January 19, 2019

Jewish Latina’s Unique Perspective on Local News

Photo courtesy of Giselle Fernandez

Television journalist, producer and five-time Emmy Award-winner Giselle Fernandez brings three decades of experience to her new anchor job at Spectrum News 1, the cable provider’s hyper-local news channel. A Latina and a Jewish woman born in Mexico to a Jewish mother (née Eisner) and a Spanish-Catholic father, she also brings a unique perspective when covering the diverse communities and people of Southern California.

“I think my greatest contribution to Spectrum comes from my multiethnic, multicultural background,” Fernandez said. She grew up all over the Southland, in East L.A., Hollywood, Northridge and Westlake Village. “I see things from a much broader lens and have a great appreciation what our collection of communities have to offer. I’m not covering communities of ‘the other.’ I am the other.”

Fernandez is on the air daily from 5 until 9 a.m., which means rising at 1 a.m. to arrive at work by 2:30. Taking on such a daunting schedule at the age of 57, Fernandez said it gives her more time to spend with her 12-year-old daughter but she also really wanted the job. 

Fernandez, who previously worked for CBS, NBC and KTLA, said she missed reporting. “I’m actively involved in many boards and charities that specifically deal with underserved communities, health care and education — that has been my life off the air,” she said. “This was a chance to go back to basics and tell community stories, get people engaged in stories that affect them personally and build trust and unity at a time when we really need it. It’s so in my passion zone. I really feel that I won the lottery.”

 “I was not quite Mexican enough to be Mexican and not Jewish enough because I wasn’t raised in a Jewish household. I always felt like I was on the outskirts until I created my own identity.” ­

— Giselle Fernandez

Spectrum News 1 has been covering the rise in hate crimes and vandalism against Jews in the Southland. “Synagogues have had to beef up their security because of threats and vandalism. Orthodox women in Hancock Park have had their wigs pulled off. These are stories I advocate for,” Fernandez said. “Local is global. If we can address the ills of our own community and shine a light on them, we have a chance to activate community interest and engagement. That is our mandate and it’s certainly mine.”

Fernandez also hosts Spectrum News 1’s weekly primetime interview show “L.A. Story,” airing Mondays at 8 p.m. “We focus on impact-makers in business, the arts, innovation, the sciences,” she said. Guests have included Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, actress-choreographer Debbie Allen and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, with whom she shares cultural similarities.

“I talked with him about being a fellow ‘kosher burrito,’ his immigrant background and why he feels he should potentially throw his hat in the ring for a run in 2020,” she said. “He spoke very boldly against President [Donald] Trump and why he felt California would be best served with someone like him at the helm.”

Of her own Jewish background, Fernandez said, “I was not quite Mexican enough to be Mexican and not Jewish enough because I wasn’t raised in a Jewish household. I always felt like I was on the outskirts until I created my own identity.” 

Her DNA test results showed she is 49 percent Ashkenazi Jewish and 51 percent Spanish. But she believes that her father’s ancestors may have been Jews who converted to Catholicism but secretly practiced Judaism. She has always had Jewish friends and was drawn to Jewish culture. But it wasn’t till CBS News sent her to Israel to cover the Gulf War in 1991, that she found a deeper connection to her roots. She studied with an Orthodox rabbi upon her return. Ultimately, she realized that she wasn’t cut out for that level of observance. “But I always credit my Halachic training for my interviewing skills,” she said. 

Today, she is a member of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where she had her bat mitzvah at age 50, and her daughter Talei will have hers next June. Fernandez adopted Talei at birth from Guatemala. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless and stand up for victims of oppression and those who are less fortunate,” Fernandez said. “I identify those as Jewish values and teach them to my daughter. ‘You are here to make this world a better place.’”

Taking inspiration from the fictional Nancy Drew and real-life peripatetic journalists Nellie Bly and Margaret Bourke-White, Fernandez set her sights on a journalism career at the age of 7. “I wanted to travel the world and live a life telling stories of human beings, how we managed and triumphed,” she said.

Fernandez has been to Somalia, Panama and Haiti covering crises, but Israel, where she’s returned many times since the Gulf War, stands out in her memory, and she hopes to return with her daughter. 

Another memorable experience was competing on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2006, despite her elimination in the third round. “I was devastated because I didn’t get the chance to do the Paso Doble (dance step) and honor my father. But I loved the experience,” she said.

Owning a bed-and-breakfast and visiting India are on her bucket list, but not in the near future. “I think it’s really remarkable that I get the opportunity to work in my dream profession at this stage of my life,” she said. “As Jews know, how we tell our stories can inform our history. So of all the things I’ve done in life, this is one of the most important jobs I’ve done.”    

Movers & Shakers: Wells for Niger, Dems Fundraiser, AJU ‘Promise’

From left: Shannon Delrahim, Gil Garcetti, Barbara Goldberg, David Delrahim and Ash Delrahim celebrated the 10th anniversary of Wells Bring Hope.

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti and philanthropist Stanley Black were among about 200 people on Sept. 23 who celebrated the 10th anniversary of Wells Bring Hope, a Los Angeles nonprofit that works to bring clean drinking water to villages in the West African nation of Niger.

Wells Bring Hope was founded in 2008 by Bel Air resident Barbara Goldberg, who was inspired by Garcetti’s photographs showing the plight of women and girls in West Africa who walk miles every day for water. The organization supports the drilling of wells in Niger, among the poorest countries in the world, in partnership with World Vision, an international Christian organization, and with Panda Restaurant Group, which operates Panda Express. The corporate sponsor underwrites Wells Bring Hope’s operating expenses, allowing 100 percent of donations to fund wells, according to the organization’s website.

The more than $200,000 raised during the event, held at Black’s home, will fund close to 40 wells, adding to the more than 500 wells the organization has drilled the past 10 years, Goldberg said. One well costs $5,600, serves a village of about 1,000 people and is a perpetual source of water, she said. 

“It’s an endless supply of water,” Goldberg said. 

Black has been a supporter of Wells Bring Hope for six years and has hosted the group’s annual fundraiser the past five years. 

Goldberg said the organization is a model of collaboration between different religious groups. It was founded by a Jew (herself); inspired by an agnostic (Garcetti); serves Muslims (the people of Niger); and partners with Christians (World Vision) and Buddhists (Panda Restaurant Group co-founder Andrew Cherng).

“Is that not the most ecumenical nonprofit you can imagine?” Goldberg said.

In addition to raising money for Wells Bring Hope, the event honored Black for his years of philanthropic work and support of organizations throughout Los Angeles. L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who was among the attendees, presented a City Council declaration making Sept. 23 “Stanley Black Day.” 

Organizations supported by Black, who was born and raised in Los Angeles and has enjoyed a successful real estate career, include Los Angeles ORT College, Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Los Angeles Jewish Home.

Sukey Roth, Garcetti’s wife, also attended the event. The two are the parents of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was not in attendance but sent a congratulatory video. Also attending were businessman and philanthropist David Delrahim and his family. Delrahim is a board member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Jewish National Fund and is a supporter of Wells Bring Hope.

Additional attendees included Gilda and Robert
; Bob and Leslie Spivak; Ronnie Kassorla; photographer Michael Becker; Madeline Gussman; and Bernardo Puccio and Orin Kennedy, whose love story is the subject of the upcoming documentary “An Ordi-
nary Couple.”

Goldberg said the event underscored how far the organization has come the past decade.

“The highlight was reaching a goal of 500 wells in 10 years, serving over half-a-million people, bringing safe water to them,” Goldberg said. “We were cele-
brating that.”

From left: Before the staging of “The Promise: A Zeisl Concert,” E. Randol Schoenberg, Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, Amielle Zemach and Mark Kligman participated in a Q-and-A about the historic production at American Jewish University’s Gindi Auditorium.

“The Promise: A Zeisl Concert,” a ballet about the biblical love story of Rachel and Jacob, was staged on Aug. 26 at American Jewish University’s Gindi Auditorium.  

The production originally was commissioned in 1954 by what was then the University of Judaism, and created by its Head of Theater Arts Benjamin Zemach and Austrian émigré composer Erich Zeisl. Due to a lack of funds, however, the production was not performed during that period.

The version performed at AJU featured the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony (LAJS) and its Artistic Director Noreen Green, along with members of Los Angeles modern dance company Bodytraffic and actor Fred Melamed as narrator.

The evening kicked off with Mark Kligman, a professor and chair of ethnomusicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, conducting a Q-and-A with attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, Zeisl’s grandson; Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, Zeisl’s daughter; and Amielle Zemach, the daughter of Benjamin Zemach. The speakers explored the historic relationship between Zemach and Zeisl and the return of the ballet to its originally intended home at the AJU after nearly 60 years.

LAJS, the UCLA Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music and AJU’s Whizin Center organized the production.

From left: Jimmy Kimmel, DJ Khaled and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti headlined “1 Night, $1 Million, 10 States, 100s of Victories,” a fundraiser for the Democratic parties in 10 states.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and comedian Jimmy Kimmel are using their name recognition and chemistry to bolster the Democratic Party in the upcoming midterm elections.

On Sept. 25 at the Avalon Hollywood club, the two headlined “1 Night, $1 Million, 10 States, 100s of Victories,”
which sought to raise $1 million for Democratic parties in 10 states, with
each receiving $100,000 to elect Democratic governors and legislators this November.

“We are taking a unique and strategic approach to these midterms,” Garcetti
said in a statement. “State Democratic parties are where it all comes together — they’re working to flip Congress, and secure victories in 2020 and beyond by winning state legislative seats and registering voters,”

Ultimately, the event raised $1.5 million for the state Democratic parties of California, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

“Nothing is more important than taking back control of this country,” Kimmel said.

According to Yusef Robb, a senior adviser to Garcetti and the Democratic Midterm Victory Fund, which hosted the event, there were 800 attendees. Tickets ranged from $100 to $100,000.

Garcetti, who is rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential run, has Kimmel’s support. “I am here because I will go anywhere he asks me to go,” Kimmel said. “He’s a great mayor and a great person.”

When Garcetti took the stage, chants of “Eric 2020” filled the space, prompting him to try to quiet the audience so it could listen to remarks from state Democratic leaders.

Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party, was among the attendees.

A performance by DJ Khaled, who performed a medley of hip-hop hits, closed out the evening.

When Khaled ran late getting started, Garcetti and Kimmel bantered to kill time. Garcetti asked who in the
crowd was single, to which Kimmel added:  “Pair up and make little baby Democrats.” 

Want to be in Movers & Shakers? Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas. Email ryant@jewishjournal.com

Movers & Shakers: Bel Air Affaire, Garden Party, High-Tech Tashlich

Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

At its 10th annual Bel Air Affaire, American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) honored Hella and Chuck Hershson with the 2018 Humanitarian Torch of Learning Award for their leadership in the organization and their support of the school.

The Sept. 15 event, held at the Los Angeles home of Brindell Gottlieb, also raised $950,000 to support scholarships for Hebrew University students.

Event chairs included AFHU national and western-region board members Renae Jacobs-Anson and Helen Jacobs-Lepor.  Honorary chairs included western region vice chair Patricia Glaser and her husband, Sam Mudie, as well as May Ziman and her husband, Richard, the western region chairman.

Hebrew University President Asher Cohen attended.

Funds raised by AFHU are used to support scholarly and scientific achievement at the Hebrew University, to create scholarships, to maintain and build new facilities and to assist the university’s recruitment of new faculty.

East Side Jews’ Days of Awesome tashlich pilgrimage — “Down to the River” — was an evening to tune in to reflection, storytelling and community
at Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park.
(Photo by Kelly Dwyer)

About 150 young professionals at a Sept. 15 tashlich service organized by the East Side Jews group silently made their way to the edge of the Los Angeles River in Elysian Valley and, while wearing headphones, cast small stones into the water.

The High Holy Days ritual, held at Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park, was part of the organization’s seventh annual Down to the River event in its Days of Awesome series.

“It was an amazing site to see 150 people, all silent along the riverbank, throwing stones,” Joel Serot, events manager at the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, which founded East Side Jews, said in an email. 

Participants were given headphones so that, as they made their way to the river, they could listen to an immersive musical composition by Murray Hidray and listen to  words of reflection from Wilshire Boulevard Temple Rabbi Susan Goldberg, who was at the event, speaking to them live.

The participants’ casting of stones replaced the ritual’s traditional tossing of breadcrumbs, which symbolizes letting go of mistakes of the past year.

“This is a more environmentally safe alternative and was a big part of our goals to continue to protect our community’s amazing public spaces like the L.A. River,” Serot said.

The early evening event also included food, storytelling and community activities, with Amie Segal leading a body-movement exercise, Thurston MacAfee reading a story of redemption, and the Nathan Serot Quartet playing jazz. Additionally, the art installation AtoneTent showcased the talents of East Side Jews artists-in-residence Betsy Medvedovsky and Katya Apekina, and Nikki Nachum led what was described as an “animal card reading.”

Havdalah and song concluded the event, which was co-organized by alternative Jewish community The Living Room.

Following his swearing-in ceremony, California State Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, who was elected in June, helped pack hygiene kits for homeless people.
(Photo by Jenna Freeman)

State Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel was sworn in to office on Sept. 16 during a ceremony at Reseda High School. 

Gabriel, a constitutional rights attorney and member of the Jewish community, won a special election this past June to represent Assembly District 45, which includes most of the western San Fernando Valley, including Encino, Woodland Hills and Tarzana. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivered the keynote address. 

“Jesse Gabriel is the right leader at the right time to help advance our most important work — from fighting for more affordable housing to protecting all Californians, no matter who they are or where they come from,” Garcetti said.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Congressman Brad Sherman and state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon also spoke. Former City Controller Wendy Gruel emceed.

Following the ceremony, participants took part in a service project, in partnership with LA Family Housing, that involved packing 600 kits with essential hygiene products for homeless people.

“It was important that this event include an element of service, because giving back is at the core of our work in the Assembly,” Gabriel said. “I am grateful to be serving the people of the 45th Assembly District, for placing their trust in me. I will strive every day to honor that trust and to serve you with integrity.”

The Assembly seat was vacated in December by Democrat Matt Dababneh, who resigned after a lobbyist alleged he had sexually assaulted her. Dababneh denied the allegation.

A selichot concert held by the Sephardic Educational Center at the Kahal Joseph Congregation featured six hazzanim from Israel and four Arabic musicians.
(Photo courtesy of Sephardic Educ. Ctr.)

The Middle East met West L.A. when the Sephardic Educational Center (SEC) held its annual Selichot concert on Sept. 16 at Kahal Joseph Congregation.

The concert featured six hazzanim from Israel and four Arabic musicians from Lebanon, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

About 150 people enjoyed the program, including the SEC’s director, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, and its President Neil Sheff.

The SEC, which has its historic campus in Jerusalem’s Old City and has various Diaspora branches, is committed to strengthening Jewish identity in youth and young adults. 

From left: Debbie Paperman, Democrats for Israel Los Angeles (DFILA) President Andrew Lachman, State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Rami Frankel, DFILA Vice President Michelle Elmer, Micha Liberman, Sunny Zia, Amanda Mintz, Nitzan Harel and Leeor Alpern attended the DFILA garden party.
Photo by Ryan Hughes

Democrats for Israel Los Angeles (DFILA) held a garden party Sept. 16 at the Beverly Hills home of Dan and Myra Demeter that honored state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Jewish Democratic Council of America finance chair Ada Horwich.

At the event, attended by about 100 people, Rendon discussed how lessons learned from Israel’s water conservation practices have influenced California’s water policy. Horwich addressed her support of Israel and the importance of supporting pro-Israel Democratic candidates.

Others who spoke included Assembly members Jesse Gabriel and Laura Friedman; Eitan Weiss, deputy chief of mission at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; and Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party.

Attendees included DFILA President Andrew Lachman and Vice President Michelle Elmer; L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin; L.A. Councilman Paul Koretz; Long Beach Community College District board member Sunny Zia; Democratic Assembly candidate Josh Lowenthal, Beverly Hills Unified School District Board candidate Rachelle Marcus and members of the DFILA board. 

DFILA, according to its website, supports pro-Israel Democratic candidates for local and federal offices, fights anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel, and promotes progressive Jewish and Zionist values. 

Want to be in Movers & Shakers? Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas.
Email ryant@jewishjournal.com

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti 2018 Rosh Hashanah interview [full transcript]

Eric Garcetti.

Last month, I interviewed L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in his office at L.A. City Hall. An edited version of the interview ran in this week’s Rosh Hashanah issue. This is a full version of the interview.

RYAN TOROK: This is a very cool office, by the way.

ERIC GARCETTI: This has been the mayor’s office since the building opened in the ‘20s, late ‘20s, ’28.

RT: How much of this [furniture and artwork] is reflective of your own taste, a lot of it?

EG: I lost the pictures. I had pictures before. There was the formal desk here, a bunch of nondescript furniture, and a weird mural on the wall that was like a Greetings from L.A. postcard, with the Observatory. This, obviously, I kept [he said, pointing to a sign on his office wall] but I wanted it to say “L.A.” and I wanted it to be brighter. It was really dark in here, with massive drapes. So, I lightened it up. I took some art from MOCA and LACMA, so these are both from classic California modernists, and this is Ed Moses, who just passed. All the furniture is designed by a famous California designer and architect. I got rid of my desk; just that meeting table, because that’s what you mostly need for collaboration, some formal place to sit.

RT: Where do you stay when you’re sitting at a computer?

EG: There’s a little, small office back there and a computer. I’ll be on my laptop. I don’t spend much time on the computer at all, so I do most of my email on my phone, if I do any at all. But I take meetings in here. Sometimes here, and then our press conference room if we have a crowd bigger than ten. I can do meetings of up to 40 or 50 people in there. But I’m usually out in the city. I would say I’m in the office less than half the time, for sure, maybe a third of the time, a quarter of the time.

RT: You said somewhere that you typically work an 18-hour work day, is that right?

EG: Probably all in, yeah. We subtract a couple of hours for some family time somewhere in there, hopefully, but the bookends of the day are probably 16, sometimes as long as 18 hours. I basically wake up here, check what happened last night, talk to the police chief or texting somebody back. In the night, I might be talking to a supervisor at 10 o’clock at night about homelessness or something. You’re never not on the job. I would say being mayor is pretty much—because something could happen at any time. You can be working for the city, a different city, and you spend five hours, essentially here because you’re on the phone with folks and doing stuff; what’s going on, if a power outage has happened. I was on a rare, personal family vacation, but I was texting people in long streams, trying to figure out when the power would be on for their house and getting better information for them. Don’t run for mayor if you don’t want to basically be working all the time. But I am good at trying to carve out family time.

RT: How difficult is that balance, that work/life balance?

EG: It’s tough. I mean, that’s one thing I won’t sacrifice. I’ve watched some people involved really burn themselves out, or they’re at a different point in their life where their kids are off to college or something, so they’ll go to three or four events a night. I don’t do many of those events. I might do one, maybe two, and I don’t do them every night because even though I’ll be working at home, I tuck my daughter into bed. If I’m not there for dinner or for tuck-in time, I don’t think the Chamber of Commerce will remember if I went to three or six of their galas, but Maya [his daughter] will remember if Dad was home. So, my priority is pretty straight there.

RT: Are there particular organizations that are non-profits, maybe specifically, Jewish non-profits, that you think are doing great work that you lend your name and voice to?

EG: Absolutely. And one of the things if I can’t go to a lot of their events is I’ll do a recorded video for them, same speech, essentially, that I do in person. Yeah, there’s a ton of organizations. Let’s see. JVS, obviously, which is linked to the oldest non-profit in the city, the Hebrew Benevolent Society. It does a lot of great work, whether it’s job training, community strengthening. There’s a lot of Jewish-led organizations, obviously, when you think about people like Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, who has L.A. Family Housing, which used to be—anyway, it’s L.A. Family Housing now, which I think is the premier homelessness organization, or anti-homelessness organization. On a personal level, I get from the Federation all sorts of stuff. I think the Zimmer Museum is doing great work and looking to grow. I’m a subscriber to PJ Books…

RT: Are you?

EG: … although we’ve got to get some more women-focused books there. I was very involved at the time with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, which is now Bend the Arc. They’re part of a coalition of folks, individual rabbis, that are doing great stuff as well. Temple Judea on the issue of homelessness, an advisory group of faith leaders that includes some great rabbis, like my own rabbi, Sharon Brous. L.A. is filled with organizations. Some of them are so small. There might be a school on Fairfax that happens to be doing something quietly on the side, or the folks that do emergency response folks, like backup…

RT: Hatzalah?

EG: Hatzalah. Thank you, guys. Had a brain fart there. Hatzalah. There’s people who step up and fill voids all the time from the community, and I think a lot of big organizations in town have very strong Jewish leadership, whether it’s Jerry Neuman, who’s the incoming Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, or Eli and Edie Broad. I think they follow a long tradition, which my family is part of, too.

RT: You’re Jewish on your mother’s side, and you became more serious about your Judaism in college, is that correct?

EG: Probably when I went to Oxford, actually. A little bit in college at Columbia, but it was when I was studying graduate studies at Oxford. It was interesting. I have people [I met at Oxford] that now are all over the news, from Rabbi Shmuley [Boteach], a pretty conservative voice, to Peter Beinart, he was in my Rhodes class, who got arrested—not arrested—detained at the [Israeli] airport.

RT: One was detained in Israel. The other [Boteach] was defending Roseanne.

EG: Exactly. But we are a big tent of Jews. I think we’re the original big tent, quite literally. We put the big tents in the desert, so a lot of people use that as a political term. I think we invented it. But, yeah, that’s when I got more serious about exploring—I mean, the two peaks were probably Gindling Hilltop Camp between sixth and seventh grade, and then a new chapter began where I just felt more faith and connected. But I had been pretty uneducated in terms of a Jewish religious upbringing because I come from a pretty secular tradition in my mom’s family, but always felt a strong sense of identity, but not as much religious practice. So now, that’s something that I’ve come more to.

