Millennial Orthodox Jew aims to win Zurich city council seat

“I want to break down prejudices,” says 26-year-old Jehuda Spielman.

By The Algemeiner

A 26-year-old man is aiming to become the only Orthodox Jew serving on a municipal council in Switzerland.

Jehuda Spielman, who works as an accountant, is standing as a candidate for the centrist FDP Party in forthcoming elections for the municipal council in the city of Zurich, home to a Jewish community of 6,000.

Spielman and his twelve siblings grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household in the city’s Wiedikon district. Now a father with a two-year-old son, Spielman still lives in the neighborhood and is running for office under the slogan “Live and Let Live.”

In an interview with the Swiss edition of news outlet 20 minutes, Spielman said his aim was to encourage people from different backgrounds to get to know each other.

“I want to break down prejudices,” he said. “A large part of the Jewish community is very well integrated, they have jobs, they live like any other Swiss person.”

Spielman said that many Orthodox Jews feel locked out of the political process in Switzerland. “Politicians often do not dare to approach Orthodox Jews. It is important to clear up misunderstandings and discomfort,” he said. “If my candidacy can induce more Jewish people to vote, then I will have done something positive for integration.”

If elected, “I would currently be the only Orthodox Jewish politician in a council in Switzerland,” Spielman said. He noted that he had received positive feedback about his candidacy from the Jewish community, including a phone call from a survivor of the Holocaust who told him how glad she was that a young Jewish person was standing for office.

Antisemitic incidents in Switzerland rose in 2020 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with 47 incidents of antisemitic harassment reported in the German-speaking part of the Swiss confederation.

Dina Wyler — director of the Zurich Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism (GRA) — told 20 minutes that Spielman’s candidacy was a positive development for the broader goals of tolerance and diversity, but only the beginning.

“The concerns of the minorities in Switzerland should not only be discussed in the election campaign, but also, above all, taken into account in the hectic day-to-day business [of politicians],” Wyler commented.