This fall I am featuring all three Jewish gubernatorial candidates in this column. This week I speak with State Treasurer Steve Grossman about his candidacy and how his Judaism informs his politics. The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 9.
Why are you running for governor?
We have a moral imperative to build a community that leaves no one behind. Right now we have 200,000 residents out of work; 200,000 people having only part-time work; 800,000 people on food stamps; and 1 million who don’t even have food stamps. I am a job creator and have been my whole life. I’ve been a CEO for 35 years. I made promises during my campaign as treasurer and I’ve followed through on every single one of them. We need an innovative economy to provide people with economic support and universal pre-education—50,000 students learning hands-on skills and tools that they can use for the rest of their lives. Economic challenges are our No. 1 issue. I have a proven track record running a successful business and am a jobs creator; no other candidate can say that. I use my progressive values and have lived my life according to them.
You’ve won your party’s nomination but still lag in the polls. What’s your message to the voter who hasn’t yet decided on their candidate?
Among the people who do know the Massachusetts Democratic Party, I am polling better, and those are the people who will actually be voting in the primary. The biggest challenge right now is name recognition, which is why I’ve already launched my first television ad. We built an army of volunteers and had a successful caucus.
How does your Judaism inform your politics?
My work in the Jewish community and with Combined Jewish Philanthropies has always been about the moral imperative, “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof” (“Justice, justice, shall you pursue”). My Jewish values are inextricably linked to everything I do, to reach out a helping hand and offer hope and dignity. I find that the most important passage in the entire Tanakh is Isaiah 58:10: “And you offer your compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished creature—then shall your light shine in darkness. And your gloom shall be like noonday.”
My grandfather came from Russia to America in 1900. He was the youngest of 13 children; he went to work and had always wanted to start his own business. He founded Gross Marketing and would call me during my senior year of high school and tell me four things: 1) Raise a healthy family; 2) Educate your children; 3) Run a successful business; and 4) Give back and give back. So it was family, career and community. And never forget community, because that’s what life is all about. In Ta’anit 23 we learn: “I did not find the world desolate when I entered it, and as my ancestors planted for me before I was born, so do I plant for those that come after me.” Everything I do—from my work with CJP to AIPAC—is a testament of our progress to not have too much as long as there is a single friend or co-worker who lacks.
I’ve heard you’re quite the ice cream fan. What’s your favorite brand and flavor?
I have a favorite saying: “A day without ice cream is a day without sunshine.” Right now I’m on my way to Lowell, and when I finish I hope to make it to Dracut, where there’s good homemade ice cream. I have so many favorite places all over the state! I live in Newton, so there’s J.P. Licks right in the center of town. There I go between rum raisin and Yogurt X, which is a low-calorie yogurt. The key is to always order the kiddie size! My favorite is mocha chip. I always try to order when I’m somewhere new. Nothing puts a smile on someone’s face like a bowl of ice cream. There’s a place in Lower Mills, Dorchester, called The Ice Creamsmith, which is down the street from a wonderful new restaurant called Ester. It’s owned by a woman and was opened through a loan I created through the small-business partnership. I had thought, gee, we have all this money sitting in Europe and Australia with no interest rate; we should make those into small-business loans.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!