RT: Is that largely because of [IKAR Rabbi] Sharon Brous?

EG: No, no, parallel to Sharon. There’s all sorts of things. I think Sharon and I participated in something that I can pinpoint, which is Reboot. I did that, and I think that was part of thinking about this more like how can you integrate practice into your daily life, and that was a part of it. It was a space that Jews who had not necessarily been hard-core Jews to figure out what Judaism means to them and what’s the role of Judaism in the world. But we also had some practice involved in that. And then Sharon started IKAR, and when I showed up there, it was the first feeling I had of oh, this is what a shul is supposed to be. I went to high school with that person. I recalled that person. We were in Student Council. We’d been activists together. It felt like the family writ large, which is what I think a congregation either becomes or should be. Other times, I went to my cousin’s shul growing up or went to camp, and felt like I belonged, but felt like a little bit of an outsider because it wasn’t my congregation, because I didn’t have one. And now, since that camp, because I’m a member of it at Wilshire Boulevard, those places feel like home.

RT: You must really connect to Wilshire Boulevard from the standpoint that they’re really prioritizing art and architecture and creating these kinds of spaces.

EG: It’s a gorgeous space. It connects me with the history of Judaism in Los Angeles, but it also connects me with the future, because they took a pretty bold investment. The Judaism story in L.A. is the story of westward expansion, right?

RT: Right.

EG: And eastward abandonment, in some cases. And even Wilshire Boulevard started to have as equal, if not bigger, pull on the West Side until they decided they were going to redo the campus. Erika Glazer stepped up. They built a school where they had an engagement with the Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown area…

RT: Sure.

EG: …and the human services aspect with the center they opened up.

RT: The Karsh.

EG: Yeah, the Karsh Family Center, which was built. The Karshes made a huge bet, too. So, to me, it connects with me on both sides: the beauty of Judaism in both senses; aesthetic beauty and the moral beauty of it.

RT: Do you consider yourself any particular denomination?

EG: No. I go to conservative shul at IKAR, so I guess that would make me more conservative in practice. And I love that, but there’s something about the strands of the social justice that permeates Reform Judaism that appeals to me, too. IKAR is a conservative practice that brings in the urgency of social and political reflection.

RT: There’s actually been a debate recently in the pages of The Jewish Journal about whether or not Tikkun Olam and social justice are legitimate Jewish values. As someone who’s also spent time studying Torah and Talmud with Rabbi Brous, what do you say to something like that?

EG: There is a lot of reflexive Judaism, whether that comes from Orthodoxy or from more liberal Jews, where it’s easy to simplify Judaism, and I think Judaism is just inherently complex. The complexity of it is its beauty, so if you’re a politician who only says Tikkun Olam, you’re not very deep into the practice of what Judaism is. If you think that that is the central tenet, it can be for you a guiding principle, but Judaism evokes so much richness and vice versa. For Orthodoxy to say this is only about practice, if the Orthodox become the Catholics and the Reform folks become the Protestants, and one is in a personal relationship with a sense of justice, and the others fulfill the practice and fulfill the covenant, I don’t think either one of those caricatures would capture the fullness of what Judaism is. It does demand, I think both scriptural adherence and practice, but it also has taught us to be thinkers and to evolve, and as we think, to pull from the world history of Jews, who have gone through so much. So, to me, Judaism without either, loses its soul a little bit. In other words, you can’t just cloister yourself off and wait for the Messiah to come, and you can’t just say, hey, my Judaism is just about activism. Great, and I’m glad that Judaism has that influence, but I think that there are things that you miss if you also are not reflecting on why practice has evolved and why the Book of Judaism is so tenacious.

RT: What are some of the issues that are most important to you these days?

EG: I think, for me, the biggest issue is poverty in general, poverty in this time of plenty. It’s reflected in homelessness. It’s reflected in educational gaps. It’s reflected in racial disparities. Poverty, really, to me, is the defining issue of our age. I think the second is kindness and decency. The Trump era has called everyone’s bluff about do you want to be yellers and fighter and screamers even if you think you’re more just than the other side, or do we have a space for peaceful dissent and for listening…It’s a very specific thing, but in material terms, devoting our lives to ending poverty and providing equal starting lines for people is what keeps me awake. Second, is whether or not we’ll ever get there if we don’t have some kind of kindness and decency and focus on actual work rather than fighting.

RT: When you talk about poverty, are you speaking about homelessness, or are you also speaking about people who are housed but just don’t have enough to get by?

EG: Both. I think it’s the whole thing. Homelessness is the deepest manifestation of poverty in many ways, but not the only one. I think connected to poverty is the trauma of poverty. It’s not just a material thing; it’s a psychological thing that we have no mental health system in this country. The manifestation of homelessness is poverty of a different sort. I think if you frame so much of these national debates on how can we have universal healthcare, decent education and jobs, build more housing. Those are all really reflections of the same basic powerlessness that people feel that the trauma of poverty brings to people who are directly living in poverty. Now, it has been brought to all of us if we’re lucky enough not to be living in poverty, but we still feel it, we see it walking like zombies on our streets. We can sense it in a school where children haven’t been exposed to as many words or networks of opportunities. Those things, to me, define this moment. It would be perhaps more understandable if this wasn’t, in every other way, a moment of such plenty and of such growth. So, the positive side of what I love is this is a moment of creativity, a blossoming of creativity, a concentration of innovation and investment, a building out of a new physical infrastructure. In every other way, I feel like Los Angeles is soaring. This nation should be soaring, and even this world, which is reducing a lot of material suffering and has less war, as tragic as certain wars are, this should be a great moment. Yet, I think there’s a fragility to it all that we’re recognizing and an unfair distribution of it.

RT: It sounds like a Brous High Holy Day sermon.

EG: There you go. Let’s do it. I’m ready. I’ll tell her she can take a day off.

RT: Are you going to IKAR this year for the holidays?

EG: Yeah.

RT: Where else will you be going?

EG: I don’t know yet for sure. I think it’s going to be—I was just looking. I’m going to be at Wilshire also, I think for Kol Nidre. I’m going to be, not at Judea, but I’m going to be at—what’s the other one in Northridge—Temple Aliyah, I think. And I think we’re going to try to get to an Orthodox—B’nai…

RT: B’nai David-Judea?

EG: I think it’s B’nai-David Judea, yes, yes, Pico Robertson. And maybe, if I have time, go to the Project.

RT: Pico Union [Project]?

EG: Pico Union, yeah.

RT: Do you know Craig Taubman?

EG: Yeah, very well. I haven’t gone over for High Holidays. I’ve been there for a lot of other stuff.

RT: That’s another example, I would think, of a Jewish community on the East Side trying to bring people back over in that part of town.

EG: Oh, it’s great, it’s awesome. Makes me feel at home in a Latino neighborhood with Jewish practice and the strands woven in from the surrounding areas. I was just looking through my hour-long dives every quarter into ancestry.com and was looking up a bunch of addresses. Some things came up on censuses where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Boyle Heights. I realized that my great-grandfather lived literally across the street from the Breed Street Shul, and it was closed. There’s three other homes in Boyle Heights that different parts of the family lived in, but it was cool to see how close they literally were.

RT: Do you know Steve Sass, the guy who’s been [leading the renovation of the Breed Street Shul]…

EG: Yeah, yeah, it’s amazing to see what’s going on.

RT: Have you been following at all what’s going on in Boyle Heights with this gentrification?

EG: Yeah, mostly in the paper. It’s a funny thing for me because both sides of my family grew up in Boyle Heights, the Jews and the Mexicans. So, they didn’t know each other. My parents met here downtown. By then, my mom’s family lived in West L.A.; my dad’s in South L.A., which is where he grew up, but their parents and grandparents were all from Boyle Heights. Gentrification is always—it’s a loaded word. Everybody wants the positives of improvements: less crime, of fewer empty storefronts, of more activity on the street, but people don’t like—and I prefer this word: displacement—and I feel strongly about that as well. There’s too much displacement. Look, there’s a natural part of that. Echo Park used to—if Jews were coming into Echo Park today, I don’t know if you can say that was gentrified. Elysian Park had the first Jewish cemetery. You see these waves of people, and sometimes it’s not just “ethnic” gentrifiers, which is what gets a lot of the attention. It’s more class. You may have middle class, professional Latinos who replace working-class Latinos, so it’s not necessarily racial, but it’s just tougher and tougher to find places near the center to live if you don’t have means, if you’re working for minimum wage or working two or three jobs. I’m very sympathetic with that. I don’t think that’s the fault of an art gallery. I think that’s the fault of a housing crisis, which is everywhere, and the price of homes in Riverside affects that as much as a gallery next door or a coffee house. In Silver Lake, when I was a Council member from 2000 to 2010, there was a lot of talk about gentrification. The censuses those two years showed per capita income had gone up, adjusting for inflation, $100. It was essentially the same level of poverty for middle class or working-class folks. The price of coffee had gone up from probably $2 to $10 if you wanted it. There’s that kind of coffee measure. I don’t know if it’s called gentrification of the coffee cup, but it was a more difficult place to come into, and it’s also more complicated if you fault the family three generations lived in Boyle Heights wanted to sell their home and have some savings to retire someplace with a decent quality of life. Even knowing that you bought for $50,000 can be sold for $850,000, what’s the impact for everybody else around there? But, to me, all this comes down to the way you fight displacement, the way you fight the negative parts of gentrification, is build more housing, preserve more affordable housing. But that can’t all be mandated. It has to partially be done by everybody stepping up and saying yes to the construction of more stuff in the neighborhood, building really densely around our heavy investments in public transportation, and recognizing that we still have a lot of land and space and we’ve got to be willing to, even as we preserve some single-family homes, build up, because most people aren’t going to be able to afford a single-family home for the next generation.

RT: Do you believe that one of the ways to solve the affordable housing crisis is to mandate that developers have to allocate some certain units to low-income families?

EG: Yeah. I’ve believed it for 15 years—not units. The flip side is if you don’t, you have to pay us so we can build those units, so that’s what we passed last year with the linkage fee. You can’t get around paying us cash if you want to build your own site, but one way or the other now, if you do market-related housing in Los Angeles, you have to. But I also believe the City should make it easier for developers to build, so we passed something called Transit-Oriented Communities, which we implemented just this past year, and over 5,000 units. This increases height and density near transit stops, and the more that you, on your own dime, build low-income units, and the more affordable those are to the very lowest-income people, the higher and denser you can go. The results have been astounding. Five thousand units, and more than 1,000 of them, on their own dime, are subsidized for lower-income and sometimes extremely low-income Angelenos, without a single tax-payer dollar. So, they get something out of it: they can build more than they would have, so they can put some of that profitability back into subsidizing units for folks that otherwise might be displaced.

RT: Do you believe that when the Metro is completed, for instance, the line that they’re building on Wilshire, particularly people from the West Side are actually going to use that?

EG: Yes, absolutely. I think the subway for sure. The Expo Line, I know a lot of people use it. It’s way over our estimates, but it’s still kind of slow going. It stops for intersections and people say it’s not that much quicker. I like it because I get to read a book or something, but it’s not faster. That subway will be faster than a car, even when there’s no traffic, so absolutely people will…and for the Olympics it’ll be amazing because Olympic Village will be in UCLA and a lot of events right here.

RT: By the time the Olympics happen, you might be President, right?

EG: Or just a happily retired Angeleno, or a house dad raising Maya before she goes off to college.

RT: If you do decide to run [for president] as a Democrat who has been pretty clear about his support for Israel, how do you feel about the wing of the Democratic party that is anti-Israel?

EG: I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to be for human rights and to be for Israel. I think there’s this false dichotomy that’s out there. You’ve seen it with some folks who don’t really—I would encourage people to spend time in Israel to actually learn. I think on one hand there’s propaganda you get from one side that oh, my God, Israel is evil and must be defeated and it’s only an occupation, there’s no other side, and Israelis are all bad. On the flip side, sometimes we overeducate when people come to Israel. Okay, we’ll take you to the West Bank, but let me give you all the pro-Israel propaganda. I trust human beings to be smart, and I think if they see on the ground what an amazing nation Israel is and what an amazing country is, and how complicated a lot of the things are there, they’ll understand the security needs people have and also be able to engage in hopefully creating a lasting peace. My worry these days is that people are just like American politics are friends to the extremes in Israel and in Palestine, and then accordingly they’re friends one way or the other. There’s a huge middle that always defined us is quickly receding. Here in the Democratic party, I think that the overwhelming majority of Jews are Democrats. I think they’re progressive Democrats who understand that sometimes the overly conservative politics of Israel don’t represent them but is a core part of who we are that Israel should be defended and she should be uplifted and our loyalty should be about improving her, not about abandoning her.

RT: When did you go for the first time?

EG: I went to Israel the first time in, I think 1987 [he was a junior at Harvard at the time]. I was 16-years-old and I had spent time on a relief mission with the North American Conference of Ethiopian Jewry in Ethiopia. I was between the two airlifts, Solomon and David, or David and Solomon. So, the folks that had been left behind after the first airlift were the ones who couldn’t walk to the Sudan, so we were in these Jewish villages where it was like elderly mothers with their children, but not their husbands, and we brought in, under the guise of tourism, suitcases full with medical equipment, brought some doctors, [we were] just a bunch of guerilla Jews going in there to help those folks. Then we went from there to Israel to see where the Jews who had left were being resettled and integration into Israel of Ethiopian Jews.

RT: Do you see any parallels when you went back to the Jews at that time versus the asylum seekers like people from Eritrea today?

EG: Absolutely, absolutely. Here or in Israel?

RT: I was speaking specifically Israel, but if you want to talk about people seeking asylum here as well.

EG: It’s very easy in both nations to see the power of closing the gates, of walling up the nation and of pointing fingers. That’s not, to me, what Judaism has ever been about or who we are. I think we’re at our greatest when we’ve been able to integrate in Israel and here, Soviet Jewry, Ethiopian Jewry, North African Jewry. That’s when we are at our best, not just as Jews, but as human beings when we’re extending our arms to brothers and sisters and cousins and others, whether it’s in an ethnic way like Jews, or in a civic way like we have in America. There’s too few examples of that in the States these days.

RT: Where is the city today and where are you today with the fight with the Federal government over grant money versus L.A. operating as a sanctuary city?

EG: It’s more of a distraction than a reality, but an important one to fight against. I think it’s a dog whistle that President Trump and his allies blow because it mobilizes votes for them. We know more about protecting our streets than he does. I’m never going to stop listening to police over politicians when it comes to the safety of my own family, my own city. We know it works. It came from an ultra-conservative police Chief, Darryl Gates. This isn’t some weird lefty thing. This is like cops knowing how to win trust of communities, and we protect immigrants because immigrants protect us. So, Washington will play politics with our safety and our lives, but we’re just going to do what works. So, there’s been some dollars pulled back. I find it ironic that this President who has some sort of obsession with MS-13 and hasn’t even lived around them, is taking money away from a police department that’s the finest fighting force against MS-13 in the world. So, he literally took funding away from cops’ grants that we use for our anti-gang efforts, which goes to fighting, among others, MS-13. So, here’s the guy who who’s going to protect us from MS-13, taking dollars away from hardworking cops in L.A. who go after MS-13? How’s that for some irony?

RT: I wonder how he even learned about MS-13.

EG: I think, like most things, he has an idea in his head. That’s what the problem with Washington is today. There’s much of what this President says that I find so personally abhorrent and anti-American. It’s not who we are. But there are some things that he says that are correct questions. I just don’t trust that he has any answers. We want the American work force to be treated fairly. We need to renegotiate some trade rules. But then he’s so off on certain things. I think he just hasn’t spent time with immigrants in immigrant communities. Has he ever sat down and listened? I think the one time he did, with Dreamers, it actually did move his heart, because what human being couldn’t be moved. He said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of them,” and he hasn’t been able to. It’s not so much always that he’s always a bad person. No one human being is. I just think he’s also ineffective about the good things he wants to do, and I’d rather have somebody effective. I’d rather have a country that is kinder. So, the work of Washington won’t slow us down here. It would be really nice to have a partner, but they can’t stop us on our work to create 100 percent renewable energy; they can’t stop us to combat climate change; they can’t stop us to patrol our streets with the values that are America’s and Los Angeles’s; they can’t stop us from investing in infrastructure; they can’t stop us. There’s a power in this country that doesn’t come from Washington to us. It’s vice versa, always has been. If anything, they’ve unified us, not between these divisions which are between red and blue and urban and coastal heartland. There’s Washington and the rest of us, and if this week didn’t point this out, the culture of corruption, of ineffectiveness and of division, are such a contrast to the world we live in here. And we don’t sugarcoat our problems. This is the homeless capital of America. We’ve got the worst traffic in America. We’ve got too much poverty. But on the other hand, we’re in the trenches actually doing stuff, and they’re nowhere to be found.

RT: If I may, I saw a video of you singing Lean on Me at IKAR last year. Are you going to be singing something this year?

EG: I do whatever my rabbi asks of me. That was a last-minute change, and since it was the High Holidays, I couldn’t look up the lyrics, so I was there—I was supposed to sing This Land is Your Land, which I’d done the last two years for the prayer for our nation. She was like, What about Lean on Me? We had ten minutes’ notice. With a couple bad notes, I think we pulled it off.

RT: You’re an accomplished pianist, too, right?

EG: Yeah, I’ve been playing since I was a little kid. I have a piano in my office. My chops are a little rusty, but I play as often as I can.

RT: Mr. Mayor, thank you so much.

EG: Absolutely.

RT: I really appreciate your time.

EG: Happy Hoidays for the New Year to come.

RT: You, too.

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. May 18-23: Mayor Talks ‘Critical Issues’; Shavuot Events

Eric Garcetti.


The Help Group, a nonprofit that serves children, adolescents and adults with special needs, holds its 2018 Advance L.A. Conference. The theme is “Thriving Through Transitions: Finding Strengths in Differences.” Featured speakers are Dan Siegel, an author, speaker and clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine; Robert Koegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University; and Rabbi Naomi Levy, who discusses how “Every Soul Is Uniquely Blessed.” 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Parents and others $120, students $80. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (818) 779-5198. advancela.org.


Izzy Ezagui.

Decorated Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Squad Commander Izzy Ezagui is an American who volunteered to serve in the IDF, lost his arm in combat and returned to the battlefield. He discusses his experiences in his new memoir, “Disarmed: Unconventional Lessons from the World’s Only One-Armed Special Forces Sharpshooter.” He is the featured guest speaker at this Shabbat event for young professionals. 6:30-9:30 p.m. $70 for the first 70 registrants, then $80. Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica. (323) 964-1400, ext. 969. jnf.org.


Inspired by Leonard Bernstein’s dedication to making classical music accessible to all communities, Harmony Project and Urban Voices Project: A Skid Row Choir perform a special arrangement of the “West Side Story” classic “Somewhere.” The two musical groups also perform an uplifting symphonic and choral repertoire, including compositions by Tito Puente, Robert Buckley and even Carly Rae Jepsen. Leeav Sofer, the founder and bandleader of klezmer ensemble Mostly Kosher, leads the Urban Voices Project, which brings music to disenfranchised communities throughout Los Angeles County. 2 p.m. $12 general, $9 seniors, full-time students and children over 12, $7 children 2-12, free for Skirball members and children under 2. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


Noa Shaashua.

Kol Tikvah Cantor Noa Shaashua leads a three-part adult education class exploring different types of prayers, emphasizing the special prayers that express gratitude. She discusses the meaning and power of these prayers as they are transmuted into song, along with melodies that match the attitude of gratitude that are a hallmark of Judaism in general and prayer in particular. Students use storytelling, guided imagery, prayers, melodies and more. Two classes, including this one, remain in the series. The final class takes place on June 11. 7-8:30 p.m. Advance RSVP $36, day of $72. Cost is for the entire course. Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 348-0670. koltikvah.org.


Eric Garcetti.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti discusses “Critical Issues Facing Our City” during a breakfast with the executives of the Los Angeles Jewish Home. Garcetti, of Mexican-Jewish descent, has tackled a number of issues as mayor, including homelessness, the environment, traffic and more. Expect him to touch on these issues during this appearance. 8 a.m. social time and breakfast; 8:30-9:30 a.m. program. $35 pre-registered, $40 at the door. Woodland Hills Country Club, 21150 Dumetz Road, Woodland Hills. (818) 774-3332. theexecutives.org.

Shavuot Events


A night of wine, cheese and blintz making, with chef Danny Corsun and Temple Israel of Hollywood Rabbis John Rosove and Jocee Hudson, spotlight this adults-only Shavuot celebration. Enjoy a little bit of text study, great cooking and a lot of wine. 6-8 p.m. Free. Private residence. (323) 876-8330. tioh.org.


Join IKAR for all-night (or most of the night) learning in traditional and some not-so-traditional sessions. Participants learn how everything can be Torah and can get their fill of all things dairy. 7:45 p.m.-1 a.m. Free, no RSVP required. Shalhevet, 910 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870. ikar-la.org.


Experience a night of transformative Torah learning and explore the ways the Jewish people transcend, transmit, translate, transgress and transform our tradition. 6:45 p.m. Mincha, 7:15 p.m. seudah shelishit with light dinner, 8:15 p.m. Ma’ariv and Havdalah, 8:45 p.m. opening session. $18. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353. tbala.org/shavuot.


