Jerusalem local elections: The candidates in their own words

Polls open for local elections in eight community councils on Tuesday December 22, 2020

Team Greater Baka, who are running together in the local elections in Jerusalem on December 22, 2020 (photo credit: OMER REVIVI)
Team Greater Baka, who are running together in the local elections in Jerusalem on December 22, 2020
(photo credit: OMER REVIVI)
Efrat Benn
Ginot Ha’ir Community Council
I am a candidate for one of two Rehavia slots in the Ginot Ha’ir community council. A resident of the Rehavia neighborhood for the past 15 years, after making aliyah from Washington, DC, I completed my PhD in school psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and currently work as a school psychologist in local schools and kindergartens. I have been active with the community council for the past few years, including establishing a partnership with Beit Levi Eshkol to host children’s events and other local initiatives. I am also active with young families at the Yeshurun synagogue and lead the children’s service there.
Among the Rehavia candidates, I am the only woman and olah in the race, and a parent of young children. Though running for public office with small children might not be the most intuitive choice, it is the only way to guarantee that the issues relevant to the community of young parents are represented at the table. Similarly, an olah is in a better position to represent the needs of the thousands of olim in Rehavia and Ginot Ha’ir, olim across the age span – including those who are adjusting to preschools and schools.  
My campaign platform includes promoting community involvement and activity among all residents of the neighborhood. I would like to see enrichment and leisure programing for children, families and olim further developed. Rehavia has many residents who do not own cars and therefore I plan on maintaining a special focus on improving the neighborhood’s mass transit and stepping up communication with residents regarding road closures and street protests. In addition, the community council oversees a budget earmarked for religious programing that to date has not been available to most of the synagogues. This budget represents an opportunity for congregations throughout the neighborhood to propose different programing ideas as well as inter-community and cross-synagogue programing.
My vision: to represent all sectors within the neighborhood, crossing age, family status, religious affiliation, students and those in the workforce alike.
Yoni Mann
Ginot Ha’ir Community Council
Giving a voice to Katamon: Nearly 10 years ago, I moved to Israel to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming Israeli.
As soon as I landed at Ben-Gurion airport that day, I knew where I needed to be: Jerusalem.
I’ve served for nearly four years as the board chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students, an international nonprofit which represents over 500,000 Jewish students around the world.
I’ve helped olim (new immigrants) integrate and navigate the Israeli bureaucracy. I’ve organized Jerusalem trash cleanups. I’ve helped empower residents to resolve issues in their neighborhood through the municipality. This led me to run for City Council with the Hitorerut Party two years ago.
Today, as a candidate for Katamon representative to the Ginot Ha’ir community council I wish to ensure we have access to the resources we deserve and to see our community continue to grow and thrive.
I will work hard to promote immigrant communities – not only in Katamon – in all the Ginot Ha’ir neighborhoods. Olim are an asset to Jerusalem and to Am Yisrael. We must prepare for the large wave of olim expected in Jerusalem and I will ensure they receive the attention they deserve.
I will work to nurture a vibrant, clean, safe, accessible and green neighborhood, link the diverse communities of residents living here through a variety of social initiatives. I will work to extend library hours so that residents can visit it during our beautiful Jerusalem mornings and not be limited to four afternoon hours.
I am willing to embrace the challenges that are part of this volunteer position. For example, despite the major road construction happening here, there are many smaller streets, like Bustanai Street, that are unsafe and inaccessible.
How can it be that in 2020, with the very high arnona municipal tax that Katamon residents pay, we STILL drive on a road in terrible condition? I will fight to ensure that small roads are properly repaired and maintained at all times.
I love speaking with my Katamon neighbors and learn what you appreciate about our community and what needs change. I have found that most residents feel voiceless when it comes to neighborhood matters.
With my open door policy, I will be available to everyone who reaches out and listen to your concerns, both in English and in Hebrew. I will be your voice in the municipality.
Through helping olim, promoting a pluralistic environment with community functions, improving accessibility and infrastructure and supporting young families and singles, I will help bring Katamon the resources we need to grow and meet residents’ needs.
All elections are important; local elections are essential because they affect our day-to-day lives. Please join our democratic process and vote.
Yehuda Tamam
Greater Baka Community Council
A 53-year-old father of four, I have been a resident of the Arnona neighborhood for 20 years. As a young pensioner, I have a lot of time on my hands I can use to help society. A social activist, I volunteer with several nonprofit organizations including Zichron Menachem and Darchei Miriam, at hospital children’s departments and with Chabad, assisting needy people.
I am a project manager who knows how to get things moving, manage people and coordinate between different organizations, and am always happy to help people.
As a neighborhood council representative, I believe I could employ my experience to help elderly residents and families with children in our neighborhood and take responsibility for their welfare.
I worked for the Israel Broadcasting Authority for close to 30 years. To stay in touch with residents, I produced a neighborhood newspaper that was delivered to their mailboxes.
