Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti emphasized during an April 23 lecture at the University of Southern California (USC) that he hopes the Jewish community will continue to play a role in bettering this city.
“What is our destiny, and what is our purpose? I think, as Jews, it is to make sure, just as my grandfather taught me, to stand up for the injustices that we see,” Garcetti said during the discussion, which was titled “From Valley Boy to First Jewish Mayor of Los Angeles.”
He also spoke of the ways he has kept up with living a Jewish life since becoming mayor last year. That includes affixing a mezuzah to the doorpost of the Getty House, the official mayoral residence, as well as having a joint Passover celebration with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for the organization’s supporters and their families.
“These small things are not symbols of a breakthrough for a Jewish mayor; they are part of a covenant I feel with that past, my own family, my own faith and, indeed, of the morals that should propel us forward and make sure L.A. isn’t just a big city but a great city,” said Garcetti, who was brought up in the San Fernando Valley by a Jewish mother and a Mexican-Italian father.
The event was part of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life’s 13th annual Carmen and Louis Warschaw Distinguished Lecture. Last year’s speaker was U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
Approximately 300 people turned out at the USC Davidson Continuing Education Conference Center to hear Garcetti, who, in fact, isn’t Los Angeles’ first Jewish mayor. There was a Jewish mayor pro tem for two weeks in the late-1800s; that makes Garcetti the first elected Jewish mayor of this city.
He also presides over a city government that has plenty of other Jewish representation. The mayor pointed to, among other things, the current leadership of City Controller Ron Galperin and City Attorney Mike Feuer.
“Judaism is built into the fabric of this town, not as an aside but as an integral thread,” Garcetti said.
Additionally, Garcetti was open about his evolving relationship with Judaism. He acknowledged that he did not have a “particularly religious” upbringing.
He said he participates regularly in Jewish text study with Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR.
“Every two weeks, my rabbi, Sharon Brous, comes to me — it’s one of the nice things about being mayor, the rabbi finally comes to you — and we study Torah and Talmud,” he said.
Garcetti blended autobiography with inspiring rhetoric. The L.A. leader called attention to the strengths of Los Angeles, saying a back-to-basics approach mixed with a commitment to innovation is necessary for keeping the city strong. The former entails city officials returning phone calls to residents, the paving of roads and his making door-to-door residential visits, he said. One of his forthcoming initiatives will help high-school students build up their resumes by making it easier for them to secure summer jobs.
His words resonated with attendees.
“He’s terrific,” Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce executive board member Jacob Segal said in an interview. “Hopefully one day I’ll see him as president.”
Additional attendees included Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Joshua Holo, dean of the Reform seminary’s Los Angeles campus, and Sarah Benor, associate professor of contemporary Jewish studies there. Bruce Zuckerman, the Myron and Marian Casden Director of the Casden Institute, offered brief remarks at the outset of the event, and USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Elizabeth Garrett introduced Garcetti. L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sat in the front row.
The evening — which included a reception, lecture, Q-and-A and VIP dinner — also drew Hope Warschaw, daughter of the donors for whom the annual lecture is named; Barbara Yaroslavsky, community activist and wife of L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; and USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences dean Steve Kay.
During an April 28 Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) commemoration at the Los Angeles City Hall Bridge Gallery, hundreds of guests gathered to view the opening of a special exhibition called “The Courage to Remember.”
Created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and viewed in dozens of countries across six continents, the exhibition offers a historical account of the Nazis’ murderous campaign that killed 6 million Jews between 1933 and 1945. It includes approximately 200 photographs, many never seen before by the general public.
The evening commenced with a brief program featuring Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Following the program, guests were able to view the special exhibition, which consisted of 42 panels.
Among the sponsors of the exhibition were L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Controller Ron Galperin, the city’s department of cultural affairs, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the Foundation for California, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Museum of Tolerance, Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
The show outlines the story of the Holocaust through four major chapters: “Nazi Germany” (1933-1938), “Moving Toward the ‘Final Solution’ ” (1939-1941), “Annihilation in Nazi-occupied Europe” (1941-1945) and “Liberation — Building New Lives.”
— Brett Warner, Contributing Writer
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ second-night Passover seder on April 15 at its Wilshire Boulevard headquarters brought together city officials with Jewish community leaders.
Among the approximately 85 attendees were Mayor Eric Garcetti; Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson; City Councilman Paul Koretz and Rabbis Morley Feinstein (University Synagogue), Sharon Brous (IKAR), Zoe Klein (Temple Isaiah) and Susan Goldberg (Wilshire Boulevard Temple).
Sanderson told the Journal that Garcetti had approached Federation with the idea to hold the seder. The Federation leader said it was a success and, he hoped, the first of many.
“It was lovely in every way, and it’s the beginning of what we believe will be an annual event,” Sanderson said. “It was great to have the mayor and his wife, and Maya, his young daughter, and friends and family and leadership from the Jewish community sitting together … through the course of the evening, many families became one family.”
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