David Lehrer, Longtime Los Angeles Jewish Community Leader and Civil and Human Rights Advocate, Dies at 75

He had recently celebrated his 75th birthday.
October 26, 2023

With heavy heart, the family of David A. Lehrer, a longtime leader in the Los Angeles Jewish community and outspoken advocate for civil and human rights, has announced his death on October 25, 2023. Lehrer unexpectedly collapsed at home and could not be revived. He had recently celebrated his 75th birthday.

Lehrer had served for 27 years in a variety of leadership positions within the West Coast office of the Anti-Defamation League, joining the ADL in 1975 as Western States Civil Rights Counsel and rising to become Director of the Pacific Southwest Region, a post he held for 16 years. His accomplishments there include drafting California’s first hate crime laws, helping lead the legislative efforts to outlaw tax-subsidized discriminatory private social clubs, and confronting extremist groups across the West.

Shortly after leaving the ADL in 2002, Lehrer and veteran civil-rights activist Joe Hicks formed Community Advocates, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to forging partnerships and improving relations among the region’s various ethnic communities. They published articles, led programs and helped develop educational curricula aimed at promoting tolerance. Mayor Richard Riordan served as chairman of Community Advocates.

After Hicks’s death in 2016, Lehrer independently continued his Jewish community and human-relations advocacy. In 2017, alarmed at the election of Donald Trump and a corresponding rise in intolerance directed against Latino immigrants and Muslims—and the failure of established Jewish organizations in Los Angeles to speak out against such prejudice—Lehrer and other Jewish community leaders formed Jews United for Democracy and Justice. Since then, the group has become known for “America At A Crossroads,” its weekly online discussions of topical issues with a range of leading experts, anchored by prominent Los Angeles-based journalists. Several hundred of the programs, many introduced by Lehrer, are archived and available on the group’s YouTube channel.

Lehrer graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science, and received his J.D. from UCLA Law School in 1973. In addition to his civil rights work, he served as an appointee of Mayor Richard Riordan as a member and President of the Los Angeles Board of Library Commissioners, overseeing the City’s $90 million public library system.

Lehrer, a lifelong resident of Los Feliz, was an active longtime member of Temple Israel of Hollywood, and will be greatly missed by all who knew, worked with, and loved him.

He is survived by his wife Ariella, and his children Eli (and Sari) Lehrer, Jonah (and Sarah) Lehrer, Rachel Lehrer (and Adam McClelland), and Leah Lehrer (Annie Clark); his sister Shelah (and Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer), brother Michael (and Mia Lehrer) and nine grandchildren, Jude, Teddy, James, Caroline, Rose, Isaac, Louisa, Billie Jean, and Delilah.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Community Advocates, Inc. at https://www.cai-la.org/donate

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