Two Voices: our weekly Progressive Judaism debate:
What essential qualities should the next London mayor possess?
• Rabbi Alexandra Wright says…
The qualities Judaism values in a leader are listed in Psalm 15. They are: blameless and righteous conduct, speaking the truth, absence of slander, reviling those whose behaviour is corrupt but honouring those who show reverence, being faithful to keep one’s promise and accepting no bribe against the innocent.
A good leader is one who judges people fairly (Deut. 16:18), who does not pervert justice or show partiality. They should represent their people and not arrogate to themselves too much power or wealth (17:15-17). They are just and speak what is right, rejecting gain from extortion and don’t accept bribes, stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil (Isaiah 33:15).
A good leader is characterised by their qualities of patience and peace, rather than irascibility and warmongering (Proverbs 16:32). Their task is to bring stability and restraint (29:4).
The Talmud asks if it is the people who determine the character of their leader, or vice versa. Whichever it is, it is true to say that the conduct and character of a people will generate the leaders they deserve, and the conduct and the character of a leader will shape the generosity and righteousness of the people (Arachin 17a).
The important thing is to possess humility and integrity and to “do what is right…and be kind to the oppressed” (Daniel 4:27).
• Alexandra Wright is senior rabbi of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue
• Jeromé Freedman says…
To quote Abraham Lincoln: “You can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”
What then are some of the attributes most desirable in the senior civic leader of what many may regard as the greatest capital of the world?
This is of particular interest to my community, South London Liberal Synagogue (SLLS), as we are involved in trying to make London a better place. SLLS was the first Jewish congregation to become a Living Wage Employer and has campaigned alongside London Citizens for a Living Wage for all. We are also part of the Lambeth Holocaust Memorial Day Organising Committee.
Two key qualities I’d like to see in the next London Mayor are an unbiased attitude and a demonstrable willingness to listen to the views of others. As with all politicians, they should display behaviour and demeanour that commands personal respect, at least by a significant majority.
There should be a sense of duty, purpose and acknowledgement of responsibility to, and a pride in serving, the whole of the electorate. Other qualities should be an understanding of the reality of economics, prioritising need over desirability and commercial understanding to appreciate the financial management of a capital city. And, insofar as possible, they should remain apolitical during the mayoral term.
• Jeromé Freedman is a vice president of Liberal Judaism