Valley Beth Shalom holds composer Sergio Barer’s musical program “Moses: A Musical Portrait,” featuring selections from Barer’s work presented with the San Fernando Valley Master Chorale, Wilshire Boulevard Temple String Quartet and piano accompaniment. The evening also features a study session and conversation with Barer; Ma’ariv; blintz reception; and a late-night study session with rabbis. 7-11:30 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000. vbs.org.


Nessah Congregation’s 11th annual all-night learning features Rabbi David Sabbah discussing “The Answer of What Life Is About,” “The New Secret for Our Generation” and “The Power of One: Kabbalah, Chassidut and the Mysticism: Necessary and Essential Paths to Power.” Rabbi Yitzkhok Sakhai discusses “Going Back to Our ‘Ruths.’ ” Reception at 11:15 p.m. followed by lectures. Full breakfast served after Shacharit. Free. Nessah Congregation, 142 S. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 273-2400. nessah.org.


Join Temple Judea for an intimate gathering filled with learning, music, study and more. 8-10 p.m. Free. Private residence, address provided upon RSVP. (818) 758-3800. templejudea.com.


Nashuva holds a Shabbat Havdalah service, Shavuot learning, meditation and meal, and 14th birthday celebration. Don’t miss a night of wisdom, transformation, light and music with Nashuva Rabbi Naomi Levy and the Nashuva band. Blintzes and cheesecake served. 7:30-9 p.m. Free; donations welcome. Vista Del Mar, 3200 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. nashuva.com.


Celebrate Shavuot with Kehillat Ma’arav. The Conservative congregation holds a dairy dinner, singing under the stars, synagogue-made cheesecake dessert and learning. Kehillat Ma’arav, 1715 21st St., Santa Monica. km-synagogue.org.


Join Pico Shul for a night of relevant and fun learning and food. Participants include Rabbi Yonah and Rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein; Cheston Mizel and Batsheva Frankel. The evening kicks off with Mincha, followed by a third meal, singing and more. A Shavuot dinner (RSVP online) begins at 8:30 p.m. Afterward, Torah learning — with fast-paced (20 minutes or less) classes on various topics — commences, with coffee, beer and a cheesecake buffet. A midnight sushi bar requires RSVP. 7 p.m. through the night. Free. Pico Shul, 9116 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. picoshul.org.


Writer, lecturer and teacher Michael Berenbaum discusses his recent trip with young professionals on March of the Living and his experience engaging millennials in their exploration of faith and Jewish identity. The event kicks off with Havdalah. 8:15-10 p.m. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.

Garcetti denounces Trump plan to end DACA at AJC event

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti speaking at an AJC event on immigration. Photo by Howard Pasamanick

Inside Wilshire Boulevard Temple on Sept. 5, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti denounced President Donald Trump’s decision announced earlier that day to rescind protections for children brought into the U.S. illegally, saying, “This is a day — a dark day — for this nation and for the city.”

Outside, left-leaning groups accused the mayor of not doing enough to protect those children.

“What do we want? Sanctuary! When do we want it? Now!” came the chants from a coalition that included Jewish Voice for Peace, Black Lives Matter, Ground Game L.A. and Democratic Socialists of America.

The event inside the synagogue, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), had been scheduled before the announcement of Trump’s decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama administration initiative.

Addressing an audience of about 100, including some who turned their backs to  him, Garcetti said he was disappointed in the Trump decision, calling it “un-American.”

But the mayor’s remarks were insufficient for the protesters outside.

“We are here because Mayor Garcetti, Police Chief (Charlie) Beck and Sheriff (Jim) McDonnell have had a history of talking big about how they are protecting immigrants without having the policy to back up some of their stances,” said Meghan Choi, a lead organizer with Ground Game L.A., a grass-roots civic engagement organization.

Actions like the protest outside the synagogue are becoming more common across the country, Steven Windmueller, a professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, whose expertise includes American- Jewish political behavior, told the Journal.

“I am detecting over the past eight months, a ‘radicalization’ of the left in opposition to the current administration, contributing to the further rise of socialists, anarchists and others, who I would describe as ‘rejectionists’ opposed to the President and his policies, but also unhappy with the Democratic Party,” Windmueller wrote in an email.

Trump’s decision, announced hours before the AJC event, gave Congress six months to develop a permanent solution for the 800,000 young adults, sometimes referred to as Dreamers, who currently qualify for protection under DACA.

Garcetti, who is of Latino-Jewish ancestry, said the decision to phase out DACA was personal, given his family’s history of coming to the United States illegally.

“We didn’t have the term back then, but my grandfather, Salvador, was a Dreamer, carried over the border by my bisabuela, great-grandmother,” he said.

At times raising his voice, Garcetti called on Congress to pass legislation that would codify DACA protections. He specifically mentioned Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who have expressed support for Dreamers but have not pushed for legislation to permanently legalize their status.

“Thanks for the words,” Garcetti said, “but it is time for Congress to act.

“Let us explode the myth of those who want to divide us and want us to divide each other,” he said. “We can’t afford that. We can’t afford to yell at one another, and we can’t afford to buy into the myths.”

Hours before the synagogue event, the AJC released a statement condemning the president’s action against DACA.

“Dismantling DACA is a devastating blow to hundreds of thousands of young people who have benefited from the program — and who have in turn contributed to communities across the country in which they live,” Richard Fotlin, the AJC’s director of national and legislative affairs, said in the statement.

In addition to Garcetti, the AJC event featured a panel that included Sheriff McDonnell; Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Horace Frank; and Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Cindy Chang. Dan Schnur, director of the AJC’s Los Angeles region, moderated.

The panel also discussed how law enforcement and immigrant communities can maintain trust with one another. That issue is at the core of a state Senate bill that would prohibit law enforcement agencies from sharing data for immigration enforcement purposes.

Daily Kickoff: Gary Cohn in the FT, “I won’t allow neo-Nazis to cause this Jew to leave his job” | Perelman to host Garcetti | WeWork valued at $21B

President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. Standing alongside him from L to R, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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FIRST LOOK: Gary Cohn on how he felt after Trump’s ‘both sides’ comments — in interview with The Financial Times: “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position. As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfil my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job.” [FT]

— “A source close to Trump predicts he will explode when he reads the Cohn interview… The way Trump will see it, Cohn is siding with the fake news.”[Axios]

BEHIND THE SCENES: “Gary Cohn, Trump’s Adviser, Said to Have Drafted Resignation Letter After Charlottesville” by Eileen Sullivan and Maggie Haberman: “In the days after the Charlottesville violence, Mr. Cohn’s family — including his wife — told him he needed to think seriously about departing… Mr. Cohn came close to resigning… He met with Mr. Trump privately at the president’s golf club in New Jersey last Friday… The markets were spooked last week amid fears that Mr. Cohn would resign, and United States stocks dropped until the White House denied the rumor. Mr. Cohn… was deeply troubled by the market reaction, people close to him said.” [NYTimes]

–Former Obama WH Comms Director Dan Pfeiffer tweets: “Gary Cohn and his PR team probably think this article is good for him, it’s the exact opposite” [Twitter]

“John McCain’s fan club: The veteran senator has mentored many senators — from both parties — to carry on his foreign policy worldview” by Austin Wright: “McCain likes to engage his fellow senators in in-flight debates. “A lot of people get on a long airplane ride and they’ll put the earphones in and listen to John Grisham or something,” [Sen. Angus] King said. McCain, on the other hand, “was constantly engaged, talking about issues. What are we going to do in the Middle East? What are we going to do with the Palestinians and the Israelis? What should be our role in Syria?”” [Politico]

“Kushner Tours Mideast as Palestinian Patience Wears Thin” by Jonathan Ferziger: “Abbas indicated that the process hasn’t been going smoothly. He described the situation as “difficult and complicated,” indicating growing frustration, after an evening meeting with Kushner at his presidential office in Ramallah. He added that “there is nothing impossible with good efforts.” … On Thursday, demonstrators in Ramallah burned an Israeli flag and chanted anti-Trump slogans. One protester held a placard showing Kushner on a leash held by his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who was depicted as wearing a dress made from the Israeli flag. “Kushner is our dog,” the sign said. “This new administration has been very disappointing, and Palestinians do not see any hope,” said Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority cabinet member…  “It looks like this delegation was sent to give the impression that the process is still alive.”

“After Kushner returns to Washington, Trump’s special representative for negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, will remain for follow-up meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, Channel 2 news said. Among his agenda are items aimed at strengthening the Palestinian economy, including meeting with Israeli officials who propose extending the country’s rail network to Jordan.” [Bloomberg]

— A senior diplomatic source confirmed to Israel Hayom that… Jason Greenblatt… will also discuss the growing concerns by the moderate regional states over Iran’s future designs for Syria.” [IsraelHayom]

KAFE KNESSET — How It Played — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The Kushner-Greenblatt-Powell short visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah hardly made headlines this morning. The niceties of the Kushner-Netanyahu meeting, and the smiles in the Ramallah photo-op, despite clear tensions between the Palestinians and the White House, did not draw much public attention. Only the Adelson freebie, Israel Hayom, featured the event on its front page. Its main rival, Yediot Aharonot, settled for a small mention on page 2 and liberal-leaning Ha’aretz placed its report on page 5. The paucity of coverage reflects a general sense of indifference in Jerusalem to the lingering attempts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for the umpteenth time.

President Trump himself seemed much more excited, as he reached out to his son-in-law and the Israeli premier with a special Instagram message. “Let’s advance peace prosperity and security in the area. There is no doubt that our relationship is stronger than ever! See you soon,” Trump wrote. The Prime Minister’s Office, however, forgot to mention the President at first. A short readout initially described “effective and substantive discussions on the ways to promote peace and security in the region,” adding that the PM is expecting to continue talks in the coming weeks. A few minutes after the first readout was released, the PMO sent out another, corrected statement, adding a sentence of special gratitude to the President. “The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation to President Trump and his administration for their solid support for Israel.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Could this be a game-changer for Middle East peace?” by David Ignatius: “When it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, 50 years of peacemaking history sadly warn us that a new initiative probably won’t work. And Trump’s domestic problems weaken his ability to deliver on Kushner’s advance work. But it must be said: The opportunities for trade, investment and security cooperation between Israel and the Arabs have never been greater.”[WashPost

“A peace process? Come back another time” by Shmuel Rosner: “To take risks, to make sacrifices, Israel needs to feel secure; it needs to feel that it has backing. If the U.S. is no longer a reliable guardian of Middle East stability and peace, Israel’s inclination to take any risks for a peace it doesn’t feel is a priority will be greatly diminished.” [JewishJournal]

Netanyahu told visiting Members of Congress that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could ‘easily be done’ — by Aaron Magid: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), who was part of the Republican delegation, told Jewish Insider that Netanyahu “believes is that it could easily be done. In his (Netanyahu) words: ‘We already have a consulate in Jerusalem. It’s a matter of just changing the sign to make it the Embassy.’” Netanyahu raised the issue in response to a question by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE). According to Smucker’s recollection of the meeting, Netanyahu “believes that there wouldn’t be a lot of pushback in the event that we do that.” [JewishInsider]

“U.S Vows to Fund a U.N. Agency For Palestinian Refugees Israeli Leader Wants Shuttered” Clum Lynch and Emily Tamkin: “Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has privately assured the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, that the United States… will maintain its current levels of funding to the organization. “America has long been committed to funding UNRWA’s important mission, and that will continue,” said one official at the U.S. mission to the United Nations… An official at the U.S. mission to the United Nations said that… it opposes the adoption of a U.N. resolution that would legally require it to make contributions. Such a requirement, the official suggested, would undercut U.S. leverage that ensures the money is properly spent.” [FP]

“Trump calls Egypt’s Sisi, says keen to overcome obstacles” by Ahmed Aboulenein: ““President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received a phone call tonight from U.S. President Donald Trump who affirmed the strength of the friendship between Egypt and the United States and expressed his keenness on continuing to develop the relationship and overcome any obstacles that might affect it,” Sisi’s office said in a statement late on Thursday.” [Reuters

“Trump’s latest retweet pulls man into controversy over past statement about Jewish drivers” by Colleen Shalby: “During an early morning Twitter storm, President Trump retweeted a meme of himself “eclipsing” President Obama. Then things took a strange turn for Jerry Travone, the man who tweeted the image. He had featured a website where he has an online shop selling pro-wrestling T-shirts in his Twitter bio. But anyone who clicked on the link Thursday morning would have been taken to the Jewish United Fund of Chicago… The Twitter account @OneHourTees… said it had redirected Travone’s page to the Jewish United fund, telling Travone that it took action “since you hate Jews.” On Sunday, Travone tweeted a statement critical of Jewish people… Travone told NBC News that he wasn’t anti-Semitic. “It was just an emotional expression I was referring to Lakewood, New Jersey and the horrible drivers of that town and that happens to be mostly Jewish people that live there.”  [LATimes]

“Why some Jews still support Trump” by Eitan Arom and Ryan Torok: “Cheston Mizel, president of Mizel Financial Holdings and a congregant of Pico Shul, an Orthodox synagogue in Pico-Robertson, said the attention to Charlottesville and to other presidential controversies has distracted from Trump’s successes, including appointing the pro-Israel Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and nominating Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. “While there are obviously things that are problematic about this presidency, Nikki Haley and Neil Gorsuch are two clear bright spots,” he said.” [JewishJournal

“The obscene effort to shame ‘Trump’s Jews’” by Seth Mandel: “The hot new criticism of my fellow Jews is that we don’t complain enough. Really. A host of pundits, concerned about President Trump’s baffling unwillingness to single out neo-Nazis for criticism, are turning to the American Jewish community and pleading: Would it kill you to maybe kvetch a bit?” [NYPost]

“Others fled Trump’s Mar-a-Lago; this group wanted in” by Charles Elmore: “The Boca Raton communications executive is the organizer for “The Truth About Israel,” which aims to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics that left 11 Israeli athletes dead, celebrate Israel and honor the work of Danny Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. “I’m reading about these groups pulling out of Mar-a-Lago and I’m thinking, ‘This is ridiculous,’” [Steven] Alembik said. “Somebody needs to take a stand here and do something… With him as president, I don’t have to worry. He’s got Israel’s back.” His organization initially booked the Boca Raton Resort & Club but changed to Mar-a-Lago for the Feb. 25 event. That Feb. 25 date was open because of the cancellation of a fundraising gala by American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance, blood services and disaster-relief organization.” [PalmBeachPost

ON THE HILL: “Could Menendez Trial Tip Senate To Trump — Or Cost AIPAC A Pro-Israel Vote?” by Nathan Guttman: “During the 2015 debate over the Iranian nuclear deal, Menendez was one of just four Democrats who sided with the Israeli government, against President Obama, in opposing the deal. He is considered a close ally of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a safe vote on pro-Israel issues. He is currently a co-sponsor of the AIPAC-backed anti-BDS bill, which has already lost several Democratic supporters following claims that the legislation would infringe on free speech of those wishing to boycott Israel.” [Forward]

2020 WATCH: According to Shane Goldmacher of the New York Times, Ron Perelman will be hosting a cocktail reception for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti at his Hamptons home The Creeks on Sunday.

“Franken seen as reluctant 2020 candidate” by Amie Parnes and Devin Henry: “Political associates of Al Franken say they think the Minnesota senator could be talked into running for the White House if he believes he’s the Democrat best positioned to defeat President Trump. But they say Franken would need to be convinced and argue that the former “Saturday Night Live” star would be reluctant to enter a battle with a slew of other Democrats in what’s increasingly expected to be a wide-open race for party’s nomination.” [TheHill]

** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: The investing secrets of hedge fund legend Seth Klarman: Used copies of Klarman’s book “Margin of Safety” still sell for nearly $850 online [CNBC] • Should tech companies be able to shut down neo-Nazis?[Recode] • Apple removes popular apps in Iran due to US sanctions [TheVerge] • Israeli startup AppsVillage wants to do for apps what Wix did for websites: make them easier and cheaper to create [ToI]

SPOTTED YESTERDAY: House Speaker Paul Ryan toured the Everett Boeing plant with an El Al 787 serving as a backdrop: “After meeting the team of 777 workers, Ryan toured the interior of an El Al 787 in final assembly.”[MyEverettNews; Pic

SPOTLIGHT: “A SoftBank fund has made its largest U.S. investment: $4.4 billion in WeWork” by Theodore Schleifer: “SoftBank said Thursday that it would invest $4.4 billion in WeWork in part from its so-called Vision Fund, the fund’s largest U.S. investment to date. The deal routes $3 billion to WeWork through both a purchase of new shares and of existing ones currently held by other investors. Private investors now value WeWork at around $21 billion, a figure that was first disclosed earlier this summer when some initial details of the $4.4 billion investment emerged. Only two privately held companies, Uber and Airbnb, are worth more.” [Recode; WSJ]

“How the Booming Israeli Weed Industry Is Changing American Pot” by Yardena Schwartz: “Some Israeli companies have partnered with American companies to establish a presence in the U.S., where they sell products that were developed in Israel. For example, Tikun Olam, Israel’s first medical cannabis distributor, opened an American subsidiary in 2016. It now sells its proprietary medical-grade plant strains at 10 dispensaries in Delaware and Nevada and will soon be available at dispensaries in Oregon and California… Some American researchers have even moved to Israel all together.” [RollingStone]

COVER STORY: “Gal Gadot on Becoming Wonder Woman, the Biggest Action Hero of the Year” by By Alex Morris: “Nor was it immaterial that Wonder Woman – who, Gadot says, “stands for love and hope and acceptance and fighting evil” – debuted in 1941, the year America entered World War II. While Gadot’s father is a sixth-generation Israeli, her mother’s mother escaped Europe just before the war. Her mother’s father, who was 13 when the Nazis came to his native Czechoslovakia, was not so lucky. His father died in the army. The rest of his family was sent to Auschwitz, where his mother and brother died in the gas chambers. After the war, he made his way to Israel alone. “His entire family was murdered – it’s unthinkable,” says Gadot. “He affected me a lot… It was very easy for me to relate to everything that Wonder Woman stands for.”” [RollingStone]

Prada-Owned Label Pulls Yellow Star Clothing Amid Criticism: “The clothing from Milan-based Miu Miu’s pre-fall collection features a five-pointed star with the name John embroidered on it. The Star of David has six points… Miu Miu spokeswoman Preia Narendra apologized for causing any offense and says in a statement that “it was not Miu Miu’s intent in any way to make any political or religious statement.” She says the items are being removed from the collection.” [AP

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Jewish activists target removal of Peter Stuyvesant monuments” by Yoav Gonen and Ruth Brown: “A Jewish activist group is now demanding Mayor de Blasio scrub all traces of the anti-Semitic Dutch governor from city property — even Stuyvesant High School — as part of his campaign to rid the city of “symbols or hate.” “Peter Stuyvesant was an extreme racist who targeted Jews and other minorities including Catholics and energetically tried to prohibit them from settling in then New Amsterdam,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.” [NYPost

“Izak Parviz Nazarian, businessman and philanthropist, dies at 88″ by Ryan Torok: “Izak Parviz Nazarian, the Iranian-Jewish co-founder of investment firm Omninet and former board member of the technology company Qualcomm, died on Aug. 23 in Los Angeles…  Born in a Tehran ghetto in 1929, he was 5 years old when his father died… At 17, he traveled to Italy and fought with the Haganah in Genoa. Later, he moved to Israel and served with the Israeli armored forces in the War of Independence, an experience he would say decades later was among the most important of his life. An injury during the war landed him in the hospital, and, unable to fight, he became the chauffeur for then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir.” [JewisJournal]

LIFE LESSONS: “Good News for Young Strivers: Networking Is Overrated” by Adam Grant: “Stop fretting about networking. Take a page out of the George Lucas and Sara Blakely playbooks: Make an intriguing film, build a useful product. And don’t feel pressure to go to networking events. No one really mixes at mixers. Although we plan to meet new people, we usually end up hanging out with old friends. The best networking happens when people gather for a purpose other than networking, to learn from one another or help one another. In life, it certainly helps to know the right people. But how hard they go to bat for you, how far they stick their necks out for you, depends on what you have to offer. Building a powerful network doesn’t require you to be an expert at networking. It just requires you to be an expert at something. If you make great connections, they might advance your career. If you do great work, those connections will be easier to make.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “Before Eliana Pieprz moved from America to Israel, she watched Redskins games with her father on Sunday afternoons, like most fans. But once her family settled across the Atlantic Ocean, she had to adjust her schedule. School is on Sundays where she lives and there’s a seven hour time difference to account for. So, instead of homework after class, Sunday nights have now become devoted to football. Which means when the team plays a Monday night game, she tries to keep herself awake while preparing to go to school at halftime. “I support two teams: Washington and whoever beats Dallas,” Pieprz said.” [RedskinsBlog]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Television host, best known as host of Let’s Make a Deal, Monty Hall (born Monte Halparin) turns 96… Phoenix-based independent writing and editing professional, Leni Reiss… Award winning British novelist who has been described as the “Jewish Jane Austen,” Howard Jacobson turns 75… Founder and senior strategy officer at Mosaic H+H Advisors, Harley Mayersohn turns 68… Born in Haifa, the bass guitarist and co-lead singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons (his birth name is Chaim Witz) turns 68… Immediate Past Board Chair of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Lorin Fife turns 64… Suzanne Schneider turns 41… Former member of the White House National Economic Council during the Obama administration, now a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates, Nathaniel Loewentheil turns 32… Director of state government affairs for the DC-based Organization for International Investment, Evan Hoffman turns 30… Reporter at The Weekly Standard Jenna Lifhits… Adam Friedman turns 22… Carina Grossman… Robert Cohen… Founder/Board Chair of Everybody Dance Now! Jackie Rotman… Program Director at the American Zionist Movement Alicia Post… Manny Haeusler

SATURDAY: Partner at the DC law firm of Williams & Connolly, his clients include Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Laura Bush and many others, Robert Barnett turns 71… Rabbi (now emeritus) of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta since 1952 and author of many best-selling books, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman turns 90… Iraqi born novelist, now living in Canada, author of more than 30 novels on Jewish themes, Naïm Kattan turns 89… CEO of Siegelvision, a brand identity consultancy, he is also the founder and chairman emeritus of global brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale, Alan Siegel turns 79… Mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998, following 26 years in the Israeli Air Force (1963-1989) starting as a fighter pilot and finishing as a brigadier general, Ron Huldai turns 73… Former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives (2000-2006 and again 2010-2016) who focused on traffic safety after losing a daughter in a 1996 car crash, Irving Slosberg turns 70… Jay Caplan turns 69… Billionaire and board chair of Gap, Inc., a retail chain founded by his parents, Robert J. Fisher turns 63… Journalist and co-author of the Freakonomics series, Stephen J. Dubner turns 54… President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ilyse Hogueturns 48… Canadian technology and media entrepreneur Lorne Abony turns 48… Deputy General Counsel at ICANN, Samantha Eisner turns 42… John Train… Carrie Shapiro

SUNDAY: Director of the White House National Economic Council and one of the most influential voices in the Trump administration, he was previously the president and COO of Goldman Sachs (2006-2017), Gary Cohn turns 57… Washington Editor-at-Large of The Atlantic, Steve Clemons… Ambassador of Israel to Poland, she previously was Consul General in San Francisco (1989-1992), ambassador to Ukraine (1999-2003) and ambassador to Russia (2007-2010), Anna Azari turns 58… Israeli diplomat, he was the political officer at the Israeli Embassy in DC (1997-2001) and Consul General of Israel in Boston (2006-2013), he then served as an advisor to President Shimon Peres, Nadav Tamir turns 56… Yuval Sapir… Michael Weiss… Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Finance, Shai Babad

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

Interfaith L.A. vigil decries Charlottesville hate march

Photo courtesy L.A. Mayor's office.