I hope residents will go vote and choose a good team whose members will work for them and the neighborhood with all their heart.
Ruth Ebenstein
Greater Baka Community Council
Leading through listening: The pandemic has taught us just how much our neighborhood is our home. In my case, that neighborhood is Baka. It’s up to us to care for it, inside and out. And most importantly, care for each other.
This understanding prompted me to run in these elections. The community council is a one-of-a-kind Jerusalem phenomenon; it’s the connecting arm between the municipality and residents. I’m an American-Israeli journalist and social activist with 30 years of experience building networks and making change. (In fact, when I made aliyah, my very first job was a stint at The Jerusalem Post.) I’ve spent the last twenty years serving on the boards of nonprofits, including Shutaf Inclusion Programs for young people with and without disabilities, and Kolech, an Orthodox Jewish feminist nonprofit. I’ve also supported communication efforts at the Women’s Cardiovascular Wellness Center at Hadassah. It’s time to take that behind-the-scenes experience and apply it where decisions are being made.
I’m also a happily married mom to three teenage boys and stepmom to two great women. Fittingly, I harbor a special connection to Baka. My grandparents and mother are all Holocaust survivors who first settled in Baka in 1949. It prompts a magical sense of coming full circle, vying for a community council seat on the same alleyways where my mother frolicked, the first locale where she had a normal childhood.
Top 10 reasons to vote for me:
1. I truly enjoy helping people. For the past three years, I’ve collected challot and donated them every Friday to folks in need. While the timing close to Shabbat is tricky, it feels great to give. (Email if you have things to donate.)
2. I inherently understand immigrant needs. In Baka, I’ll lobby for translating all materials into English and French to service immigrant communities. I’ll make sure that relevant decisions from City Hall are also made accessible in our native tongues. Why skim in Hebrew?
3. I’m not easily daunted. (Heck, I married a divorcé with two teenage daughters. That certainly took courage!) Journalism requires maneuvering all kinds of scenarios. Those skills will service my lobbying city hall.
4. I’m a bundle of energy. When the pools are open, I’m generally done swimming 2.5 kilometers by 7 a.m.
5. I identify and solve problems before they get out of hand. Professionally trained in active listening, I really do want to hear about the damaged sidewalk near your home and your infuriating parking problems – and find a solution.
6. I’ll maintain and promote Baka’s pluralistic nature.
7. I’ll bolster efforts for the environment and sustainability.
8. I’ll lobby to beautify all parts of our neighborhood.
9. I’ll strengthen Baka’s partnership with the municipality.
10. I’ll foster greater connections among residents and respond to resident needs as they arise.
This Tuesday, make your voice count.
Team Greater Baka:
• Yarden (Jordan) Herzberg, Abu Tor
• Leora Berry and Rotem Revivi, Baka
• JJ Jonah  Mickey Dinovitz, Talpiot-Arnona
• Aliza Raz Melzer, Mekor Haim
(Running together; individually elected)
Greater Baka Community Council
As we have all witnessed on the national level these past two years, it is virtually impossible to achieve policy objectives without a strong, functioning coalition. This same dynamic exists at the local community council level, inspiring us as a team to seek to transform community government to operate far more effectively.
We are six Jerusalemites, residents of the Greater Baka neighborhoods, professionals from a range of fields bringing our diverse experience in public and community affairs, environmental pursuits and social initiatives towards the goal of building an even better neighborhood. We have joined forces to form a united, supportive front to make your voice heard, working together to preserve and advance the environment in which we live.
The municipality’s unique governing model allows local representatives of each neighborhood a say in the allocation of municipal resources, including the building of public-use facilities. Up to now, however, independent candidates who won seats in the council were largely stymied in implementing their agenda or bringing significant benefits to their constituency.
Our group of motivated candidates from four different neighborhoods have aligned to run together as a coalition for the Greater Baka Community Council. The council consists of 15 members, six appointed and nine elected. Our new alliance hopes to gain a majority so we can smoothly and effectively serve the needs of the community’s 32,000 residents without adverse political infighting.
As Yarden (Jordan) Herzberg, our coalition’s candidate in Abu Tor, declares, “It isn’t enough that many of the 30 candidates who are running are competent. What is really needed is a strong, functioning council that both 1) partners with the relevant municipal departments to provide for residents’ needs, as well as 2) prevents the city from engaging in projects unsuitable for the neighborhood. Our coalition will provide checks and balances – and a strong, unified council, acting in everyone’s common interests. It will also allow residents of smaller neighborhoods such as Abu Tor, Mekor Haim and Shikunei Talpiot to receive resources similar to larger neighborhoods such as Talpiot-Arnona and Baka.”
Come. Vote. Influence. Make a change. We believe in growth and urban development, care and respect for the environment, and beautifying our neighborhood. We would also like to promote youth at the forefront; supportive and vibrant community life; and transparency and community involvement.