BY JON MARKS – THE JEWISH EXPONENT
Shortly after his family moved from St. Louis to suburban Philadelphia in the early 1970s, young Lawrence Krasner took a liking to the Phillies’ feisty shortstop.
“My ultimate dream was to be Larry Bowa,” Krasner said. “Probably because his name was Larry and he wore No. 10, and I was Larry and wore No. 10. From what I remember, Larry Bowa was a pretty feisty guy who’d get thrown out now and then and kick dirt on umpires.”
Turn the clock ahead some 40 years and now it’s Krasner trying to kick dirt on the penal system, which he said enforces unreasonable sentences for minor offenses and wastes millions of taxpayer dollars that could be better served elsewhere.
That’s one reason he’s swinging for the fences to be Philadelphia’s next district attorney. He’s the latest to join a crowded lineup to replace Seth Williams, who chose not to run following revelations that he failed to report more than $160,000 in gifts and other income.
The 55-year-old Krasner is the third candidate with Jewish lineage to enter the race, following Republican Beth Grossman and fellow Democrat Michael Untermeyer, though this grandson of Russian immigrants characterizes himself as a Quaker.
“I don’t see them as mutually exclusive,” said Krasner, sitting in the lobby of his Center City law firm, Krasner and Long. “Being Quaker is somewhat ecumenical. The Quakers are a very inclusive group.”
So are the Krasners.
“My dad was essentially a secular Jew,” explained Krasner, of the man who wrote five suspense novels, along with editing psychology-focused TransAction Magazine at Washington University. “My mother was a minister.
“My wife [Judge Lisa Rau] is Irish Catholic. So you’ve got a minister, a Jewish father and a Catholic wife. We covered the United Nations of faith.”
That doesn’t mean Krasner isn’t sympathetic to the challenges Jews are facing today. He faces them, too.
“There’s certainly that protective part among my family when you see cemeteries being vandalized and hear things coming out of the mouth of the president,” said Krasner, who first encountered anti-Semitism during childhood football games in St. Louis. “My grandparents are buried in the cemetery in St. Louis [Chesed Shel Emeth] that was vandalized.
“People generally assume I’m a Jew and my wife is a Jew. I’m running for DA, and when I put out something that was non-controversial it was quickly pounced upon by alt-right trolls sending me a cartoon of a hooked-nosed rabbi running off with a headstone.
“It’s amazing to me the level of animosity.”
In a different sense, it’s amazing to Krasner how the justice system in Philadelphia has maintained such strict sentencing guidelines while offering criminals little chance for rehabilitation. He intends to change that.
“I want to be DA because I’ve been in the criminal court system and doing civil rights primarily for poor people for 30 years and believe the DA’s office has gone drastically in the wrong direction for 30 years,” Krasner said. “In 2014, Philadelphia had the highest homicide rate of the 10 largest cities and also had the highest poverty rate.