fbpx
Saturday, September 19, 2020

Insider, Outsider

I check in periodically with David Tokofsky, who has represented the Eastside on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) since 1995, just to find out how long it takes to stop being considered an outsider.

For a Jewish boy on the Eastside, the answer is: more than two terms. Even now, despite winning two elections, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) has made him the target of redistricting, to insure that the next time out, someone with a Latino surname gets the job.

When Tokofsky, a teacher’s union activist fluent in Spanish and a veteran chair of the academic decathlon, first ran for the school board, friends and foe alike suggested he move to Agoura, just for job security.

"Guess I have ‘Agouraphobia,’" he quipped, and moved to Eagle Rock.

He’s had some grueling battles, beating down both a recall and a recount. He’s still in there, ready to fight again.

Not so many years ago, guys from our community, like Tokofsky, were called "liberals," hard working or caring. We looked at them in admiration for self-sacrifice. We expected one day they’d go to law school.

These days, well, I don’t know whether to be embarrassed. or not. The Tokofskys of the world are few and far between. Even with the emergency inducement of the current teaching shortage, there are still few Jewish teachers, and proportionately fewer Jewish students in public school. In East Los Angeles, there aren’t many of either.

Still, Tokofsky always makes me feel that his is the way it should be: talented, professional educators should be as natural to emerge from the Jewish community as rabbis. Naturally, these professional educators should go where they’re needed most, whether or not politicians say they are wanted there.

Because Tokofsky thinks his is the natural order of the universe; he tends to get offended when others react differently.

The map intended to front-load his 5th District with as many Latino voters as possible was not a surprise. What did surprise Tokofsky, was the way the rest of the Westside/Valley political establishment, distracted by secession and its own ambitions, seemed to cave in, ignoring the work of the citizens committee allowing MALDEF to become the major player.

When I spoke to Tokofsky this week, he was livid in battle, as might be expected, facing as he was many as four potential redistricing maps in which his Latino voter base in his 5th District varied anywhere from 51 to 58 percent. The City Council was expected to hear the matter on Tuesday, June 4.

"I’ll get there, one way or the other," Tokofsky told me. "I’m good for the election system. I bring out voters."

By now, it’s no surprise to find Tokofsky under attack, especially from Latino activists who want his seat for themselves.

A nicer surprise is who his friends are. Frank del Olmo’s Sunday Los Angeles Times column praising Tokofsky was gratifying.

"The LAUSD veteran could show other politicians how to serve Latino voters," del Olmo wrote.

And how might that be? Del Olmo praised Tokofsky for many of the maverick positions for which Westsiders criticize him.

Tokofsky started out as the lone defender of Ruben Zacharias, the first Latino school superintendent.

This month he was a lone voice defending standardized tests, while the rest of the board wanted tests that made the district look better, without improving student performance.

He refused to back the completion of the Belmont Learning Complex, saying it was still unsafe.

I don’t know. The man seems to know his district.

Our community is still reeling from the Katz/Alarcon senate race of a few years ago. So we understandably worry about a man who faces ethnic conflict every time he announces he’s running again.

That’s why del Olmo’s praise of Tokofsky deserves additional comment. There seemed to be two reasons for optimism that the ethnic tensions of the recent election cycle might be passing away.

First, del Olmo accepted that non-Latinos are part of the political landscape, by implication, deserving of respectful hearing and support when warranted from his community.

Second, del Olmo reminded us that human beings don’t change. City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder retained his seat throughout the ’70s by catering to the needs of his Latino district. With such concern for the district, Tokofsky can win, regardless if his seat looks like a salamander.

The piece was brief consolation. By press time, the City Council had approved the MALDEF map. The vote for MALDEF was 13-2 with no one from the Westside or Valley on his side.

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact
Previous articleThe Curse of Certainty
Next article7 Days In The Arts

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

What Does Leading With Heart Look Like in Modern Life?

This Rosh Hashanah, consider how you can cultivate the four pillars of heart-centered leadership.

A Moment in Time: 5781 Can’t Come Soon Enough

Dear all, As we approach the Jewish New Year of 5781, I think we can safely say that 5780 came with incredible challenges. I can’t...

Remembering the Life and Work of the Woman who Championed Women’s Rights: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies At 87

She died from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

3 Holocaust Monuments Vandalized With Swastikas in Ukraine and Russia

Police are investigating the instances of vandalism.

Letters: 9/11 Commemoration, Spots and Activism, UAE

9/11 Commemoration “Grow, grow, grow,” we imagine angels whispering to every blade of grass. How much more so to every human soul. That kind of...

Kosovo to Adopt IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

“As a victim of genocidal actions & ethnic cleansing, [Kosovo] understands too well the weight of discrimination & hate.”

86 Jewish Groups Contest Leila Khaled’s SFSU Speaking Event

The groups sent a letter to the SFSU president asking if Khaled is legitimately protected under academic freedom.

Culture

‘A Wilderness of Error’ Revisits Infamous Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case

As recounted in journalist Joe McGinniss’ 1983 book and the subsequent miniseries “Fatal Vision,” MacDonald was convicted of the murders, but was he guilty?

‘The Get’ to Tell Story of Notorious Chasidic Rabbi

The show is based off a GQ article.

Novel’s Russian Jews Find Rough Going in Israel

The setting of “Jerusalem as a Second Language,” a new novel by Rochelle Distelheim (Aubade Publishing), harks back to a remarkable moment in history.

Personalizing Home Ritual With ‘HighHolidaysAtHome’

The team has developed guides and webinars. They're providing steps to invoke various aspects of the holidays as well as family memories. 

Apples of Hope for Rosh Hashanah

As a new year begins, we remember the hard times of recent months but also look forward to the future with a promise of new beginnings.

Latest Articles
Latest

What Does Leading With Heart Look Like in Modern Life?

This Rosh Hashanah, consider how you can cultivate the four pillars of heart-centered leadership.

A Moment in Time: 5781 Can’t Come Soon Enough

Dear all, As we approach the Jewish New Year of 5781, I think we can safely say that 5780 came with incredible challenges. I can’t...

Remembering the Life and Work of the Woman who Championed Women’s Rights: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies At 87

She died from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Hollywood

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

A Rosh HaSchitt’s Creek Sameach to You!

How long has this pandemic been? This week we're giving a big Shofar Wave to 5780 as it exits the building, reviewing some Jewy...

Pandemic Times Episode 88: Words of Light for Rosh Hashanah

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday and Friday. Excerpts of inspiring messages from community leaders. How do we manage our lives during the coronavirus crisis? How...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x