Moving and Shaking: Fiesta Shalom, Morton Klein and Jeremy Ben Ami discussion
The Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles is famously well connected in the political circles of Southern California, but even by its standards, the Nov. 20 annual Fiesta Shalom event in East L.A. featured a notable cast of congressmen, state legislators and other officials.
At the iconic Tamayo Restaurant at 5300 E. Olympic Blvd., local politicians gathered to pay homage to shared values and brotherhood between L.A.’s Jews and Latinos. They included L.A. City Council members Bob Blumenfield, Paul Koretz and David Ryu; U.S. Rep. Judy Chu; U.S. Representatives-elect Lou Correa and Nanette Barragán; California Assemblymen Tony Mendoza and Richard Bloom; state Sens. Ben Allen and Kevin De León; state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones; former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; and the consuls general from Germany and Mexico.
The evening’s speeches were colored by the presidential election, and what many saw as hateful rhetoric that emerged against immigrants and Jews.
“This is why it’s so very important to stand together and fight for each other,” said Barragán, whose southeast L.A. district is heavily Latino.
Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, fresh off his entry into the gubernatorial race earlier in November, gave what many regarded as the evening’s most rousing address, speaking of his roots in traditionally Jewish Boyle Heights, which he called, “the Ellis Island of L.A.”
Antonio Villaraigosa snaps a picture during Fiesta Shalom at Montebello’s Tamayo Restaurant on Nov. 20, where he drew applause during a speech. Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Consulate General of Israel
“I couldn’t be prouder to be here with you,” he said, boasting that he’d broken bread with every Israeli consul general in L.A. since 1994. “We are the chosen ones — the goyim, the Jews — together, united around common values.”
For Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, it was his first time experiencing the annual get-together. “This isn’t my first rodeo, but it is my first Fiesta Shalom,” he said.
In addition to the evening’s political star power was a smaller Hollywood contingent. Comedian George Lopez recounted a moving experience two years ago in Israel, and co-stars of the television comedy “Jane the Virgin” Yael Grobglas and Jaime Camil, hailing respectively from Israel and Mexico, spoke about learning to appreciate each other’s culture.
“When I heard ‘Fiesta Shalom,’ ” said Grobglas, turning to her co-star, “I thought, ‘You’re the fiesta, I’m the shalom.’ ”
— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer
From left: Jeremy Ben Ami, executive director of J Street, Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe and Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein appeared in conversation at Sinai Temple. Photo by Jeffrey Hensiek
On Nov. 2 at Sinai Temple, Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein and J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben Ami participated in a discussion regarding Israel, settlements in the West Bank and a two-state solution.
Ben Ami said J Street supported a two-state solution on the basis that it is the best path to ensure Israel’s security and democratic nature, and to preserve it as a Jewish state.
Klein disagreed, saying, “You cannot make peace with someone who wants to continue being your enemy.”
The annual Jewish National Fund (JNF) breakfast on Nov. 29 spotlighted the organization’s efforts in Israel — which include working with the Israel Defense Forces, developing the Negev and combating water shortages — and the need for continued local support.
Participants in the program in the Beverly Hilton ballroom included JNF CEO Russell Robinson, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and Stephen Wise Temple Cantor Nathan Lam. Pollster and consultant Frank Luntz was the keynote speaker.
JNF is raising funds in response to the recent wildfires in Israel, and Grundwerg spoke of the “flames [that] engulfed Israel.” He said Israelis and the larger pro-Israel community are “undaunted and our spirits are high” despite the fires. He praised California firefighters who went to Israel to assist in combating the blazes. Palestinian firefighters also participated in the relief effort.
The drew 1,200 attendees. Among the crowd were StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein, Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe and Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein.
“You can’t go a block in Israel without seeing a JNF project,” Alyse Golden Berkley, national vice chair of the JNF Sapphire Society, said in an interview after the event. “We improve the lives of Israelis.”
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