That’s why I came back here 13 years ago to find my daughter from Texas.” He works full time as a lawyer, but also produces a film about the unsolved murder of his wife’s sister, who was 28 when she was killed 19 years ago.
To move on: Wernick and Schultz both told JI they didn’t expect the results of this race to root a permanent division in the community. “I would never hold it against anyone who voted against me, ever, and so I hope that when this election is over there will be no more division,” Schultz noted. Wernick echoed these sentiments: âIt’s a political race. Whoever wins, wins; whoever loses, loses. We will not stop continuing together.
Read the full feature here.