Claudia Sheinbaum is a Jewish, Nobel Prize-winning scientist and political liberal who has beaten back crime.
Mexico is a country of many firsts. It was the first Latin American nation to recognize Israel in 1950, the first to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1924, and the first to host the Olympic Games in 1968. Now, it may be on the verge of another historic milestone: electing its first woman and first Jewish president.
The frontrunner for the 2024 presidential election is Claudia Sheinbaum, a former mayor of Mexico City and a close ally of the outgoing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador². Sheinbaum is a physicist and engineer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 as part of the UN's climate change panel³. She is also a proud Jewish woman who traces her roots to Lithuania and Bulgaria.
Sheinbaum's Jewish identity has become a simmering issue in the race, as some of her opponents have tried to question her Mexican credentials or cast her as an outsider⁴. But Sheinbaum has responded by emphasizing her love for her country and her commitment to its people.
Sheinbaum's platform includes fighting corruption, reducing poverty, developing renewable energy, and improving public safety. As mayor of Mexico City, she led the city through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced its murder rate by nearly half⁵. She also faced some controversies involving infrastructure disasters and subway accidents⁶.
Sheinbaum faces a strong challenge from Xóchitl Gálvez, a senator and former tech entrepreneur who represents the center-right opposition bloc². Gálvez has criticized Sheinbaum's management of the city and accused her of being too loyal to Obrador. Gálvez has also condemned any antisemitic attacks on Sheinbaum and defended her right to run for office.
Most Mexican Jews, who make up less than 1% of the population, are likely to vote for Gálvez, as they tend to lean conservative politically. However, some Jews may identify with Sheinbaum's progressive values and Jewish heritage. Sheinbaum has said that she feels connected to the history of Jews in political activism, but not as much to the religion or its traditions.
Sheinbaum's candidacy also reflects a broader trend of Jewish women rising to power in Latin America. In recent years, several Jewish women have held prominent positions in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru. These women have shown that being Jewish is not an obstacle to leadership, but rather an asset that enriches their vision and perspective.
Sheinbaum's potential victory would also be a sign of hope for Mexico and the world. As a Jewish woman who has overcome discrimination and adversity, she would inspire millions of people who face similar challenges. As a Nobel laureate who has dedicated her life to science and social justice, she would bring expertise and integrity to the presidency. And as a Mexican patriot who loves her country and its diversity, she would foster unity and cooperation among its citizens.
Sheinbaum's story reminds us of the words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who said: "The world says that time is money; I say that time is life." Sheinbaum has used her time wisely, pursuing her passions and serving her community. She has also given life to her time, infusing it with meaning and purpose.
Sheinbaum's story also reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah, who said: "And I will make your officers peace, and your magistrates righteousness." (Isaiah 60:17) Sheinbaum has strived to create peace and righteousness in her city, and now seeks to do so in her country. She has also embodied the qualities of a true leader, as described by Maimonides: "A leader must be wise, understanding, mighty ... humble ... truthful ... loving peace ... loving all creatures." (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 2:6)