Illinois House Chamber
A state House member for less than a month, Rep. Yehiel "Mark" Kalish (D-Chicago) , a former lobbyist, already has bigger problems than finding his way around the state Capitol and tending to constituent problems: He might soon have the might of the world’s religions crashing down on him, if a rabbi from New York has his way.
“I’ll work with the Sikhs, the Muslims, the Christians and the Buddhists to see that Kalish leaves that office,” leading Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin told the North Cook News. “What he’s done is a desecration of the name of God.”
What Kalish, also an Orthodox rabbi, has done is voice support for abortion on demand and gay marriage. To Levin, a self-described devout, right-wing, Orthodox Jew, Kalish’s positions are “anathema to what we stand for.”
Yehiel "Mark" Kalish
Levin is the founder of Congregation Mevakshei Hashem in Brooklyn, New York, and according to his bio, he is a cultural warrior for "family values." He began his campaign against Kalish in an opinion piece headlined “Representative Kalish Must Resign” published yesterday in The Jewish Press, a national weekly that champions “Torah values and ideals from a centrist or Modern Orthodox perspective,” according to the paper’s website. Levin said the paper is read in Jewish communities around the world.
Levin cited quotes attributed to Kalish in Politico, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune concerning his positions on abortion and gay marriage. The Tribune quoted Kalish as saying: “I’m proud to have been one of the foot soldiers … to protect a woman’s right to choose …. It’s clear that Roe (v. Wade) is at risk from Donald Trump’s Supreme Court appointees.
“Protecting access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare … is a priority for me because a woman’s right to choose is under assault from Washington.
“Equality for all citizens is a fundamental constitutional and moral principle. We are all equal under the eyes of the law and G-d, and marriage equality is no exception, and that’s why I support (gay marriage).”
Levin wrote: “In a private e-mail to supporters, Kalish denied making these statements. Yet, a week has passed since the article’s publication, and he still has not publicly repudiated them. In other words, for an entire week, he has let the public believe that an Orthodox rabbi can celebrate gay marriage and abortion-on-demand.”
In an email, Kalish told the North Cook News that he did authorize the statements printed in the Tribune.
The Tribune story also said that Kalish attended a 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Celebration hosted by Gov. Pritzker and held at Planned Parenthood's Chicago office on Jan. 22. The U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe decision declared abortion a constitutional right.
Levin, who has spoken numerous times at March for Life rallies in Washington, D.C, said that Kalish’s short time in Springfield is playing out like a bad movie script.
“Kalish attends a Planned Parenthood party at the same time legislation is introduced in Virginia allowing for the killing of babies, and (New York Gov.) Cuomo signs an expanded abortion law,” Levin said.
In addition to publishing more opinion pieces, Levin plans to make robocalls to the Jewish community in Kalish’s district, the 16th, directing voters to a website that argues that Kalish should resign.
Kalish replaced Skokie Democrat Lou Lang, who represented the 16th District since the late 1980s. Lang resigned earlier this month just two days before being sworn in to another term. In earlier reports, the North Cook News cited a source as saying Lang handed his seat to Kalish in exchange for Kalish’s lobbying clients. Kalish later denied a quid pro quo with Lang.
Kalish was sworn in on Jan. 20 after Lang interviewed 20 prospective candidates for the seat. A source said that the interviews were abbreviated, and that a press release announcing Kalish as the new House member in the 16th was ready to go immediately following the interviews.
The 16th District includes Skokie, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove and portions of neighboring Chicago.