A diverse crowd of several hundred Angelenos filled the pews of Holman United Methodist Church in mid-city to condemn white nationalist violence rocking the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.

A collection of the city’s faith leaders and faith-based organizations banded together Aug. 13 to organize the “Love Transcends Hate” interfaith prayer vigil. Local congregation IKAR, whose Miracle Mile area sanctuary sits just across the 10-freeway from Holman’s, was one of the co-sponsors for the event.

Holman Pastor Kevin Sauls welcomed guests, including dozens of Jews in attendance, explaining that a national conference call with Christian leaders the day prior sparked the idea to hold vigils across the country. He and others reached out to a citywide base of interfaith leaders and organized their own event in under 24 hours.

“The coming together of our faith leaders, elected officials and all of you sends a powerful message,” he said, surveying the packed church. “It says that truly love is more powerful than hate.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson looked on from the front row. IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous sat next to Mayor Garcetti.

After Pastor Saul’s opening remarks, a troupe of Holman women in colorful dresses adorned with ringing chimes danced on stage and through the aisles. A lively drumbeat accompanied the performance as guests clapped along. An organ player and the Holman choir also led the audience in a rendition of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”.

Speeches from elected officials and faith leaders followed. Rabbi Brous delivered a brief speech that referenced Israel’s ancient port city of Jaffa, which neighbors Tel Aviv.

“[Jaffa] is a place where Jews and Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, secular and religious all find a way to live together as equals in harmony, which is very challenging for many people in a region that’s seething with polarization,” she said. “A few years ago a group extremists came to sow division and hatred in this precious town and to break the delicate balance. But the citizens of that town stood together, arm in arm, blocking the arteries and shouting, ‘Hell no. Not in this place. We reject your violent rhetoric. We reject your racist screed.’ They created a sanctuary of love and justice, which is precisely what we are here to do today across this nation.”

Councilmember Dawson, who is African-American, shook his head in disbelief after Brous’ speech.

“Only in Los Angeles does the rabbi come in to a black church and preach like nobody’s business,” he said, eliciting laughs from Jews and many of Holman’s African-American congregants.

In his speech, Mayor Garcetti, who had just returned from a weekend in New Orleans holding meetings with mayors of other major American cities, took digs at the Trump administration for not placing sole blame on white supremacists for the troubling events in Charlottesville. He directly addressed President Trump’s comments made during a recent press conference in which the president doled out blame to “many sides” for the “hatred, bigotry and violence”.

“There is still, I believe, good and bad, right and wrong, truth and lies,” Garcetti said. “There are not always two sides to a story. To my fellow ancestors who died because they were Jewish, there wasn’t another side to the story.”

Yalley Beth Shalom Rabbi Noah Farkas, Temple Beth Hillel Senior Rabbi Sarah Hronsky and Jewish attorney Wendy Heimann, who co-founded “RiseUp LA”, a grassroots sociopolitical movement committed to protecting progressive values, also spoke.

Farkas, who was one of the event’s organizers, delivered  closing remarks. He told the assembly that, “the best way to respond to organized hate is with organized love.”

38-year-old Adam Overton, a young religious leadership fellow at Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) who attended and wore a yarmulke, said Holman was the perfect setting for the vigil.


Photo courtesy of L.A. Mayor’s office.

“It was very special to be with everybody in the space and to just really feel the power of Holman United Methodist Church, which is really a ground zero for a lot of social justice in Los Angeles,” he said. “I found myself feeling really connected to the history of social justice throughout this country.”

Leonard Muroff, a community rabbi who mainly specializes in hospice care, wore a blue Dodgers shirt with “Dodgers” spelled out in Hebrew. He will be traveling to Virginia Tech University’s Hillel next month to help out with High Holy Day services. The Blacksburg, Virginia campus is about a two and a half hour drive from Charlottesville.

“I will be there standing with those against hate,” he said. “Hearing the mayor tonight was very instructive. I just want to bring strength and love and peace to Virginia when I’m there.”

Moving and Shaking: IFF holds annual luncheon, synagogues collect items for refugees, Saban on Walk of Fame

From left: Israeli actress Sapir Azulay, Israeli-American film producer Avi Lerner, talent agent Adam Berkowitz, Israeli actress and producer Noa Tishby, IsraFest founder and executive director Meir Fenigstein, “House” creator David Shore and Israeli actor Alon Aboutboul (in front) attend the IsraFest luncheon. Photo by Pal Photography.

Meir Fenigstein, founder and executive director of the Isra-Fest Foundation, which brings Israeli films to Los Angeles each year as part of the Israel Film Festival (IFF), knows how to thank his supporters. Several months before each festival, he invites them to a luncheon at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills.

Fenigstein made aliyah with his family three years ago after residing in Los Angeles for many years. He continues to run the IFF from his new home in Israel and through frequent visits to L.A.

This year, the luncheon honored David Shore, creator of the television show “House” and a board member at Save a Child’s Heart, with the IFF Visionary Award; Adam Berkowitz, co-head of the television department at Creative Artists Agency, who has been instrumental in selling numerous TV shows, including “Seinfeld” and two Israeli series, “The Greenhouse” and “Fauda,” with the IFF Career Achievement Award; and Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Max Webb with the IFF Lifetime Achievement Award.

Webb delivered the most moving speech of the event, recounting his 12 years in labor camps and six concentration camps, and the promise he made to himself, his mother and to God. “I made a vow that if I get out of this hell, I’ll help others in need, the Jewish people and Israel,” Webb said.

After building a real estate empire in California, he kept true to his promise and donated millions of dollars to charity organizations, hospitals and the State of Israel.

During the event, Webb celebrated his 100th birthday (his actual birthday is March 2) and blew out candles on a cake presented to him by Fenigstein, while guests sang “Happy Birthday.”

IFF will take place Nov. 7-22 at various Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles.

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Temple Beth Am members Gary Bachrach (left) and Mathis Chazanov pose behind of a U-Haul truck loaded with donated household items for refugee resettlement in San Diego.  Photo by Tyson Roberts.

Temple Beth Am members Gary Bachrach (left) and Mathis Chazanov pose behind of a U-Haul truck loaded with donated household items for refugee resettlement in San Diego. Photo by Tyson Roberts.

What began as a partnership between Temple Beth Am and B’nai David-Judea to collect household items for refugee resettlement in San Diego grew into a community-wide effort involving six local Jewish organizations, with a daylong collection effort on March 16 dubbed “Project Hope.”

A rented truck driven by Beth Am member Tyson Roberts began to make its rounds at 7 a.m., stopping at private homes as well as multiple synagogues. Community members donated furniture, toiletries and other everyday necessities. The following day, Roberts delivered the donations to Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFSSD), which helps resettle refugees from around the world. By March 17, some of the items collected already had furnished apartments for two Afghan families, JFSSD said.

Temple Beth Am’s Refugee Taskforce led the collection drive, partnering with Camp Gilboa. Roberts’ daughter, Shoshana Roberts, spearheaded Camp Gilboa’s involvement as her bat mitzvah project, working with the camp’s executive director, Dalit Shlapobersky.

The other Jewish institutions involved were IKAR, Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice and Kehilat Israel in the Pacific Palisades.

The effort collected dining sets, sofas, armchairs, toaster and microwaves ovens, a crib and more. It was the second iteration of Project Hope, following a previous collection last August.

Tyson Roberts said he hopes to hold a third donation drive this summer. “A lot of people, as I was loading the truck, were like, ‘Wait, I still have stuff!’ ” he said.

More information and a list of items requested by the JFSSD can be found online at tbala.org/get-involved/project-hope.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

From left: Mayor Eric Garcetti, David Foster, Haim Saban and Simon Cowell come together to celebrate Saban receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

From left: Mayor Eric Garcetti, David Foster, Haim Saban and Simon Cowell come together to celebrate Saban receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored Haim Saban with a star on the Walk of Fame in front of the Egyptian Theatre at 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

Lionsgate, the film studio behind “Saban’s Power Rangers,” now in theaters, nominated Saban, an Israeli-American media producer, businessman and philanthropist, for the honor.

Saban, the creator of the “Power Rangers” television show, expressed his gratitude to Lionsgate during the March 22 ceremony “for your belief in the ‘Power Rangers’ franchise, and for your unconditional support for the launch of the ‘Power Rangers’ movie … [which,] Baruch Ha-Shem, with God’s help, will be a resounding success.”

The fee for installing a star on the Walk of Fame is $40,000 and the sponsor of the nominee is responsible for the cost. The money benefits the nonprofit Hollywood Historic Trust.

Attendees included Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leron Gubler, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, musician David Foster and former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell.

Saban is a member in the Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2017 in the Television category, joining Sarah Silverman, Jeffrey Tambor and George Segal.

Bill and Hillary Clinton congratulated Saban for receiving a star on the Walk of Fame in a letter that was published on the website of Variety. “This well-deserved honor is not only a testament to your decades of groundbreaking contributions in the entertainment industry,” the letter from the former U.S. president and his wife, the former senator and presidential candidate, says, “but to your enduring generosity and efforts to advance good causes across America and around the world.”

Sean Phil, an Agoura Hills resident and former Israel Defense Forces officer, leads a training exercise for teenage students at “Israel 200.” Photo courtesy of CTeen Conejo.

Sean Phil, an Agoura Hills resident and former Israel Defense Forces officer, leads a training exercise for teenage students at “Israel 200.” Photo courtesy of CTeen Conejo.

Feb. 5 Israel solidarity event titled “Israel 200” — which aimed to draw 200 student attendees — attracted 120 teenage students in grades 8 through 12 to Chabad of North Ranch. The event featured workshops, a buffet lunch and discussions that included “Israel — Why Should I Care?”

Organizers were Rabbi Mendy Friedman and Mushka Friedman, co-directors of CTeen Conejo.

“We may be thousands of miles away [from Israel], but the events going on there are of utmost importance to Jews and people of conscience all over, including teens,” Mushka Friedman said in a statement.

Speakers were from StandWithUs, the Jewish National Fund and other organizations, including Israel Defense Forces (Ret.) Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, founder of Our Soldiers Speak. Additionally, students participated in a boot camp training that “pushed them to discover inner strengths and the ability to go beyond themselves,” a press release said.

CTeen Conejo describes itself as “a community organization under the auspices of Chabad that is dedicated to encouraging teens to make the world a better place.”

From left: Erez Goldman, Oded Krashinsky, Naty Saidoff, Michael Michalov, Guy Bachar, Miri Shepher, Mazal Hadad, Danny Alpert, Adam Milstein, Tamir Cohen, Amnon Mizrahi and Shawn Evenhaim attend the Israeli American Council gala. Photo by Linda Kasian.

From left: Erez Goldman, Oded Krashinsky, Naty Saidoff, Michael Michalov, Guy Bachar, Miri Shepher, Mazal Hadad, Danny Alpert, Adam Milstein, Tamir Cohen, Amnon Mizrahi and Shawn Evenhaim attend the Israeli American Council gala. Photo by Linda Kasian.

More than 1,000 people attended the ninth annual Israeli American Council (IAC) gala dinner at the Beverly Hilton hotel on March 19.

Guests included Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose support has helped the IAC open 12 regional offices across the United States since a group of Israeli-American leaders founded the organization a decade ago in Los Angeles.

IAC has grown steadily since its establishment, holding community events such as the Celebrate Israel festival and operating a variety of programs, including Eitanim, which connects high school students to Israel as they prepare for college and develop professional skills.

IAC National Chairman Adam Milstein discussed the importance of the organization for the future generations of Israeli Americans.

“As I think about the future and look 10, 20, 50 years down the line, I’m not sure if I will be here, but I know the IAC will be. We are creating a grass-roots movement that will last for generations for Israel, for America and for the Jewish people,” he said.

Additional speakers included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was introduced as the city’s first Jewish mayor; radio host and Journal columnist Dennis Prager; and Holocaust survivor David Wiener, who was the gala honoree in recognition of his philanthropy and passionate involvement with many organizations that support Israel and Jewish life.

Wiener told his heart-wrenching story of survival, saying, “The best day of my life was the day the State of Israel was established.”

Mentalist Lior Suchard emceed the evening. During his performance, he guessed correctly the name of one woman’s first love, one of his many mind-reading tricks.

During the fundraising portion of the evening, attendees pledged more than $2 million in support of the organization, including IAC board member Naty Saidoff’s pledge of almost $600,000.

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. n

At a cemetery, leaders promote tolerance

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at the "We Stand Together" event in Los Angeles on March 26. Photo by Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries

The images of toppled headstones at Jewish cemeteries deeply saddened, even infuriated Aimee Ginsburg Bikel.

Thoughts turned to staging a protest, something intimate and “folksy” to make her point, that this is wrong.

“But then I realized that I didn’t want to protest against cemetery desecration,” Ginsburg Bikel told the Journal. “I wanted to affirm something, to show we are as one and to stand together.”

On March 26, she was overcome with emotion as all that came to fruition with the sight of nearly 400 people gathered at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in a showing of “unity, love and mutual respect.” The crowd, made up of elected officials, law enforcement, clergy and community members, was a kaleidoscope of people in headscarves, hijabs, yarmulkes, priestly robes and turbans.

“I wish all of you could see what I see,” Ginsburg Bikel said from a podium. “This is some view. It’s astonishingly beautiful. All of your faces look like flowers in a garden.”

Everyone joined together for her interfaith “We Stand Together” event to hear prayers, songs and speeches promoting tolerance and embracing diversity. It was held atop a hill overlooking most of Sinai’s lush 82-acre burial grounds nestled in between Griffith Park and the buzzing 134-freeway. The park is owned and operated by Sinai Temple.

The event was organized by Ginsburg Bikel, the widow of civil rights activist and film actor Theodore Bikel, along with Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica and Hazzan Mike Stein, cantor at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, under the auspices of the Theodore Bikel Legacy Project. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries also sponsored the event. 

Ginsburg Bikel drew on the words and experiences of her late husband to demonstrate to her audience the importance of standing together and being heard during times of peril.

“We know what happens when good people stay silent, [Theo] used to say often, alluding specifically to the occupation of his beloved Vienna when the Nazis took over in 1938 a few months after his bar mitzvah,” she said. “We celebrate Theo’s legacy here today by raising our voices now and not later asserting that the red lines have already been crossed and that we won’t allow it. We will stay united and we will build a world of peace together.”

Beneath Sinai’s “Heritage Mosaic,” a mural spanning 145 feet made of Venetian glass depicting a panorama of American Jewry, guests included local rabbis, imams, ministers, pastors, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh priests and representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau. Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Controller Ron Galperin and California Assembly member Laura Friedman were also in attendance.

The event wasn’t advertised to the general public for security reasons, according to Ginsburg Bikel.

Aimee Ginsburg Bikel speaks on March 26. Photo by Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries

Aimee Ginsburg Bikel speaks on March 26. Photo by Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries

In a ceremonial candle lighting ceremony, community leaders read aloud from works by such peace icons as Elie Wiesel, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama. LIFE (Love Inspiration Faith Everlasting), a gospel choir, performed a stirring rendition of Barry Manilow’s “One Voice”.

Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino delivered a fiery speech in which he drew parallels between Jewish cemetery desecration and a recent wave of hate crimes against Muslims, Sikhs, gays, transgender individuals and other minority groups.

“The woman who wears the Islamic head scarf and is assaulted on a New York subway by someone who tells her ‘Go back to your country’ is my sister, and she is my problem,” Feinstein said.

“If you can’t live in your own soul and in your own heart there’s no neighborhood in this land that will be home to you,” he added. “The narrative of otherness is what we’ve come to declare war against. We are one. We will be one. Only as one will we ever have peace.”

Garcetti, who told the crowd he has an uncle buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, had come straight from a celebration of Bangladeshi independence, to attend. Wearing a yarmulke, he said during difficult times he chooses to opt for hopefulness, focusing on how to continue building up the city as a beacon for diversity.

“It’s time for us to stop thinking so much about the most powerful person in this country and to start thinking again about the most vulnerable people in this country,” Garcetti said to applause.

Religious and elected leaders stand together. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries

Religious and elected leaders stand together. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries

Joseph Schwartz, 51, heard about the event at IKAR, the synagogue he attends, and felt compelled to participate. He said the attendance of elected officials was both a highlight and encouraging.

“It was very good, very moving,” he said. “It shows that officials on the local and state level are truly committed to doing what is right.”

A unity pledge was available for all elected officials and clergy present to sign. Ginsburg Bikel said that she plans to display the pledge, a proclamation of unifying principles, at a different house of worship for several days at a time over the next year.

She told the Journal that she’s glad the event helped some in the community heal from a collective sense of sorrow in light of recent events. She said organizing more unity events might be in her future. 

“People have been telling me they feel inspired and refreshed,” she said. “They feel that they’re not in this alone and they now know they’re surrounded by like-minded people. They want to know what the next thing is. What are we doing next? That’s the response of elected officials, clergy and the public. I have to take it under advisement. I wasn’t expecting to start a movement.”

Eric Garcetti elected to second term as LA mayor

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles. Jan. 25. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was elected to a second four-year term.

Garcetti, 46, a Democrat, was reelected on Tuesday with 81 percent of the vote, defeating 10 other opponents. Voter turnout was low, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Garcetti, who was a councilman for 12 years before being elected mayor for the first time in 2013, is the son of a Jewish mother and was raised Jewish. On his father’s side, he is of mixed Italian and Mexican heritage.
Los Angeles’ 600,000 Jews, about six percent of the city population of some 4 million residents, make up the second-largest Jewish community in the United States.

Measure S asks voters: How do we do density in L.A.?

Photo by Lynn Pelkey

Gustavo Flores sees his fight against a local development project as a struggle for the character of his neighborhood.

In late 2014, a developer rolled out plans for four restaurants and a bar a few blocks from his Westlake home, on an intersection with three nearby schools. To Flores and his allies, it was a disaster, an example of development gone wrong. What’s more, nobody in the city establishment seemed to be listening — not the local police captain, not the neighborhood council, not Gilbert Cedillo, the city councilmember for the East Los Angeles neighborhood.

“They’re never looking out for us,” Flores said of City Hall. “They care about the people with the big bucks.”

So when he heard about Measure S, an initiative on the March 7 ballot that would restrict dense development and impose sweeping land-use reforms, he was heartened. Somebody was finally talking his language.

And it wasn’t just talk. Since last year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), led by president Michael Weinstein, has funneled more than $4.5 million into the campaign. Effectively, Weinstein has bankrolled a conversation about how and where Los Angeles will develop, galvanizing a patchwork of neighborhood advocates into a unified front against city politicians.

But even if the measure passes, serious questions linger about what effect it will have and whether it will accomplish the goals it sets out. The most controversial item in the measure is a two-year moratorium on construction projects that use exceptions from the city to build denser than would otherwise be allowed.

Other provisions would change the way environmental impact reports are compiled and rule out the practice of “spot zoning” that allows the city to carve out parts of neighborhoods for different uses. Advocates hope these changes will help stem a rise in housing costs and bring equity to L.A. building policy.

“It’s really a matter of equality and whether or not Los Angeles is going to becoming a rich ghetto like Manhattan or San Francisco,” Weinstein told the Journal.

Consensus and contention

Few observers are thrilled with the way Los Angeles approaches housing. Most agree that outdated planning documents mean big projects proceed on a case-by-case basis, with developers approaching City Hall to bend the rules when they want to increase density.

“The city has decided that they want more density along transit corridors, but the plans don’t provide for it,” said Century City-based land-use attorney Benjamin Reznik.

He agrees with proponents of Measure S about the need to update the General Plan and 35 community plans that govern construction in L.A., but he called the initiative ill-conceived and poorly written, pointing out that it fails to provide funding for the community planning process it mandates. “It’s not going to achieve the goals they want to achieve,” he said.

