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As a former congregational rabbi and current organizational leadership and development consultant, I have had the privilege of witnessing the evolution of Minnesota over the past 15 years. I am not a native Minnesotan, but I have come to love this state as my home. I write this in response to the recent commentary, "Goodbye, Minnesota" (Opinion Exchange, May 24), which paints a picture of Minnesota I do not recognize.
The author cites high taxes, crime and a lack of hope as reasons for leaving Minnesota. While I respect his perspective, many others, including myself, see Minnesota as a place of robust growth, progress and a broader investment in an intentional social fabric of inclusivity.
First, let's address the issue of taxes. Yes, Minnesota has a high tax rate compared to some other states. However, these taxes fund essential services and programs that contribute to the quality of life we enjoy here. They support our public schools, health care, infrastructure and social services. They also help maintain our beautiful parks, green spaces and our so-many ice rinks — all integral to our state's identity and our residents' well-being.
As a consultant working with various organizations, I have seen firsthand how these investments pay off in the form of a well-educated workforce, a healthy population, a thriving economy and a vibrant, accessible natural environment. The taxes we pay are not just financial obligations; they are investments in our shared future.
Secondly, the departing critic points to crime as a significant issue. While it is true that crime exists, as it does in any state, it is not the defining characteristic of Minnesota. Our law enforcement agencies work tirelessly to ensure our safety, and they are also actively addressing systemic racism and investing more energy in community policing. These efforts are crucial in building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Furthermore, community initiatives across the state are actively addressing the root causes of crime, such as poverty and lack of education. It is also worth noting that crime rates fluctuate and are influenced by a variety of factors, many of which are not unique to Minnesota. We must not let crime define our perception of our state, but rather acknowledge it as a challenge to be addressed with compassion, understanding and systemic change.
The author also mentions a lack of hope as a reason for leaving. On the contrary, I see a state full of hope and potential. I see it in the innovative startups sprouting across the Twin Cities, in the passionate educators shaping our future leaders and in the dedicated public servants working to make Minnesota a better place for all its residents.
This speaks directly to the author's critique of advocacy organizations. I would like to offer a different perspective based on my extensive experience working with numerous nonprofits and advocacy groups. These organizations are often the unsung heroes of our communities, tirelessly working to address societal issues and improve the lives of Minnesotans. They measure their success specifically not by the amount of money they raise or the publicity they generate, but by the actual tangible impact they have on the communities they serve. The Constellation Fund, STEP in St Louis Park and Appetite for Change are just three that immediately come to mind.
These organizations are on the front lines, providing essential services, advocating for policy changes and raising awareness about critical issues. They are often the first to respond in times of crisis, and the last to leave when others have moved on. Their work is driven by a deep commitment to their mission, not by financial gain or public recognition.
It's true that fundraising is a necessary part of their operations, as it is for any nonprofit organization. However, it is a means to an end, not the end itself. The funds raised are used to support their programs and initiatives, and to ensure they can continue to serve their communities effectively.
As for the claim about "toothless lawsuits, angry Capitol protests and smug public displays of self-righteousness," it's important to remember that advocacy takes many forms. What may seem like an angry protest to some is a passionate call for justice to others. What may seem like a toothless lawsuit to some is a vital legal challenge to others. And what may seem like a smug display of self-righteousness to some is a courageous stand for what's right to others.
Minnesota is not just a state; it's a community. We are a diverse group of people who come together to support each other in times of need, celebrate together in times of joy, and work together to address the challenges we face. We are a state that values inclusivity, and we are continually striving to ensure that all Minnesotans, regardless of their background, feel welcome and valued here.
While it is true that Minnesota, like any state, has its challenges, it is also a state of immense opportunity and potential. I am proud to call Minnesota my home and am committed to contributing to its continued growth and progress. I invite others to join me in celebrating and supporting the state we love.
Avi S. Olitzky, formerly senior rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, is president and principal consultant of Olitzky Consulting Group.