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Federation Holds Town Hall on Recent Shootings

The town hall featured both elected officials and law enforcement, most notably Mayor Karen Bass.
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February 21, 2023
Mayor Karen Bass speaks at the town hall Photo by Aaron Bandler

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles held a town hall at YULA High School on February 20 addressing the recent shootings in the Pico-Robertson area. The town hall featured both elected officials and law enforcement, most notably Mayor Karen Bass.

“Antisemitism has no place in Los Angeles,” Bass declared, adding that she viewed the shooting as a serious escalation from previous flyers and banners spreading white supremacist propaganda around Los Angeles. “I want to work with the community specifically on how we can proactively get on top of these things when they happen,” Bass said. Some examples she listed included more cameras and license plate readers.

She said that she heard from some constituents that they were too scared to go to synagogue, while others remained defiant. “The fact is no one should have to face that choice,” Bass said. She hoped the Jewish community can take solace in knowing that that law enforcement is focused on this issue across all levels.

Bass was later asked questions from the audience about how her administration should be gauged on antisemitism. She replied that she wants people from the community to “develop a plan with me and then hold me accountable.” Part of this plan should involve educating people on how to report a hate crime since they’re vastly underreported, she said. 

Regarding law enforcement, Bass touted her good relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and pointed out that the number of officers in the department is on the decline and needed to be increased.

The gunman admitted to police that he looked up a kosher supermarket on Yelp to pick his targets. “He was hunting Jews,” Farkas said. “The horror we’re experiencing is real.”

Before Bass spoke, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Rabbi Noah Farkas kicked off the event by pointing out that the gunman admitted to police that he looked up a kosher supermarket on Yelp to pick his targets. “He was hunting Jews,” Farkas said. “The horror we’re experiencing is real.” He pointed out that the American Jewish Committee’s most recent survey found that 69% of American Jews have experienced antisemitism online in the last 12 months and 1 in 4 have changed their behavior, such as not wearing religious items and not going to synagogue. “What begins with words often ends with bullets,” Farkas said. 

City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky said that “unease remains because we know this isn’t the end of it. As a people we know we always have to be vigilant.” She later added that every time “we walk to shul or enter a kosher market or a local Jewish community space, we are taking part in a centuries act of defiance” by saying “we belong here.”

Democratic Assemblymembers Jesse Gabriel and Isaac Bryan also spoke, touting their work in passing legislation to fight hate and gun violence, with the former saying they included $100 million in nonprofit security grants and established a statewide commission addressing hate. Gabriel, who heads the CA Legislative Jewish Caucus, added that a new state law will be going into effect requiring social media companies to be transparent “on what they’re doing to crack down on hate.” 

Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli spoke on video from Israel, saying that the shootings should be viewed as “in a wide context and unfortunately…. antisemitism is on the rise in the U.S.” He noted that there have been other violent antisemitic acts in 2023, such as in New Jersey, where a man firebombed a synagogue, and intifada chants at the University of Michigan. 

“Antisemitism today is sophisticated,” Chikli said. “Sometimes it hides behinds the mask of human rights discussions. It infiltrates academies, even high schools.” Chikli said he didn’t want to see what happened in Sweden, where some synagogues and community centers closed down because so many Jews were afraid to attend, happen in the United States.

Other speakers included County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, Country Sheriff Robert Luna, City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto, LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier. Dr. Hillel Newman, Israeli Consul General of Los Angeles, introduced Chikli.

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