Yes on S campaign director Jill Stewart described the city’s approach to land use as “piecemeal, piecemeal, piecemeal.” She argued that the process is governed through shady backroom deals, with developers rewarding politicians for approving their projects through campaign funds.

“They’re planning L.A. by which developers reward them the most,” Stewart said. “And it’s — it’s insane, really.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has loudly opposed the measure, flatly rejected the claim in an interview with the Journal.

“Outdated zoning and community plans is a real problem,” he said. “That cozy relationship is not.”

Garcetti dismissed those who paint a picture of corruption as “conspiracy theorists.” As for the fact that community plans are outdated, “Well, I didn’t need Measure S to tell me that,” he said.

In his first budget, the mayor said he put a premium on hiring city planners to accelerate the process of updating L.A.’s planning documents. Still, he estimated those plans will take six to seven years to fully update.

points-redA survey of 300 Angelenos by independent polling firm Probolsky Research found in February that 46 percent were planning to vote against Measure S while 34 percent planned on supporting it. But if it passes, Garcetti said the city would move the most outdated community plans to the front of the queue for revision in order to allow development to proceed. Nonetheless, the picture he painted is not a pretty one.

“If you think homelessness is bad now, Measure S will make it worse,” he said. “And, even though we have a prosperous economy, we will lose jobs.”

And it’s not only the mayor, but also some community activists who make the economic argument against the measure.

“It will be devastating,” said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, an L.A.-based community-organizing group. “Millions and millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions, will be lost.”

Brick and mortar

Measure S would mostly impact large projects that increase housing capacity, according to analysis by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.

A small proportion of construction projects require the type of exception banned by the two-year moratorium, the analysis suggested, pegging that proportion somewhere below 27 percent. Between 2011 and 2016, that amounted to fewer than 4,000 units.

Still, “exceptions are important tools to build higher density,” the report noted, since they’re mostly used to green light larger development projects. For instance, it pointed to a complex in Reseda that houses 240 low-income people on the former site of an under-utilized church. The project would not have been allowed under Measure S. Projects like the Riverwalk at Reseda are cited as evidence that the measure would be self-defeating and actually make neighborhoods less affordable.

Critics also insist it would stymie efforts to house the homeless.

“We can’t necessarily build our way out of [the homeless] crisis, but dampening the production of more housing is going to make the problem worse,” said Amy Anderson, executive director of PATH Ventures, the development arm of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH).

But advocates say that logic is faulty since the measure would target luxury units rather than affordable ones. Grace Yoo, a community leader in Koreatown and former city council candidate, dismissed allegations that Measure S would increase rents and homelessness.

“They go, ‘Well, if you don’t build more luxury units, you’re going to cause more homelessness,’ ” she said. “And we’re going, ‘In what world is that true?’ ”

Crossed wires on homelessness

In theory, the measure’s moratorium allows low-income housing proposals to seek exceptions for zoning and height, but not amendments to the city’s General Plan.

Anderson said a review of the measure’s language by knowledgeable members of PATH’s board, including former L.A. city planning director Con Howe, found “there’s in fact not an exception for affordable housing” since many affordable housing projects require General Plan amendments to proceed. What’s more, Measure S could get in the way of Measure HHH, the $1.2 billion bond for homeless and affordable housing construction voters approved in November, she said.

Garcetti has proposed 12 city-owned properties as sites for bond building. “Eleven of those 12 would be dead in the water if S passes — they require General Plan amendments,” he said.

Weinstein’s solution is simply to look elsewhere. “There are thousands of sites across the cities where you could build housing,” he said.

Populist or pest?

To his critics, Weinstein is a busybody whose electioneering is simply a ploy to stop a construction project that would block the view from his Hollywood office. To his proponents, though, he’s a crusader for empowering community advocates over real estate barons running roughshod over their neighborhoods.

“I am grateful that there’s someone willing to stand up to the bullies of City Hall,” Yoo said of Weinstein’s efforts.

But even though AHF has put up nearly 99 percent of the funds behind Measure S, Weinstein insists the conversation should not be about him, but rather about who the city council truly represents.

“They want to make it about me because they want to change the subject,” he said of his detractors in City Hall. “Because they’re doing the bidding of the billionaires, and they don’t want that talked about.”

In April, he made an enemy of one of those billionaires when he sued to stop a pair of condo towers slated to go up across the street from AHF’s offices on Sunset Boulevard. Since then, the developer on that project, Crescent Heights, run by Israeli real estate billionaire Sonny Kahn, has poured more than $1 million into the No on S campaign, or more than 60 percent of the campaign’s total budget in 2016. Crescent Heights declined to comment on the donations.

Weinstein points to the preponderance of developers against his measure as a sign that he’s on the right track (though labor groups such as the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations also are major contributors to the No on S campaign).

The nonprofit director says his motives are entirely altruistic. He insists he’s doing his job by trying to help the AIDS and HIV patients his organization serves, and who are disproportionately hurt by the housing squeeze.

“In the broader sense, you have to look at the social determinants of health,” he said. “Health is not restricted to medications and doctors and nurses.”

Cause and effect

The most common criticism of Measure S is that it won’t do what proponents say it will. Even if one assumes backroom dealing exists, for instance, Measure S “doesn’t even begin to address” that problem, said Reznik, the land-use lawyer.

“If you want to take the politics out of land use, take zoning power out of the hands of the councils and put it in the hands of planners,” he said.

Reznik is among a class of city planning professionals who have lined up behind Garcetti’s contention that “land use by referendum is usually a bad idea in the first place.”

“The chances of solving this from the ballot box are very, very small,” said Marlon Boarnet, chair of USC’s Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis.

Among his colleagues, Boarnet says he finds few, if any, who support Measure S. He said he personally views the measure as a wrongheaded attempt that will impede the city’s growth.

“As much as I want to respect neighborhoods, Los Angeles has hit a moment where we need to think as a city,” he said. Thinking as a city means increasing density along transit corridors, he maintains, even over the complaints of some communities.

Weinstein is unfazed by the critics. He insists the moratorium will help break City Hall of its dependence on campaign funds from donors, resulting in smarter development in the long run.

“You have to take the crack pipe away from the addict at some point,” he said.

For local advocates like Yoo and Flores, Weinstein and his foundation’s millions represent an evening of the score between the little guy and billionaire developers.

Flores, 27, an aspiring law student with four children, has lived in Westlake over the course of a decade when property values climbed rapidly and dense development began to seem inevitable. He’s not looking to stop development in its tracks but wishes it would happen in a smarter way.

“I know development’s gonna happen, and in my opinion, it’s good,” he said. “But let’s have responsible development.”

Mitchell Schwartz mounts attack on Garcetti: Can it get him elected mayor of Los Angeles?

Mitchell Schwartz (above) knows he faces an uphill battle to unseat incumbent Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo courtesy of Schwartz for Mayor 2017

Mitchell Schwartz doesn’t think so highly of his incumbent opponent in the upcoming March 7 city election, but on one score, he admits that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has him beat.

“He’s much better looking than me,” Schwartz during a recent interview at a Silver Lake café.

Schwartz is tall and broad, with a nose that has been broken, the combined effect of which makes him look like a former boxer. He jokes that he broke his nose “fighting for the people.” (In fact, it was a series of sports injuries.) But if he is to defeat an electoral heavyweight like Garcetti, Schwartz will have to land some major political punches. By most accounts, he’s a serious underdog.

A former State Department official under President Bill Clinton, Schwartz has the best name recognition and fundraising operation among a group of seven otherwise obscure challengers, having raised nearly $450,000. The next best-funded candidate is Paul E. Amori, a homelessness activist who often appears in a red sequined suit and bow tie, who has raised $5,631. Meanwhile, Garcetti has collected more than $3.5 million for his campaign.

Badly outspent, Schwartz, who is Jewish, is mounting an unrelenting critique of the incumbent. Schwartz points out that in Los Angeles, housing prices are up. In 2016, the violent crime rate rose 10 percent, the third consecutive year-over-year increase. The number of people living on the street has been on the rise since 2009, including an 11 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 alone, and now stands above 28,000. The city faces a staggering pension liability of $8.2 billion and has a Department of Water and Power (DWP) many say is in dire need of reform. Amid all this, Schwartz alleges, Garcetti has been a nonentity, demonstrating “a complete lack of leadership.”

What’s more, Schwartz claims to know why.

“Garcetti, unfortunately, has what I call the politician’s disease,” Schwartz told the Journal. “He’s so desirous of going to higher office that instead of expending political capital on dealing with issues, he just tries to accumulate it and coast through and not deal with these tough situations.”

It’s the reason Garcetti hasn’t reformed the DWP or decentralized the city’s byzantine school district, and why he hasn’t pressured Veterans Affairs to house homeless veterans in its West L.A. campus, Schwartz said. He called Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion countywide homeless housing bond shepherded by the mayor and approved in November’s election, “obviously an election gimmick” to help Garcetti’s chances, though Schwartz said he voted for it anyway in the hope that it would help the homeless problem.

The mayor disputes the fundamental premise of Schwartz’s criticism.

“Anybody’s analysis that you can store up political capital and spend it later is a little bit naïve,” Garcetti said. “It’s not like you can keep it in a bank like money. It can change in an instant. So you better be spending it every day like I do, to do big and bold things.”

The mayor argues that just because he’s not picking fights doesn’t mean he’s standing still. “People mistake a bloody nose for accomplishments,” he said.

He cited his stewardship of a $120 billion transportation measure and a $1.2 billion homelessness bond passed on the November ballot as battles he has fought and won, along with his successful push for a $15 minimum wage.

On the veterans homelessness charge, Garcetti political strategist Bill Carrick said the mayor has “worked very hard at it. … We haven’t eradicated it but that’s the direction we’re headed.” The mayor alleges to have housed 8,000 homeless veterans and says he would solved the issue entirely if more veterans weren’t finding themselves on the streets of L.A. daily.

Schwartz’s critique extends not just to Garcetti’s actions but also the political culture he says the mayor inspired during his tenure as city council president and subsequently as mayor. He described the city’s attitude toward building and development as haphazard, painting a picture of city councilmen trading votes over code deviations. (Carrick called this accusation “just silly.”)

On Measure S, a package of slow-growth reforms on the March city ballot, Schwartz has declined to take a position, saying he’s wary of the measure’s mechanisms but understands the sentiment of communities feeling disenfranchised by the development process. The mayor, on the other hand, firmly opposes the measure.

With few vocal detractors, Garcetti could coast to an easy victory. That outcome would be unsurprising given the mayor’s celebrity persona and large network of connections — he recently received no less an endorsement than from former President Barack Obama (a somewhat awkward situation, given that Schwartz chaired Obama’s California campaign in 2008).

But it would be a mistake to treat the election as a foregone conclusion, according to Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“Under most normal circumstances, it would be almost impossible for an insurgent like Mitchell Schwartz to mount a credible challenge against a well-liked incumbent mayor,” he said. “But these are not normal times.”

The past 18 months have sent political predictions haywire, Schnur said, foiled by widespread disgruntlement among voters. Schnur compared the mayoral race to the recent Democratic presidential primary, with Garcetti cast as Hillary Clinton and Schwartz as her firebrand challenger, Bernie Sanders.

“He wants to be the insurgent,” Schnur said of Schwartz. “He wants to be the voice of all the frustrated, angry progressives who don’t feel like they’re being heard by traditional politicians. The challenge he faces is twofold: Garcetti is not nearly as inviting a target as Clinton and Schwartz doesn’t have nearly the megaphone that Sanders had.”

In Los Angeles, disaffection among voters often is focused on the cost of housing. Measure S, for instance, finds its political base in activists who see luxury development threatening the character of L.A. neighborhoods. The city council’s willy-nilly zoning policy is “what spawned Measure S,” Schwartz said.

It may be unsurprising that Schwartz has put a critique of Garcetti front and center of his campaign.

“[As a challenger], you have to convince people that the first-term incumbent hasn’t done an especially good job to warrant a second term,” former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told the Journal. But, he added, “I don’t think he can make that case against Eric Garcetti.”

If there is a winning case to be made against Garcetti, Schwartz seems determined to find it. For instance, he’s challenged Garcetti to pledge he would serve out the entirety of an unusually long 5 1/2-year term afforded by a change in election laws; Garcetti has yet to respond to that challenge.

“He’s not going to make some pledge because Mitchell Schwartz thinks somehow he’s going to get some traction from it,” Carrick said. “The job he’s running for is mayor. That’s the job he’s trying to get re-elected to.”

Few observers doubt that Garcetti eventually will seek higher office.

“Let’s face it — is there anyone who believes that after this term that he will not attempt to see if there is any opportunity for higher office?” said Frank Zerunyan, a USC professor of governance and longtime friend of Garcetti. “And to be honest, he deserves it.”

Schwartz has argued that Garcetti’s political ambitions hamper his effectiveness as mayor. “This is a steppingstone for him,” Schwartz said. “It’s not OK.”

As befits an unusual political climate, Schwartz is an unusual candidate to lead L.A.

“I never expected to [run],” he said. “Never, never, never.”

At 56, Schwartz has never held elected office. Instead, his political experience is mainly as a campaign operative.

In 1992, he managed Clinton’s presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire and subsequently became communications director for the Clinton State Department. Since then, he’s held leadership roles in public relations and environmental firms, and helped campaign for political candidates, including former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Sen. Diane Feinstein.

Unlike Garcetti, whose religious orientation often flies under the radar despite his status as the city’s first elected Jewish mayor, Schwartz — from his name to his appearance — is unambiguously Jewish.

Growing up in an Orthodox family in Queens, N.Y., he attended the well-regarded Yeshiva of Flatbush. After moving to Los Angeles in 1996, he became involved in Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles and eventually became vice president of Temple Israel of Hollywood, though he stepped down to focus on his mayoral run. He and his wife sent their three children to the temple’s elementary school.

Schwartz recognizes that he’s up against tough odds. Nonetheless, he sees an avenue, if a narrow one, to City Hall.

“We do this polling,” Schwartz said. “He’s got decent numbers. He’s got pretty good numbers. But when you push people — like, ‘Well, what has he done?’ — they cannot answer.”

A recent statement from Schwartz campaign manager Josh Kilroy alleged, based on random-sampling polls, that Schwartz’s name recognition is up. The campaign estimates the mayor is polling at around 50 percent. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by an Orange County opinion research firm from Feb. 16-19 put Garcetti’s approval at 65 percent. He needs only 51 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff. 

“All I can do is just keep working night and day and get out there,” Schwartz said.

As the interview wound down, Schwartz turned to two young people hunched over laptops at the next table.

“Excuse me, are you guys from L.A.?” he asked. “I’m running for mayor of L.A.”

Mayor Garcetti on the future of Los Angeles, his faith and Trump

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti visits the Journal office for a wide-ranging interview. Photos by Lynn Pelkey

No one can escape the challenges of Los Angeles — not even the mayor.

As voters prepare to take a stand on ballot initiatives that aim to impact homelessness, development and, yes, L.A.’s infamous traffic, no one can say Mayor Eric Garcetti can’t relate. Just last week, he found himself ensnarled in gridlock, 20 minutes late for an interview at the Journal’s Koreatown office.

In the midst of a re-election campaign, Garcetti — the city’s first elected Jewish mayor — said he’s looking at the long-term. So while he’s confident that Los Angeles is moving in the right direction, he promised no quick fixes.

“I never approached my first term as, you know, I have four years to change this city,” he said in a freewheeling interview that covered topics as varied as city services to the city’s response to President Donald Trump’s executive orders to his own spiritual journey. “I think from the beginning, I’ve approached this job as an Angeleno, a lifelong Angeleno. And I kind of looked at the next decade to 50 years as the time horizon I wanted to influence. So I think my second term is very much similar to the first term, about being able to reach for great opportunities and address pressing challenges.”

Garcetti, who faces seven challengers in this election, talked about his role in raising the minimum wage, and putting the heft of City Hall behind last November’s successful ballot initiatives to fund transportation and homeless efforts to the tune of billions of dollars. Now he is campaigning for Los Angeles County Measure H on the March 7 ballot, which would raise the sales tax by 0.25 percent to provide drug and mental illness rehabilitation and prevention programs for the homeless. He’s also come out against Measure S, the initiative that aims to reform land use, saying it would negatively impact affordable housing in the city.

The mayor — son of a Jewish mother and a father of Mexican and Italian heritage, former District Attorney Gil Garcetti — had plenty to say about his increased spirituality, as well, and how it’s informed his response to recent events on a national level. (Garcetti has pledged to fight Trump’s effort to deport undocumented immigrants, who number about 11 million nationwide, with 850,000 of them in Los Angeles County.)

In a roundtable discussion, arranged by Journal columnist Bill Boyarsky, Garcetti discussed all this and more. An edited version of that conversation follows; for the full transcript, go to this story at jewishjournal.com.

JEWISH JOURNAL: Six years from now, what’s traffic going to be like in L.A. if you’re the mayor?

ERIC GARCETTI: We’ll be on the way to relieving traffic, no doubt. I don’t think it will be much better in six years. … It’s impossible to undo, you know, 40 to 50 years of urban planning in that short period of time. But I think the 10- to 20-year horizon is actually incredibly hopeful. We will build, you know, Measure M, $120 billion, about half of that to new capital [projects]. To boil that down, that’s 15 new lines or extensions of existing lines — the biggest, I think, physical change to this county since water came here. I don’t think it’s overstating.

JJ: What is homelessness going to be like at the end of the next term?

EG: I think we’ll be more than halfway home. … The biggest thing, I think, to end street homelessness is we need an army of social workers out there. I go out with these outreach teams all the time. I don’t know if a mayor’s done that before, but I go out as regularly as I can. I know people by their first names on the street now. I know their stories. And we had 15 people, trying to talk to 28,000 homeless Angelenos in the city of L.A. when I started. Just do the math. I’ve gotten that up to 80 through some city funds that I kind of have scraped along, but the reason I’m so passionate about Measure H is we probably need 500 or 600 — then we could really make an impact.

JJ: Talk about the deportations advocated by Trump. What are you prepared to do, and are you prepared to pay the price that you and the city might have to pay?

EG: Chief Justice [John] Roberts said [in a previous case that] the federal government cannot force you to do one thing in order to get money for another thing. … It’s very clear you can’t take port money because my cops won’t be turned into immigration officers. I’m not kidding myself that they won’t potentially try to take some dollars from us: Bring that fight on. I mean, what are you going to do? Take away radiological and biological weapons detectors at the port? You’re going to take away the vouchers that go to homeless vets that are now being housed and take away their rents?

I think this is a moment when [you should] stand up for your values, and we’re prepared to do that politically, legally and economically.

JJ: What obligations do you feel to Los Angeles’ very large Jewish community?

EG: I feel a deep one. I feel my values have been informed by both sides of my family. When I look at something like my responsibilities to the Jewish community, [they] are both direct in what I can do to serve them, but also in what we can do to activate each other. [Like] when a moment comes like people turned away from our airport because of their religion or the country of their origin. I re-read the [S.S.] St. Louis history, which, the one aspect I didn’t realize was, St. Louis wasn’t just turned away [in 1939] because it was refugees and Jews. They actually said they were worried there was a national security threat of Nazi spies on there, which is like so much a mirror of what the justification is right now for Syria and Somalia and other places.

JJ: Have you talked to law enforcement about the threats against Jewish facilities?

EG: Yes, I’ve talked to LAPD about it. Absolutely.

JJ: Is it a major concern of yours?

EG: It’s a concern. I’ve watched too many of us say the sky is falling before it actually falls, with this new administration and the change. I think we have to be really precise so that we don’t let anything go under-commented on but we don’t stoke the fears, as well. We’ve seen a doubling of hate incidents since the elections.

JJ: In Los Angeles? In the country?

EG: In Los Angeles. And that’s not just anti-Semitic.

JJ: According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)?

EG: Yeah. LAPD statistics. So that’s what’s been reported. I get [reports] once a month, and I’ve asked them to add hate incidents since the election so I can track it more carefully.

JJ: Last question: What have you learned from your text studies with Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR that’s made you become a better mayor of Los Angeles?

EG: Well, you know, it’s funny, like most good talmudic studies, you just sit around and gossip a lot. … I’ve learned a lot. It’s funny, I love being, for instance, in a Black church in South L.A. and bringing up the lessons she taught me about, you know, for instance that it was a sin in the olden days to pray in a room that was windowless, because you had to reflect the divinity. … God isn’t about going inward; it’s about reflecting outward that divinity. And so I use that as a metaphor for what our responsibilities are — for us to not just close into our communities and close into our issues but actually reflect that divinity off of us. …

It’s not just with Sharon but with other folks as I’ve kind of come to more faith and spent a lot more time going to services. I actually love the High Holidays. I get to hear some really brilliant thinking that, you know, rabbis have tried to encapsulate an entire year. And there’s, I would say, a real split right now between those who see this moment as a moment to stand up and be urgent and to possibly offend some folks that are in their congregations, and others who are playing it safer and saying look, we have diverse views, I can’t get involved in that, but let me just talk about internal things. And, you know, I personally err toward the former. Whether you’re a religious or a political leader, we’re called on in these moments to stand up.

5 ways to fight back against anti-Semitism

A row of more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St Louis on Feb. 21. Photo by Tom Gannam/Reuters

So it turns out that in the year 2017, we need a strategy to combat rising anti-Semitism.

Go figure.

Since the beginning of this year, there have been 100 bomb scares at Jewish institutions nationwide. Last month vandals attacked and desecrated a St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery, toppling more than 170 tombstones. The New York Police Department reported a doubling of anti-Semitic crimes in 2017 through Feb. 12 compared with last year, from 13 to 28. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the Jewish Journal there’s been a doubling of hate incidents in Los Angeles since the November election as well.

This week began with the vandalism of 75 to 100 gravestones at a Philadelphia Jewish cemetery. On Monday, there was a new wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers, including the Westside JCC.

And since the Journal goes to press Tuesday, you’ll have to read this online for updates. The week’s not over yet.

Our response to all of these fresh outrages have ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.

In the former category is Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s call for his country to prepare for a flood of American Jews fleeing to Israel. In response, Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg offered a perfect one-word tweet: “Chill.”

A less hysterical response came from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who published a 10-point plan the Trump White House could follow to counter rising anti-Semitism from the left and right sides of the political spectrum.

Greenblatt called on the administration to fund a civil rights investigation into the bomb threats, convene a federal inter-agency task force on fighting hate led by an appointed coordinator, support state and local legislation protecting college students from religious harassment and discrimination, breathe life back into the Countering Violent Extremism program, address cyber-hate in a comprehensive manner, increase federal funds for anti-hate content in local schools and “call out bigotry at every opportunity.”

While he is holding his breath for a White House reply to these sensible, minimal steps, I want to offer another list as well, this one aimed at what American Jews could do.

Until now, most of us have done little more than repost reports of anti-Semitic acts on Facebook with sad emoticons and snide remarks about the president or his Jewish daughter and son-in-law. But it is time to stop playing defense, to stop being passive spectators to our own persecution. Here’s my Jewish community to-do list:

1. More cameras, more guards. Your local used car lot has more security cameras than many cemeteries. That has to change. We don’t need Paris-style security cordons around our synagogues and centers, but we do need to beef up surveillance and private interdiction. 

2. Anti-Semitic “SWAT” teams. Remember those volunteer lawyers who swooped down on airports in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s Muslim travel ban?  We need teams of former prosecutors, law enforcement experts and lawyers at the ready who can, in coordination with existing Jewish organizations, help local authorities catch and convict hate perpetrators. And high-profile guard watches at Jewish cemeteries and elsewhere will likely scare off most of the cowards who creep out at night.

3. Fight non-Jewish hate, too. The hate virus is highly contagious. We need to fight it wherever it breeds. Breitbart.com and “The Alex Jones Show” are two Petri dishes of hate.  Every time a Muslim says “boo” in Sweden, there’s a front-page splash on Breitbart, but more than a week since the hate-crime murder of an Indian immigrant at a Kansas bar, Breitbart still has not featured it. Meanwhile, Breitbart did find home page space to attack the Forward newspaper for reporting Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka’s ties to anti-Semitic Hungarian groups.

4. Join forces. Those Muslim groups helping repair Jewish cemeteries? Embrace them. Thank them. Come out when they need help. Yes, you probably don’t see eye to eye with them on Israel or women’s rights, but we’re going to need allies. We are in this particular fight together.

5. Don’t do their job for them. Hate crimes begin with hate speech. The strategy of the alt-right and the Trump administration is to pit Jew against Jew. They want to divide conservative, more religious, Bibi-supporting Jews from more liberal, secular, pro-two state Jews. It was shameful to see mainstream Jewish organizations like Jewish Federations of North America line up behind Trump ambassadorial nominee David Friedman after he used hate speech to describe other Jews — language that only fuels hateful acts.

Look, we needn’t be hysterical, but neither do we have to be passive. I don’t think the American-Jewish community is under dire threat, and I certainly don’t predict a flood of us heading to Israel any time soon. Think of it this way: There are an estimated 200,000 Israelis living in the United States. Many of them are trained by the Israel Defense Forces and have access to America’s bounty of guns and ammunition. I don’t see them running away because some troll speed-dialed a JCC. When push comes to shove, I see them — and all of us — taking the fight to the enemy.

ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

Listening to Mayor Garcetti — from the side

Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti at the Jewish Journal office on Feb 22. Photo by Lynn Pelkey

Public officials come to meetings armed with talking points. And who can blame them? They’re asked the same questions over and over. Their words are carefully dissected. One wrong phrase can destroy a career. It’s hard to improvise smart, knowledgeable answers. That’s why politicians must always be on top of their messaging: what they have accomplished, what they promised, what they plan to do in the future, and so on.

This is the world of public service, and it’s especially true for a high-profile position such as the mayor of a big city like Los Angeles.

So, when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti visited the Jewish Journal offices last week for an interview with our reporting staff, I fully expected to hear some well-crafted talking points, and he didn’t disappoint. On every subject, from crime and homelessness to housing and transportation, the mayor seemed to know exactly what he wanted to say.

There were a few moments, however, where he veered off course with a brief, offhand remark. I pay special attention to those moments because I can often tell a lot about a person by what they choose to emphasize.

The funny thing is, when I heard these offhand remarks, my reaction was: Why is he not making a bigger deal of these things? They make him look human and real. They make him stand out from other politicians.

The first remark came in the middle of a long response on the problem of homelessness. The mayor dissected the problem, gave us a candid take on the scope of the challenge and outlined the steps his administration had taken as well as his future initiatives. So far, so good. All good talking points.

Then, as he spoke of the need for “an army of social workers” to help fight homelessness, he made an offhand remark that he “goes out with these outreach teams all the time” and that “I know people by their first names on the street now.” That personal aside lasted a few seconds before he went back to discussing statistics, programs, and so on.

I thought to myself: Wow, a mayor who goes out on the street to talk to the homeless. That’s big. That’s the kind of politician I would vote for. Why didn’t he play it up more?

His next offhand remark was also very brief. He was talking about the problem of crime, and was making the connection between crime, mental health and the ubiquitous use of drugs. He quoted a psychiatrist at a local hospital that he had met recently. How did he meet her? Here’s what he said:

“I talked to a woman. I do office hours where people come in and talk to me, just kind of random people who can sign up. And the one who, one of the people who got through this last week to talk to me was a psychiatrist.” He then went right back to his main subject.

Again, I thought: Wow. A mayor who allows anyone to sign up and make an appointment with him. That’s what President Lincoln did! Why doesn’t Garcetti make a bigger deal of this stuff, especially in front of journalists?

The only explanation I could come up with is that this man is not a show off. A policy wonk, maybe, but not a show off. Putting any cynicism aside, maybe he does these “extra” human things not to look good but because he really wants to do them.

There was one more offhand remark that caught my attention. It happened while the mayor was talking about his administration’s efforts to bring the Olympics to Los Angeles in 2024.

Out of the blue, he looked out at the late afternoon view from our conference room, and said, “Don’t miss the sunlight on the Hollywood sign right now.”

He could have given me twenty well-crafted talking points about his love for Los Angeles, and it wouldn’t be worth the spontaneity of interrupting himself in front of journalists to admire a view of his beloved city.

His appreciation for that golden view may have something to do with the fact that he’s an avid photographer. That’s another human trait he downplayed – in fact, he never brought it up.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Seniors face eviction from Westwood complex

One hundred and seventeen seniors — most of them Jewish — face eviction from a retirement home in Westwood within the next year, as new owners seek a $50 million overhaul.

The news of th—e evictions earlier this month at the upscale facility known until recently as Vintage Westwood Horizons seemed to spell the end for a close-knit community of seniors, who worry about what the future holds and fear they’ll lose touch with friends they’ve made.

“It’s breaking up,” said Diane R. Stewart, who sat in a parlor at the facility, holding a sign that read “Ole Lives Matter” on Dec. 8. “It’s going to be a disaster.”

Stewart joined dozens of other seniors and their children that evening for a meeting with city officials and a representative from Watermark Retirement Communities, the company hoping to renovate the newly christened Watermark at Westwood Village. The scene was tense as residents puzzled over their fate, and it was a packed house at the downstairs meeting hall. Those younger than 70 were asked to stand to make room for residents.

It was a tough crowd for Daniel Stimpert, Watermark’s attorney, who heard boos from the seniors when he got up to address the crowd. “Watermark wants to make this as easy as possible,” he said. “We know it won’t be painless.”

His reception was in stark contrast to the cheers that met Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents Westwood and who opened the evening by panning Watermark and promising to fight for the seniors.

“It’s absolutely outrageous that the new owners of Westwood Horizons want to throw you out on the streets. … This company should be ashamed of itself,” he said.

The eviction saga began for the residents a week earlier, on Dec. 1, when they were invited to a meet-and-greet with Watermark officials, supposedly to get to know the new management. The Tucson, Ariz.-based retirement chain, which runs dozens of senior living facilities across the country, recently had bought the building, its second in Los Angeles County.

“We thought maybe they’d say, well, they were going to raise the rates or they were going to change the dining room or something like that,” said Alma Balter, 99, sitting in the seventh-floor living room of her neighbor, Ruth Frank, 95.

Watermark representatives had good news and bad news for the 117 tenants of the building’s 109 units — some 80 percent of them Jewish by residents’ estimates. The good news: They would be putting $50 million toward an extensive renovation that would transform the facility into a so-called “residential care facility for the elderly,” a state-licensed facility equipped to provide memory care, among other elder-care services. But the bad news was that everyone would have to leave for up to two years.

“The decision to close the building during renovations was made after careful consideration of the impact on current residents and associates,” David Barnes, president and CEO of Watermark, said in a Dec. 12 press release. “Our original plans were to move residents within the building. However, it became clear … there was no way to replace the 50+ year old, failing systems without putting the safety of the residents and associates at risk.”

He said in the company’s 30 years of managing and renovating senior facilities, this was the first time it had deemed it necessary to remove staff and residents from the building.

The news that everybody would have to leave came as a shock.

“We never dreamt of that,” Balter said. “None of us ever did.”

For some, the reality didn’t really sink in until notices appeared on doors the day after the Dec. 1 announcement, telling residents they would have until March 28 to move and citing the Ellis Act, a law that allows landlords to remove rental units from the market.

“I don’t think we realized it until we got the notices,” Frank said.

Though state law allows seniors who have lived in an apartment for more than a year 12 months to vacate when a landlord decides to remove rental units from the market, the deadline reflected on the notices was 120 days — the standard rate for non-seniors. Though most tenants are legally entitled to the full year, and Watermark has promised to work with the rest to arrange extensions, seeing March 28 on their eviction notices was an unwelcome surprise.

“Everybody is totally panicked,” said Florence “Flossy” Liebman, a spry 95-year-old who lives down the hall from Frank. “The average age is probably between 90 and 103 or something. And this notice was Scotch-taped to people’s doors. That’s how we were notified. It’s total trauma all around.”

Residents described Westwood Horizons as the right home for the right price, with spacious rooms and friendly staff. Proximity to UCLA means many seniors participate in weekly activities on campus and have easy access to their doctors and — when necessary —a hospital.

What’s more, many described a welcoming atmosphere where friendships came easily and remained strong. Jeannine Frank, Ruth’s daughter, said that within days of her mother moving in, she seemed to already have dozens of friends.

“That’s the hardest part,” said resident Judy Flax. “Some are going here, some are going there. … It’s not so easy for us to get around anymore.”

Flax, 87, is planning to move into Belmont Village Senior Living Westwood, nearby on Wilshire Boulevard, into what she called a “tiny apartment.” At Westwood Horizons, where she’s lived for four years, she has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious living room, she said.

While some residents are planning their next move, others are watching and waiting.

“It depends on when we find out what the legality is,” Liebman said. “Do they have the right to do that? Some people panicked and already signed up elsewhere. But we’re trying to see if we can keep everyone together.”

Meanwhile, some wonder what will become of those without the means to move or close family to help them negotiate the process.

“My mother is pretty able to get around and do things,” said Jane Blumenfeld, Liebman’s daughter. “But a lot of people — there’s no way.”

“I’m far too old for this — 93 and a half,” said Esther Grundfest as she sat at dinner in Westwood Horizon’s high-ceiling dining room, painted with frescos of an ocean cruise.

Grundfest was born in Poland and survived during the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. But that was many years ago, and now the prospect of being uprooted is enough to daunt her.

“Where shall I go?” she said. “I don’t have the strength to move.”

Residents were provided lists of other retirement homes in the area that have openings. But some complain that there are few vacancies and that nowhere quite compares to Westwood Horizons.

“Just be honest: You say you’re going to help, but those of us who have looked, we know what’s out there,” Marlene Canter, whose 94-year-old mother lives at Westwood Horizons, told the building’s executive director, Allison Marty, at the Dec. 8 meeting.

Nonetheless, Marty repeated promises to assist in the transition and said residents’ services and amenities would continue uninterrupted until the last tenant moved. Meanwhile, representatives from the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department and from elected officials were on hand to offer the residents messages of support and advise them of their rights.

Representatives for L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas stood up to assure the seniors of their support.

For some, a sense remained that the evictions could be fought.

In a phone conversation with the Journal on Dec. 9, Jessie Kornberg , executive director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, said her nonprofit is looking into the legality of the eviction, saying, “The Ellis Act may not even apply here.” She expressed concern about the impact the eviction could have on the health and well-being of residents.

Bet Tzedek wouldn’t be alone if it decides to join the fight. On Dec. 12, Koretz appeared at a press conference outside the facility alongside Larry Gross, executive director of the tenant’s rights organization Coalition for Economic Survival (CES).

Koretz said he’d asked the city’s Planning Department to hold a hearing about the proposed renovation. The following day, Dec. 13, at a City Council meeting, he introduced and passed a motion, 13-0, calling on the City Attorney’s Office, the Building and Safety Department, the Planning Department and the Housing Department to look into the city’s options, including seeking an injunction against the eviction.

“I don’t know that they knew who they were dealing with,” Jeannine Frank said of Watermark officials. “These are some very feisty seniors and their very feisty offspring.”

Frank, a talent manager, lived in the building when it was a UCLA dormitory in 1967. She’s spent the better part of the last week getting in touch with anybody who might be able to help the seniors stay in their homes. “It’s been a wild ride,” she said.

Yet even Koretz admitted that the eviction may well be legal, if underhanded, since per the law, owners can evict tenants when changing the use of the building, as Watermark has proposed to do.

And so, the prevailing attitude was not anger but dejection.

“We feel like we’re a family here,” Ruth Frank said. “It really and truly is. Like, when Flossy was in the hospital, people were there. They were greeting her when she came back. I mean, you know, they felt it was someone in the family. I mean, that’s the way we feel here. We want to be living here and not leaving here.”

Hancock Park’s Korean councilman jumps into role of Jewish ally

The fact that David Ryu, the first Korean American elected to the Los Angeles City Council, serves under Mayor Eric Garcetti, the first Jew elected mayor, seems to be no coincidence.

As the councilman explained during a recent interview at his City Hall office, the two diasporas — Korean and Jewish — have a lot in common, not least a drive toward upward mobility. 

In 2015, Ryu defeated his Jewish opponent, Carolyn Ramsay, a former aide to Ryu’s predecessor, Tom LaBonge, winning election to the 4th Council District. Along the way, he also inherited large Jewish constituencies in Hancock Park and Sherman Oaks.

The Korean-born Ryu, who is a regional board member for the Anti-Defamation League, said he has drawn on his own immigrant background to understand the needs of other communities.

During a half-hour interview, Ryu, a youthful 40-year-old, discussed how Jews and Koreans can form deep and abiding bonds, why he pushed to temporarily shut down one of L.A.’s most popular parks, and about whether the city will be able to finally tip the scale on homelessness.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jewish Journal: You recently got back from a seven-day trip to Israel with The Jewish Federation. What did you think?

David Ryu: I went to Tel Aviv, as well, but I think Jerusalem is amazing. Except for all the cats, it’s an amazing place, because it’s very global. It’s not just the amount of tourism, but pretty much all the religions are there, all the different communities are there, and it’s rich in history. … When I retire, I’ll really consider moving over there. But man, prices over there — you think it’s high here.

JJ: We don’t see a whole lot of collaboration between the Jewish-American and Korean-American communities in Los Angeles. How do we change that?

DR: May was Asian Heritage Month. One of the community leaders from the Orthodox Jewish community [asked me], “David, did you know that May is also Jewish heritage month?” I didn’t know that. … Honestly, as a non-Jewish person, it’s funny, because both communities have for decades been trying to build relationships, and we always do mixers once in a while, and different types of events. But it’s really hard to break in. And I’m sure as a Jewish person trying to break into the Asian-American or Korean community, it’s the same thing, too.

JJ: Are there opportunities for Jews and Koreans to build solidarity?

DR: I think there are so many similarities, in particular, between Jewish Americans and the Korean Americans, not just Asian Americans, but Korean Americans in particular. If you look at it, it’s almost like we’re always one step right behind the Jewish Americans. In the Watts riots, 1965, many of the liquor store owners were Italians and Jews. … When the Jewish community and the Italian community kind of made enough money and started moving on, the Korean community was the next wave. … All the garment industry in downtown L.A. was Jewish-run and owned. But they sold, and they started moving to the Westside, and guess who bought that? The Korean Americans!

JJ: One of the first things you did in your district was to call for a temporary shutdown of Runyon Canyon, a popular Hollywood hiking spot. What was behind that decision?

DR: Runyon Canyon is being loved to death. … There are 11 miles of “graded F” pipes in the city of L.A. [based on an analysis by the Department of Water and Power on the likeliness of pipe failure]. One mile is in Runyon Canyon. So Runyon Canyon alone has pretty much 9 percent of the entire city’s “graded F” pipes So, you know, once in a while you see pipes bursting and streets caving in. … It’s been on the project list to be fixed for five years. So when I got elected and found out about it, I said, “We’ve got to do this right away.”

JJ: Before you were elected, you worked in the social services sector, including at one of the largest mental health facilities in the county. What do you feel Los Angeles can do to address the issue of homelessness? 

DR: This time is so historic. … It seems like just rhetoric, but honestly, this is the first time where the city, the county, the state and the feds are actually working collaboratively together. We’re not just saying we are — we literally are. Before, everyone used to work in silos. The city and county relationship was so bad. … [Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority] was formed, because the city sued the county. That’s how bad the relationship was. It was always finger pointing: “You’re not doing it; you’re not doing it.” The city would blame the county; the county would blame the city. … Now it’s a different day.

JJ: So are you confident that the city’s figured out a formula to finally make a dent in the homeless population?

DR: Yes, the formula is collaboration. …  Before, when someone got released from jail, you walked out the door and that’s it. So it’s straight to Skid Row. Now, how do we do a coordinated entry, so we know when they’re getting released? … Domestic violence victims, foster care and seniors are the three most highly vulnerable [groups] at risk of becoming homeless. So what happens? We always talk about the highest risk — what happens when they fall out? Where do they go? How do they get connected? … How does this whole collaborative system work? That’s what’s crucial. That’s what’s key.

JJ: Two of your fellow councilmembers just proposed putting a $1 billion bond on the November ballot to address homelessness. What do you think about the idea of a bond measure?

DR: Yes, we need more money. I want to hear more about it. I’m a little bit conflicted about it, because yes, we need more resources, but at the same time, money isn’t going to do it. … You could throw money hand over fist — it’s not going to solve it. It’s about making sure we get the proper treatment. It costs more to send somebody to jail than to college. It costs more for them to go through this recidivism, this revolving door, through all this treatment, than actually providing them services. So it’s about figuring all this out. … We have to fix this system, make sure this system works, prove to taxpayers that we know how to use the money properly, before we ask for more money. But again, if the voters are willing to give the money, I don’t want to turn it away.

Clinton vetting Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in initial stages of VP search

Hillary Clinton’s campaign isn’t considering primary rival Bernie Sanders as her running mate, but is actively looking at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose populist politics line up closely with Mr. Sanders, people familiar with the process said.

The vetting remains in its early stages. So far, potential candidates have been scrutinized using publicly available information. The Clinton team hasn’t asked anyone to submit tax returns or other personal information, one of the people said. Conversations with Mrs. Clinton herself about options are just now beginning.

Beyond the Massachusetts senator, other prospective candidates include Labor Secretary Tom Perez; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Cory Booker of New Jersey; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is Jewish, and Reps. Xavier Becerra of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio, several Democrats said.

The rest of this article appears in The Wall Street Journal.

Moving and shaking: Purim celebrations, TEBH honors and more

The ninth annual Beverly Hills Purim Ball, a benefit for Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) held March 10 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, honored Bunni and Murray Fischer with the Humanitarian Award, Steve Ghysels with the Community Spirit Award, and Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel and Myra Clark-Siegel with the Leadership Award.

Television personality Jerry Springer served as master of ceremonies.

Murray Fischer, a prominent Beverly Hills attorney, and his wife, Bunni, a travel consultant, are lifelong Temple Emanuel members.

Ghysels is senior vice president and regional managing director for Wells Fargo Wealth Management of Beverly Hills and sits on the board of Cedars Sinai-Medical Center.

Siegel, for his part, has represented Israel as a diplomat in Los Angeles since 2011. His wife, Myra, is director of communications and senior strategic counsel for American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

The approximately 300 attendees included TEBH Senior Rabbis Laura Geller and Jonathan Aaron; TEBH Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin; TEBH Cantor Lizzie Weiss; businessman and philanthropist Stanley Black; evening working committee members Michelle Kaye and Lisa Kay Schwartz; and others.

A March 20 discussion featuring Rabbis Sharon Brous of IKAR, Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Ari Schwarzberg of Shalhevet High School and Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin explored “How to Live as Jews in the World: Particularism vs. Universalism.”

From left: Rabbis Sharon Brous of IKAR, Ari Schwarzberg of Shalhevet High School, Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel participated in a panel at Academy for Jewish Religion, California. Photo courtesy of Academy for Jewish Religion, California. 

“I believe there is one God but there are many spiritual paths to that God. That is universalism,” Geller said during the Sunday night panel, which was organized by the Academy for Jewish Religion, California (AJRCA) and took place at the school’s Koreatown campus. “And at the same time, I want to claim and own that for me the particular Jewish path is mine.”

The moderator, AJRCA President Emeritus Rabbi Mel Gott-lieb, prompted the speakers to weigh in on the positives and negatives of universalism and particularism.

“What does it mean to be both universalist and particularist?” Brous asked. “What does it mean to be a human being and part of a family?”

“ ‘Here I am, just another Jew, just another rabbi, living in a modernized Jewish shtetl,’ ” Schwarzberg said, summarizing his  occasional ambivalence about living in the predominantly Jewish Pico-Robertson.

The event, which perhaps raised more questions than offered answers, was part of AJRCA’s effort to raise its visibility in the community.

AJRCA differs from the two other Los Angeles seminaries (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and American Jewish University) in its pluralistic approach, coupled with the fact that it serves many “second-career students,” Gottlieb said in an interview at the conclusion of the well-attended event.

Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park’s Rabbi Robin Podolsky, one of approximately 100 attendees, said the speakers “asked the right questions, went to the right places and provoked the necessary thought.”

Additional attendees included AJRCA interim President Lisa Owens, AJRCA provost Tamar Frankiel and others.

Owens described the event as “particularly and universally wonderful.”

Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) North America has hired Rabbi Philip Graubart as West Coast vice president and Rabbi Joshua Ladon as Bay City manager, according to a March 10 announcement.

Shalom Hartman Institute North America Bay City manager Rabbi Joshua Ladon. Photo courtesy of Shalom Hartman Institute

The hirings mark the continued expansion of the organization’s West Coast operations. The two join Michelle Stone, SHI North America’s Los Angeles city manager, and Rachel Allen, SHI West Coast program coordinator, to complete the SHI West Coast presence, according to a press release.

Launched in 2010, SHI North America is a self-described “leader in sophisticated dialogue and study on major Jewish questions,” according to a press release. 

With the addition of these two professionals, the broad expansion of SHI programs and initiatives on the West Coast will continue to flourish,” the release said. 

About 100 Sephardic Jewish community members, leaders and others attended the March 6 installation of Rabbi Raif Melhado at Kahal Joseph Congregation.

Rabbi Raif Melhado of Kahal Joseph Congregation. Photo courtesy of Melhado

“It is a very special community. It’s my honor and pleasure to be able to be working with them,” the 33-year-old Modern Orthodox rabbi, who began last August, said in a phone interview. 

Melhado was ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) in 2015. Prior to coming to Kahal Joseph Congregation, he served as a rabbinic intern at Hebrew Institute of White Plains in New York. 

The evening program featured remarks by Melhado; Kahal Joseph Rebbetzin Jessica Melhado; de Toledo High School Jewish studies department chair Rabbi Devin Villarreal; Hebrew Institute of White Plains Rabbi Chaim Marder; YCT President Rabbi Asher Lopatin; and Kahal President Ronald Einy.

A dinner reception followed the installation, featuring a concert by Sephardic band Bazaar Ensemble’s Asher Levy (vocals, oud), Yoni Arbel (guitar) and Sean Thump (saxophone).

Among attendees were Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, director of the Sephardic Educational Center, and Kahal Joseph Congregation Senior Chazzan Sassoon Ezra.

Kahal Joseph Congregation is a Sephardic Orthodox community with Iraqi and Syrian founders serving approximately 300 member families. The synagogue is located in Century City.

As usual, this year’s Purim festivities brought out the creativity and light-heartedness of the local Jewish community, evidenced by a host of carnivals, costumes and more. 

At B’nai David-Judea on March 23, young people dressed up as characters from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and battled each other with toy light sabers in the lobby of the modern Orthodox Pico-Robertson synagogue. This followed a Megillah reading that was brought to life by a theatrical play in which Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky performed the role of Haman.

One attendee, however, stood out as a little more old school than those who were inspired by last year’s blockbuster movie. Israel Gootin, 12, a student at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, dressed as the classic video game “Tetris,” with a costume that involved a foam-like sandwich board with a graphic from “Tetris” imprinted on it. Nearby, a teenager dressed as the villainous Joker wore a royal-purple suit and thick red paint on his face to enlarge his smile. 

Israel Gootin, 12, a student at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, attended a Megillah reading at B’nai David-Judea dressed as one of the iconic video games, “Tetris.” Photo by Ryan Torok

Across town, college-age community members dressed up as cowboys and cowgirls to celebrate at Chabad Jewish Student Center at USC’s “Purim in the Wild West.” They roasted s’mores on a campfire, took turns riding a mechanical bull and posed for snapshots in a photo booth … when they weren’t being told by the rabbi running the party, Rabbi Dov Wagner, to separate by gender on the dance floor. Wagner and his wife, Runya, oversee the center, which is located downtown. 

The Chabad event was not the only themed party to celebrate Purim. “Purim in the Stadium,” a March 23 concert with Moshav band, was held at Chabad SOLA (South La Cienega) and was co-organized by Israel education network AMIT. The event featured an hourly Megillah reading, kosher food and more. Attendees included AMIT Western Region Director Michal Taviv-Margolese, Moshav band vocalist Yehuda Solomon and others.  

“Hot Jazz and Cool Cats,” a New Orleans-style party, took place at Rabbi Yonah Bookstein’s Pico Shul, in Pico-Robertson, on March 24. Pico Shul served up margaritas as well as gumbo and jambalaya for the adults, while children enjoyed swinging at Haman piñatas, according to the rabbi, who dressed as Zionist icon Theodor Herzl.

 “You know, we are the originators of the Hamañata,” Bookstein said in a phone interview. “Haman got totally crushed and destroyed. It was brutal. Haman met a brutal end at the hands of children. Yeah, he went down fast.”

Rabbi Joshua M. Aaronson in the dunk tank. Photo courtesy of Temple Judea

In the San Fernando Valley, Temple Judea put on the spiel “Shmaltz,” a spoof on the musical “Grease,” before a celebratory Purim carnival on March 20. There were rides and carnival games, not to mention kosher barbecue and a vendor marketplace. As part of the fun, Rabbi Joshua M. Aaronson was among those who took part in a dunk tank. There was even some Shushan royalty on scene, as Cantor Yonah Kligman dressed up as King Ahasuerus and Rabbi Cantor Alison Wissot appeared as Queen Esther.

The American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem honored local businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz on March 24 at Sinai Temple during “A Shushan Purim Costume Gala.” 

American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem honorees Marvin Markowitz and Barak Raviv. Photo by Robert Lurie

Comedian Elon Gold emceed the evening that raised over $200,000 and drew more than 350 attendees, according to Paul Jeser, director of the organization’s Western region.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presented Markowitz with the award, saying, “Shaare Zedek and you have something in common. You have committed your life to repairing the world.” Upon receiving the honor, Markowtiz, who has been in a wheelchair due to declining health brought on by West Nile virus, managed to stand up with the aid of an assistant and a walker.

“I feel like I am standing taller than ever,” he told the Journal later. The evening featured live music courtesy of Mike Burstyn, who sang “My Yiddishe Momme” to Markowitz’s mother, Lili, a Holocaust survivor who recently turned 90. It also recognized Barak Raviv of the Barak Raviv Foundation with the NextGen Award.

Special guest Monty Hall, former host of the TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” was seated alongside Markowitz, whose business ventures include The Mark for Events, a popular venue for parties and fundraisers, and Factor’s Famous Deli.

“When I walked in and saw the costumes, I thought I was doing the show all over again,” Hall said. 

Others who were seen included Markowitz’s family members, including his wife, Libby, three daughters and two sisters; StandWithUs founder Roz Rothstein; Journal president David Suissa; philanthropist Daphna Ziman; prosecutor Elan Carr; and Sam Yebri, co-founder of 30 Years After.

The progressive spiritual community known as IKAR held a Purim Justice Bonanza consisting of a Megillah service, a spiel featuring filmed and live sketches, and an after-party co-sponsored by JQ International at Café Club Fais Do-Do on March 23. The event drew nearly 400 people to hear the Megillah reading and 200 for the after-party, which featured a drag performance. Some revelers went outside to visit food trucks and to schmooze in a quieter outdoor seating area. Another room featured a silent disco, where participants could dance along to music played directly into their earphones.

From left: IKAR Executive Director Melissa Balaban and IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous attend IKAR’s Purim Justice Bonanza. Photo by Steve Sherman 

Rabbi Sharon Brous, who wore a “Snow White Privilege” costume, appeared with her husband, David Light, who dressed as the character Mugatu from the “Zoolander” movies. Associate Rabbi Ronit Tsadok came as the late singer Amy Winehouse.

This year’s spiel highlights included “Clergy in Cars Getting Coffee,” a filmed parody of the Jerry Seinfeld web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” IKAR’s version featured Brous going for a drive, getting a cup of coffee and singing “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen” with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The video (and others from the spiel) can be viewed on IKAR’s YouTube channel.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

“Moving and Shaking” highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Sanders and Clinton back in L.A.: A tale of two audiences

The enthusiasm among Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ supporters appears able to weather any political storm.

The self-described socialist senator from Vermont brought his campaign to Los Angeles on March 23 following wins Tuesday in Idaho and Utah and a loss in Arizona. Sanders was greeted by thousands of supporters at the Wiltern Theatre in Koreatown, most of them young, who had lined up for hours, covering more than five blocks of sidewalk, hoping for tickets to hear him speak.

“We have a lot of momentum, and a lot of people who have been wanting this for a long time,” said Cristina Donastorg, a 25-year-old aerospace engineer standing near the front of the line. She had been waiting for nearly three hours. Donastorg said that if Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, she would vote for her rather than either Republican frontrunner Donald Trump or his main challenger, Sen. Ted Cruz, but would also be open to considering Ohio Gov. John Kasich, depending on how debates went.

Next to Donastorg was Aaron Reveles, 21, a UC Santa Barbara student. Reveles said he would vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party if Sanders loses, but said he still likes Sanders’ chances. “I feel like its gonna be neck-to-neck until the end,” Reveles said, raising his voice over the din of honking car horns of passing drivers expressing their support for Sanders.

The rally came a day after Sanders gained 43 delegates in Idaho and Utah and Clinton gained 44 in Arizona, pushing her count to 1,223 with 2,383 needed for the nomination. Sanders currently has 920 delegates, but the gap between him and Clinton is likely far larger than 303. There are also 712 superdelegates—unpledged Democratic party leaders—of whom 467 have declared support for Clinton, while only 26 have declared support for Sanders, which means Clinton may currently only be 693 delegates away from securing the nomination.

The day after Sanders’ rally, Clinton was in L.A. for multiple public appearances and fundraisers. She started with a roundtable discussion on homeland security at USC, and then spoke at a $2,700 per-person fundraiser in Santa Monica, taped an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and spoke at the Avalon Hollywood at an evening event alongside Estelle, Ben Harper and Russell Simmons.

At the USC roundtable, Clinton was joined by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti; the former Secretary of State addressed urban counter terrorism efforts and the importance of engaging Muslims in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the wake of the group’s recent bombings in Brussels that killed 31 people and wounded 300. Joining Clinton and Garcetti were Jim Featherstone, former general manager of L.A.’s Emergency Management Department and now general manager of the National Homeland Security Association; Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Joumana Silvan-Saba, a senior policy analyst for L.A.’s Human Relations Commission; and Brie Loskota, executive director for USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

“To defeat this transnational threat, we need to reinforce the alliances that have been core pillars of American power for decades,” Clinton said, likely referring to America’s anti-ISIS Arab allies, a note she mentioned in her counter terrorism speech Tuesday in Stanford. She also implicitly attacked Trump and Cruz, both of whom called for more vigorous law enforcement and national security monitoring of Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. “We need to rely on what actually works, not bluster that alienates our partners and doesn't make us any safer.”

The difference in Sanders’ and Clinton’s appeal among young Americans was evident at the two candidates’ L.A. appearances. At USC, approximately 100 students gathered outside the Ronald Tutor Campus Center to try to see Clinton as she left. And the event itself, which was limited to press and a handful of invited guests was formal, calm and largely uneventful.

The gathering for Sanders outside The Wiltern had the feel of a rally well before the actual rally even began, with vendors selling Bernie Sanders shirts, hats and pins; two women were arrested for disorderly conduct for walking around topless.

The rally also attracted some who were simply curious to hear Sanders in person. A man named Joseph, who did not want to give his last name in case his new employer isn’t a Sanders supporter, said he identifies as libertarian and had supported Republican presidential contender Rand Paul. Joseph said he graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan, school with mostly conservative students.

“At this point, I’m kind of undecided, because I’m not warming up to Trump very much, even though I’ve voted mostly Republican in the past,” Joseph said. “I’ve heard some Bernie things, but better to get it live.”

At the back of the line, with little hope of being admitted inside, Amy Phan, 30, said she was “just here for the camaraderie.” She said that earlier in the day she had been thinking about who she’d vote for if Sanders is not the nominee, as appears increasingly likely.

“I was thinking whether or not I would even wanna vote at that point, even if it were her [Clinton] and Trump,” Phan said. “I don’t wanna see Trump, obviously, but it would be so sad that I would have to give up my vote to her.”

Behind her, Carlyn Blount, also 30, was clutching her purse and a copy of George Orwell’s anti-communist dystopian novel, “Animal Farm,” which she said she was looking forward to reading for the first time.

“I’m still trying to keep optimistic. It’s still possible,” Blount said about Sanders’ chances, adding that she would vote for Clinton if she’s the nominee. “I don’t think she’s as sincere, but she’s so much less evil than Trump.”

Los Angeles mayor, Chabad leaders light menorah at L.A. City Hall

An annual Chabad menorah lighting took place on the afternoon of Dec. 8 at the Spring Street steps of Los Angeles City Hall.

The festive event brought together elected officials and Chabad leaders. Together they lit two candles for the first two nights of Chanukah, which began on Dec. 6, on the Katowitz menorah, a historical object rescued from a Polish synagogue otherwise destroyed during Kristallnacht.

Those in attendance included L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and West Coast Chabad Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin — the two interrupted a moment of dancing to embrace — L.A. City Council members Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, David Ryu and Mitch O'Farrell, Consul General of France in Los Angeles Christophe Lemoine and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel, L.A. City Controller Mike Feuer, L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin and others.

Chanukah is “not just a time we celebrate miracles, we celebrate hope,” Koretz said, appearing between the menorah  and an enlarged frame photograph of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Dancing followed the candle lighting, with attendees joining hands and dancing in a circle, as a keyboardist played Jewish music. Additional music was courtesy of a Chabad children's choir, which performed several Chanukah songs, including “The Dreidel Song” and Maoz Tzur, under the direction of Chabad Rabbi Mendel Duchman.

“Chabad wishes you a happy Chanukah,” read a giant banner set up at the event.

Approximately 65 people attended the annual gathering bringing together Chabad rabbis and city leaders. Cunin said it was the 33rd Chabad menorah lighting at City Hall in an interview with the Journal.

Los Angeles police hand out body cameras to first patrol division

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) handed out body cameras to its first patrol division on Monday, putting hundreds of the devices on the streets of the nation's second-largest city in a roll-out of technology seen by proponents as key to building public trust in law enforcement.

The move by the LAPD, following smaller pilot programs in New York City and Chicago, came a day after the mayor of Milwaukee proposed spending $880,000 to equip his city's entire force of 1,200 patrol officers with body cameras by the end of 2016.

Many U.S. cities have moved toward supplying body cameras to patrol officers following rising tensions and protests over what many critics see as the indiscriminate use of force by police against unarmed civilians, especially racial minorities and the mentally ill.

The issue has been heightened by a string of highly publicized deadly confrontations, many that bystanders caught on video, between police and unarmed African-American individuals during the past year.

The nearly 9,900-member LAPD is the nation's third-largest metropolitan police force and the biggest to commit to equipping all its patrol officers, numbering about 7,000 personnel, with bodycams.

The American Civil Liberties Union supports the use of police body cams but has criticized the LAPD plan as flawed because the department has not pledged to automatically release footage to the public, even in high-profile shootings. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said the technology will build trust.

The Mission Station in the city's sprawling San Fernando Valley suburb on Monday became the first division to hand out the palm-sized cameras – 800 of them – to its patrol officers, who wear them at the front of their collar and activate them by pressing a button.

The department plans to distribute the rest of the cameras before the end of 2016, said LAPD Captain Jeffrey Bert.

He acknowledged officers may at times make mistakes in using the device.

“Sometimes you jump out of the car in the heat of the moment because you're focused on something else and the last thing you're thinking about is hitting a button on your chest,” Bert said. “We anticipate that will happen.”

The cost of supplying body cameras, which can run from $350 to $700 apiece, has hindered widespread adoption of the technology in many cities.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in South Carolina passed a bill to require all state and local law enforcement officers to eventually be equipped with bodycams.

Wanted: More women in Los Angeles City Hall

What Los Angeles City Hall needs is a strong Jewish woman.

Nothing against the three Jewish men who occupy citywide offices — Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer and Controller Ron Galperin. But they’re so quiet, so devoted to working behind the scenes that it’s easy to forget they hold such prominent and influential offices. If a strong Jewish woman were in their place, everyone would know she was there.

It’s true that Garcetti deserves some of the credit for the city’s new $15-an-hour minimum wage law, although the figure approved by the City Council is higher than the $13.25 Garcetti originally sought. Feuer has buried himself in the nuts-and-bolts task of setting up neighborhood branch offices to deal with local problems, such as prostitution and graffiti, as well as trying to enforce the city’s marijuana law. Galperin has taken the lead in the fight to decipher and audit the mysterious education and safety fund maintained by the Department of Water and Power and its powerful employee union.

But in doing these worthwhile tasks, they tend to avoid the spotlight as if it were radioactive. Feuer and Galperin immerse themselves in every detail of public policy, especially Galperin, who personifies the word wonk. It’s hard to write a news story about that. Garcetti is incredibly cautious, a huge contrast to his flamboyant predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Critics thought Villaraigosa was an egomaniac, but he willingly took the heat when trying to reform public education or pushing through public transit projects that were unpopular in many areas. 

Mayor Richard Riordan loved the spotlight, beating up bureaucrats and the Los Angeles Times.  He didn’t mind when people were shocked at times by his off-the-wall comments.

Chutzpah, that’s what they had — and they weren’t even Jewish. Maybe there’s something about being a Jewish guy in the 21st century, some kind of a mindset that makes them more comfortable getting along than raising hell.

A Jewish friend who pays attention to civic matters recently asked me what happened to our Jewish trio of Garcetti, Feuer and Galperin. Why, he wondered, are they so invisible most of the time?

That’s when I started thinking about strong Jewish women in City Hall, particularly Laura Chick, who was a member of the City Council, representing District 3 in the San Fernando Valley from 1993 to 2001, and, more famously, city controller for eight years, beginning in 2001.

I called her in Berkeley, where she now lives, helping to care for a 3-year-old granddaughter, while engaging in various civic activities and enjoying the view of three bridges on the San Francisco Bay from her Kensington home.

“Kick some butt,” she said was her goal as controller, “shaking up the status quo.”

And she did, unconcerned about getting along with the City Hall establishment.  Her audits were important, frequent and hard hitting, and her blunt style made it impossible for the media to ignore them. She found out that the Los Angeles Police Department had a backlog of thousands of DNA rape kits. She exposed a planning department locked in the past, crippled by outdated practices. She blasted an ineffective housing department.

In 2003, Chick appointed me to a five-year term on the city ethics commission, which supervises enforcement of campaign contributions and conflict-of-interest law. “Raise hell,” she told me then. When I talked to her recently, she said, “I wanted you to go in there and shake things up. I knew you weren’t there for window dressing.

“If you are always trying to get along, nothing changes,” she said. “You settle down and settle in, and the problems persist. It’s like a big ‘kumbaya,’ but under the surface, it’s not so good.”

That’s not Chick’s idea of what a strong Jewish woman should be. “For me and all the strong Jewish women, life is full of problems and therefore life is all about solving problems,” she said. “The strong Jewish women I know solve problems. They confront them.”

I’m focusing more on citywide elected officials, but there is a tradition of such Jewish women on the City Council as well. The first was Rosalind Wyman, who was elected to the City Council as a young woman and became a power there. Among the others were Joy Picus, Chick’s predecessor on the council, from 1977 to 1993, an influential lawmaker, who even took on then-powerful police Chief Daryl Gates. Jackie Goldberg, also on the council, representing Hollywood from 1994 to 2000, was a strong fighter for liberal causes who didn’t take guff from anybody, even reporters such as me.

Now City Hall is almost without elected women; the one is Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who represents eastern portions of the San Fernando Valley. Women, with few exceptions, tend to avoid city campaigns, Chick said. “Women are very pragmatic,” she said, “They take a look at what happens at City Hall and don’t like the game.”

After we talked, I thought back to when I started covering the City Council, at a time when there were several powerful female members, Jewish and non-Jewish.  I thought of the strong women I know, African-American, Latino, Jewish, WASP, Asian-American — and one who could be classified as doubly strong, Jan Perry, an African-American-Jewish woman who served on the City Council and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the last election.

I could see that the premise of this column opens itself up to argument. I started writing about Jewish women because this is the Jewish Journal, and I was dealing with the shortcomings of Jewish men.

I should have said that City Hall needs more strong women, period.

Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Los Angeles gives preliminary approval to $15 minimum wage

The Los Angeles City Council voted on Tuesday to increase the minimum wage in the nation's second-largest city to $15 an hour by 2020 from the current $9, in a victory for labor and community groups that have pushed for similar pay hikes in several U.S. municipalities.

The council's 14-1 vote on the measure, which must come back before the panel for final approval, would require businesses with more than 25 employees to meet the $15 pay level by 2020, while smaller businesses would have an extra year to comply.

Officials said the plan, which comes on the heels of similar minimum wage hikes in other major cities including Seattle and San Francisco, would increase pay of an estimated 800,000 workers in the city.

“We are embarking upon, I think, the most progressive minimum wage policy anywhere in the country,” City Councilman Curren Price Jr., one of the main backers of the proposal, said before the vote.

With the federal minimum wage stagnant at $7.25 an hour since 2009, labor and religious groups have increasingly pressed local governments in liberal-leaning areas to enact their own minimum wage hikes even as their hopes dim for an increase from the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.

The proposal given preliminary approval in Los Angeles, where housing costs are among the highest in the nation, represents a far-reaching victory for supporters of higher pay for low-wage workers.

The 67-percent pay increase would be implemented gradually, starting at $10.50 an hour for larger employers in 2016, and gradually going up each year until it reaches $15 in 2020.

Companies with 25 or fewer workers would follow a slightly slower stepped-up increase in minimum wage pay.

Opponents of minimum wage hikes, such as Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of public policy Ruben Gonzalez, say they place an undue burden on businesses, and would force employers to lay off workers or move.

“There is simply not enough room, enough margin in these businesses to absorb a 50-plus percent increase in labor costs over a short period of time,” he told the city council.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who last year proposed a pay increase that would have brought the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017, said in a statement that he planned to sign the council's measure.

Other cities have also moved to increase their minimum wages in phases.

Seattle is phasing in a pay hike that would bring the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next two to six years, depending on the size of the business. Voters in San Francisco have approved raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.

The San Francisco Bay Area city of Emeryville has given preliminary approval to gradually increase its minimum wage to $16 an hour by 2019, in what would be the nation's highest such minimum pay. The city council is scheduled to vote on Tuesday evening on whether to give that final approval.

Chicago city leaders last year approved raising its minimum wage to $13 by 2019, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for raising the minimum wage in his city to about $15 by 2019.

Foster families enjoy day of Foster Mother’s Day festivities

Local philanthropist Jeanne Pritzker was swept up in a whirlwind of chaos on Mother’s Day, conducting interviews with major news outlets, answering questions from volunteers and waiting for the arrival of buses that, over the course of the day, would drop off more than 2,500 foster families to The Willows community school in Culver City. 

Unfazed by the mayhem at the seventh annual Foster Mother’s Day celebration, which Pritzker first hosted in 2008 at her Topanga Canyon home, she reveled in what it takes to be a certain kind of parent.

“What we’re celebrating today is foster parents, because a lot of times they don’t get publicly thanked,” said Pritzker, a mother of seven — including one foster child — and the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Foster Care Counts, which sponsored the event. 

The May 10 celebration itself included catered lunch, live music, spa treatments, boutique shopping, carnival games and family portraits, not to mention partnerships with heavy hitters Disney, Wolfgang Puck and Nestle.

At the boutique, by far the most popular spot, foster families were able to shop racks of clothing, shoes and accessories and take home a bag’s worth of items. A sign that read “Boutique full: please come back in 15 minutes” was permanently posted outside as a line of foster mothers, and some fathers, stood waiting to get inside, giving it the appearance of a trendy nightclub. 

“I wish I was skinny; I would get up all in this,” mused Helen Langley, a foster mother from South Los Angeles, while admiring a short leather skirt. 

Her arms were full of clothes, while one foot was clad in a sandal, the other in a gladiator stiletto. Hobbling to the next rack of clothes with the newly acquired skirt in hand, she said she fostered and eventually adopted six children, ages 7 to 18. On this Mother’s Day, a wardrobe’s worth of new clothes was the perfect way to celebrate.

Karen Weimer, a foster mother who adopted two kids, ages 6 and 9, one of them with special needs, made her way to the boutique after a visit to the spa, where she received some special pampering. She flashed her newly manicured nails. 

“My daughter picked out the color,” Weimer said proudly. “Chartreuse.”

The boutique and spa shared space in the school’s auditorium, making it an easy transition for mothers to jump between shopping and pampering, with Latin jazz serenading in the background.

Indicating that many foster mothers are single — like herself — Weimer said, “It’s really nice to get out.” 

A foster mother with stick-straight hair was sitting in a barber chair nearby, getting her hair done by Tomas Zamudio, a student at Paul Mitchell The School in Sherman Oaks. Working for just an hour and already on his fourth mom, Zamudio was ecstatic to be a part of this event, especially because his own mother died two years ago. 

“What they do is amazing,” he said as he used a flat iron to add waves to the mother’s hair. “This is our pleasure.”

One building down, in the reading room, an 11-year-old volunteer named India Spencer was emphatically reading “Honk!: The Story of a Prima Swanerina” to two mesmerized younger girls. 

“I love reading, and I love kids,” she said. “That’s why I do this — because it’s important to me.”

In the next room, Adam Beechen was signing copies of his graphic novel “Hench,” accompanied by his mother, Judy, who came from Arizona just for the occasion. (Literacy nonprofit The Book Foundation gave away more than 2,000 backpacks filled with books during the event.)

“Comic books taught me how to read, so anything that encourages reading, I’m all about,” the author said as he signed a copy of his book for a young boy with big brown eyes.

A family photo booth at the event was a big hit, too. 

“A lot of foster families don’t have the opportunity to take a photo together,” said Courtney Paulson, a volunteer who was working the booth. 

Families were able to select costumes from racks full of fun possibilities and even coordinate according to a theme. Many were opting for royal get-ups, selecting Renaissance-style dresses and fur-lined robes.

At one point, a family of three generations — grandmother, parents and a 6-year-old granddaughter — came out camera-ready, adorned in royal duds and masquerade masks. The grandmother, Madeline Roachell, assistant deputy director at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, donned a sparkly gown and said, “Usually, I’m not a big fan of attending events, but this one is really special.” Although not a foster mother herself, she did raise a relative’s children, so the event resonated.

Just around the corner at the face-painting station, one young boy was getting his face painted red and white. “You’re getting Spider-Man!” guessed a 7-year-old boy who was next in line and swung his balloon sword in the air as he announced he would be getting made up as Batman. Later, the two superheroes were seen on the playground, balloon-sword fighting together.

Amid these scenes, Pritzker, who attended with her husband, Tony, was busy multi-tasking, splitting her time between speaking to media and working the event — which drew more than 300 volunteers and the likes of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass — diverted yet composed, in a way only a mother can be. 

“Motherhood means taking whatever knowledge you have to teach, embracing as many kids as you’re capable of, and helping them to transition to adulthood as successfully as possible,” she said.

To prepare for major quake, Los Angeles proposes retrofitting older buildings

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed on Monday that the city retrofit thousands of older buildings and bolster the water and communications systems to prepare for a possible major temblor along the San Andreas Fault.

The proposals marked the first major earthquake-preparation initiative by the country's second largest city since the 1994 Northridge earthquake that killed 16 people and destroyed many structures similar to those now targeted for upgrading.

“We know the 'Big One' is coming, it's a matter of when. If we're unprepared, the effects could be devastating,” Mayor Garcetti told a news conference at City Hall. “These things come with real costs, but we cannot afford not to pay them.”

The recommendations are based on a one-year study headed by the mayor's science adviser, Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey, best known to Southern Californians as “The Earthquake Lady” for her many appearances on television during temblors.

Jones said the proposals were “by far” the most comprehensive step toward earthquake resiliency the city had ever taken. Garcetti estimated the measures would cost billions of dollars, to be shared by the public and private sectors.

The measures, which require City Council approval, target pre-1978 apartment buildings with weak first floors, of the sort constructed over parking garages supported by narrow columns or poles. The proposal would require landlords to upgrade them within five years at an estimated cost of $5,000 a unit.

Pre-1976 concrete buildings with columns and frame connectors that are brittle and can break during an earthquake would also have to be upgraded within 25 years at an estimated cost of $10 to $15 a square foot.

The proposals also include upgrading the city's century-old pipes, developing an alternative water supply for firefighting with reclaimed water and seawater, and fortifying the dozens of aqueducts that cross the San Andreas Fault, including an old city water tunnel built of wood.

The mayor also proposed fortifying the communications system by strengthening cellular phone towers, forging an agreement between cell and Internet providers to share service and bandwidth during an earthquake, and working with utilities to protect power lines that cross the fault.

Money for the water and communications projects would come from a combination of public and private sources, much of it left to be determined, the mayor said.

Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti vows to cut water use by 20 percent over drought

The mayor of Los Angeles aims to reduce local water use by 20 percent over the next three years to address a record drought through a mix of voluntary measures for residents and mandatory restrictions for city departments, the city said on Tuesday.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, in an executive order, asked residents in the city of 3.9 million people to limit watering their lawn to twice a week and ordered city departments to reduce watering of municipal lawns.

Garcetti warned that if those and other measures do not meet his goal of cutting the city's water use by 20 percent by 2017, Los Angeles could impose mandatory cutbacks on residents that would include limits on car washing.

The move comes 10 months after California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to a multi-year drought and called for voluntary water use cutbacks of 20 percent.

“Southern California in general has done a remarkable job over these last 20 years of being able to grow substantially without using more water,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Now this mayor is choosing to take it to the next level, which is a great thing to see.”

Already, California officials have announced that water consumption in the state was 11.5 percent lower in August than for the same month the year before.

The drought is expected to cost the state an estimated $2.2 billion this year, along with a loss of more than 17,000 jobs, as farmers are forced to leave fallow some valuable cropland, a report by University of California in Davis scientists found in July.

The city has long offered cash incentives to residents who replace lawns with plants that use less water and other types of landscaping, and Garcetti on Tuesday increased that incentive slightly to $3.75 per square foot (about $40 per sq meter).

He also ordered the city's Department of Water and Power to cut its purchase of water imported from other regions by 50 percent by 2024.

“Our relationship with water must evolve. We cannot afford the water policies of the past,” Garcetti said in a statement.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler

Moving and shaking: Doc Rivers, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the ADL

“The city rests on a foundation of public safety,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the fourth annual Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) Los Angeles dinner honoring both the mayor and businessman Mitch Julis on Oct. 2 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  

HSAC is a non-partisan, voluntary coalition of high-level business, government, academic and law-enforcement leaders dedicated to improving the response capabilities of the greater Los Angeles region through public-private partnership. The group looks for innovative ways to improve communication, response and resilience in the face of natural disaster, terror attacks or other emergencies.

HSAC board member Lawrence Bond; Mitch Julis, co-founder of Canyon Partners and recipient of Chairman’s Award; UC President Janet  Napolitano; Bobby Shriver; HSAC Chair Peter Lowy; Josh Friedman, co-founder of Canyon Partners.

“It’s not a question of if, but of when,” said former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, the evening’s keynote speaker. Napolitano, who is currently president of the University of California, urged people to develop plans to “prepare, react and repair” in the face of emergencies. 

HSAC does just that, leveraging private resources from businesses that could be on the front lines of a public response.  

“But we don’t spend a dime of taxpayer money,” said Westfield Group co-CEO Peter Lowy, chairman of Los Angeles’ HSAC executive committee (and of TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal), in his remarks. 

Julis, co-chairman and co-CEO of Canyon Partners, LLC, accepted his award by praising the work of HSAC, and stressing the value of creativity in tackling the problem of security.

Among those in the packed ballroom were Marc B. Nathanson, chairman of Mapleton Investments; Joshua Friedman, Canyon Partners co-chair and co-CEO; Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department chief; Daryl Osby, L.A. County Fire chief; James Featherstone, general manager of the City of L.A. Emergency Management Department; Sherry Lansing, former film studio executive; Mickey Kantor, former secretary of commerce and attorney Patricia Glaser.

— Staff report

With NBA training camps underway and a new season looming mere weeks ahead, Los Angeles Clippers head coach and president Doc Rivers met with sick children and their families at Chai Lifeline West Coast’s new Beverly Hills offices on Sept. 15.

L.A. Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers visited children and families of Chai Lifeline West Coast. Photo by Yehudis Schoen 

Chai Lifeline, a nonprofit with regional offices in the United States as well as affiliates in Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Israel, boasts the motto: “Fighting illness with love.” Its programs target the social, emotional and financial needs of ill children, their families and their communities, aiming to restore normalcy to family life. 

“Don’t let clutter get in your way. Don’t be a victim. And allow yourself to follow your dreams,” Rivers told more than 50 children, some seriously ill. 

Chai Lifeline West Coast director Randi Grossman said Rivers’ visit was particularly appropriate.

“NBA players show tremendous dedication and spirit every time they walk onto the court. Our children have those same qualities — and that’s what is helping them and their families get through the pain of their illnesses.”

Dr. Michael Levi, the Clippers’ team podiatrist and longtime supporter of Chai Lifeline, arranged the visit by Rivers, who flashed a grin and conversed with guests, signing basketballs and jerseys and posing for pictures. After taking part in an impromptu question-and-answer session, the coach told the group he hopes to make a return visit to Chai Lifeline next summer wielding the coveted Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy. 

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual El Caballero Golf Tournament in Tarzana raised $393,000 while honoring Jon Cookler, Jack Sheldon Neinstein and Ken Miles for their contributions.

31st Annual ADL/El Cab Golf Tournament honorees Jack Neinstein, Jon Cookler, Ken Miles. Photo courtesy of ADL

More than 160 golfers laced up for the Sept. 10 event, which attracted 350 dinner guests.

Cookler took home the Sam Saltsman Award for years of leadership and dedication to ADL and El Caballero. His father was one of the club’s first members, and Cookler remains a devoted member of the country club. Cookler and his wife Faith are ADL leaders at the regional and national levels. 

In his acceptance speech, Cookler described an anti-Semitic incident that precipitated his involvement 30 years ago and explained why the ADL’s cause still grips him: “I am not concerned about those who are different — different from you or me. I am concerned about those who are indifferent — indifferent to the hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism in our world today,” he said, according to a press release.

Neinstein and Miles accepted the Corporate Community Service Award on behalf of NSBN LLP, a financial services company. Neinstein, a partner at NSBN, and Miles, managing partner, both shared personal connections with the ADL’s purpose and its importance. Miles highlighted their TEAM NSBN Takes Action Program, which supports a wide variety of causes, including the Los Angeles Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and the Jewish National Fund. 

Alison Diamond and Ron Salter served as co-chairs of the event. Attendees took part in a full day of activities, including 18 holes of golf followed by dinner, the awards presentation and a live auction.

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

The Open Temple’s Sukkot on the (Canal) Farm brought some unique, local spirit to the holiday in a celebration in the Venice Historic Canal District. 

Some 30 young families gathered Oct. 11 on Sherman Canal from 3:45 to 6 p.m., where they were treated to a pumpkin patch, sukkah, petting zoo — featuring guinea pigs, ducks, turtles and more — and an enchanted reading forest sponsored by PJ Library, according to Rabbi Lori Shapiro, founder of The Open Temple in Venice. There was a learning session about the holiday as well.

Bunnies and babies. Photo Courtesy of Open Temple

“There are a lot of farming events that are going on nationally for Sukkot, and I thought how great would it be to do one on the canal for our community,” Shapiro said. “We’re offering community-building events where people can meet one another. 

“We’re really generating some momentum. There were lots of people with lots of babies.”

The Open Temple aspires to reach out to unaffiliated and intermarried families. Shapiro described it as a pop-up community that rents space in the Electric Lodge, where it will begin celebrating Shabbat on the third Friday of every month, beginning in January.

— Ryan E. Smith, Associate Editor

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Garcetti: ‘My support of Israel is kind of an unshakable thing’

In late June, as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hit his one-year anniversary in the job, local media outlets gave him only passing reviews.

The Los Angeles Times characterized his governance style thus far as “low-risk,” while the L.A. Daily News said his policies have been “free of drama.” He was also criticized by one UCLA professor in the L.A. Times for being more focused on day-to-day things such as infrastructure repairs and 311 wait times than on big-picture items like the city’s poorly performing public schools.

So it may have come as a surprise to mayoral observers when, on Aug. 5, he took the mildly risky move of joining eight other local elected officials at City Hall for a press conference to show solidarity with Israel in its war with Hamas. The event included playing a recording of an
Israeli red-alert siren, the sound blasted in Israeli cities when a rocket is incoming.

As should be obvious from the dramatic uptick in anti-Israel rallies across the United States, overt support for Israel is not risk-free. At the Aug. 5 press conference, a reporter asked the officials present whether the gathering could be perceived as “anti-Palestinian.” 

City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield responded that the group of politicians is anti-Hamas, not anti-Palestinian. Fair or not, the possible perception that support for Israel is anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian could be risky for Garcetti — who is Jewish — given the estimated 83,000 Arab-Americans who live in Los Angeles, according to recent data from the Arab American Institute Foundation.

On Aug. 21, Garcetti, 43, met with the Jewish Journal for an interview in his City Hall office.  

During the 20-minute discussion, Garcetti was polished, well-spoken and a few times took a roundabout way of answering some tougher questions on topics such as alarmingly low support for Israel among Hispanic-Americans (Garcetti’s grandfather was Mexican, and the mayor speaks Spanish) and decreasing voter participation in Los Angeles — only 23 percent of L.A.’s 1.8 million registered voters participated in Garcetti’s successful 2013 bid against former City Controller Wendy Greuel.

An edited transcript of the interview follows:

Jewish Journal: What are your thoughts on the current war in Israel?

Eric Garcetti: It’s heartbreaking as a Jew. It’s heartbreaking as a supporter of Israel. It’s heartbreaking as someone who has been a human-rights activist. The loss of life is extraordinarily tragic. I think [former Israeli President] Shimon Peres put it best when he said [paraphrasing a recent interview with the Associated Press], ‘Of course it’s immoral, but what else is there to do?’ It’s a situation that’s untenable. To see the depth of suffering and the lack of leadership in Gaza that would sacrifice lives in place of something that both Israel and the Palestinians have a huge stake in, which is peace.

JJ: You attended a press conference a few weeks ago in which you expressed your solidarity with Israel. Were you concerned that your participation might alienate Arab-Americans who live in Los Angeles?

Garcetti: My support of Israel is kind of an unshakable thing. Just as we criticize this or that that happens in America, as Americans, and that’s part of our loyalty, I think Jews do that all the time [with regard to Israel]. This is not the time to level the deepest of criticism [toward Israel]. When a nation is under attack, I think it’s time to rally around them, and that’s why it was important for me to be there [at the gathering].

JJ: Has your office received any negative feedback from the local Arab-American community?

Garcetti: Not that I know of. We always [get] individual calls about all sorts of things. I’ve been a good friend to the Arab and Muslim communities here. I broke the fast with folks during Ramadan. They’ve seen me over the years. It’s not a brand-new relationship, and they trust the work that I’ve done. There might be individuals who called, but the leadership? No, we remain very close.

JJ: A July Pew Research Center poll found that Hispanics in America have significantly less support for Israel than whites or blacks. Why is that? And is it a concern for you?

(The poll, released on July 28, showed that among Hispanics, 35 percent blamed Israel for this summer’s war and 20 percent blamed Hamas, while 47 percent of whites named Hamas as the war’s instigator and 14 percent blamed Israel.)

Garcetti: I don’t know. I didn’t experience it ever in my family. Maybe it reflects global opinion, and with such a high percentage of Latinos being immigrants or children of immigrants, maybe they just haven’t had much of a connection to understand Israel and the Jewish community. That said, most Mexicans I know, there’s almost a source of pride. Everybody in some family is like, ‘Oh maybe we were actually Jews way back that converted.’ I’ve always sensed quite the opposite, a real sense of connection and pride about people’s either Jewish roots or the Jewish community.

[Knowledge about Israel] is much less in those [native] countries a day-to-day experience than here in the United States, where people know Jews [and] know the importance of Israel as our strongest ally in the region. I think our work remains to continue to educate.

JJ: So it sounds like you think the views of Hispanics toward Israel become more favorable as they spend more time in America?

Garcetti: Absolutely. I don’t know the poll, but it would be interesting to look at third- or fourth-generation Latinos [compared to the] Latino population at large. 

JJ: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been growing nationally and locally. Does this concern you?

Garcetti: In City Hall, we were able to dismiss it pretty quickly. We passed a policy that we would not be boycotting; we would not factor that into any of our business decisions here. To see it out there, whether it’s growing in actual impact or growing in noise, I’m not sure. While I respect people’s opinions — I’ve certainly been a part of boycotts and divestiture movements in other countries, like Burma or South Africa — the isolation it would cause to Israel would be damaging to Los Angeles on economic, social [and] political terms.

JJ: Would you denounce it publicly if local public universities considered adopting BDS as a matter of policy?

Garcetti: Sure. I have — at UCLA.

JJ: In recent local elections in Los Angeles, a record low number of registered voters have been actually voting. Is that a problem?

Garcetti: I could say no, because I won, but I won’t say that. [Laughs] Of course it is [a problem]. People vote when they feel there’s something at stake and/or they are connected to civic life, not to the election itself. … I’m trying to build more civic participation in between elections. You see voter turnout going down throughout the United States — part of that is a younger and higher immigrant population, so we also have to spend a lot of time building a civic activism culture within the Latino and Asian immigrant communities. You see both of those communities rising [in] population in direct contrast with voter turnout going down. You can’t just expect people to show up and vote by telling them, ‘You have to vote.’ The election is just the cherry on top — the cake itself needs to continue to be built in between.

JJ: But what does it say about the current state of civic life and local government that people aren’t voting?

Garcetti: I think that we’ve got to build an understanding that we all are interconnected in the Los Angeles area. You’re proud to be from Pasadena, and you’re proud to be from a neighborhood like Canoga Park. You might be from the Inland Empire and embrace that. Really, when we all leave here, we are Angelenos, and we say we are from Los Angeles.