Jewish Journal

Unwanted: City Breakup

Jewish vote opposes secession.

by Wendy J. Madnick

Posted on Jul. 11, 2002 at 8:00 pm

If the election were held today, secession would fail -- at least among Jewish voters, according to a recent Los Angeles Times Poll.

Jewish voters are strongly against secession, more so than any other religious group, according to the July 2 poll. Out of 1,291 total voters surveyed citywide, 168 identified themselves as Jewish; of those voters, 57 percent stated they were against secession and 34 percent said they were for it. Only 9 percent said they were undecided, which Susan Pinkus, director of the Los Angeles Times Poll, said was "very low undecideds for this stage in the game."

Jewish voters were more strongly against secession than the total voters citywide. The Times poll found that citywide, 47 percent of all those surveyed said they were against secession. The numbers for Valley voters only were, not surprisingly, more favorable toward secession, showing 52 percent for and 37 percent against. Although the number of Jewish voters was too low to allow for a breakdown of Valley Jews vs. city Jews, Pinkus said even in the Valley, Jewish voters were strongly against the breakup.

Comparing Jewish voters with other religious groups, Pinkus said the polls showed Catholic voters citywide divided on the issue, with 43 percent against and 40 percent for secession, while Protestants were closer in their votes to Jewish voters, with 50 percent against and 35 percent in favor of the breakup. However, unlike the results from Jewish voters, those trends reversed when applied to only Valley residents, reflecting the general population's leanings.

Jewish leaders, many of whom are themselves against secession, said they were not surprised by the poll's findings.

"I'm not surprised, but I am pleased to hear the majority of Jewish voters are against secession," said Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

Diamond spent more than a year studying the Valley, Hollywood and Harbor secession proposals as part of a task force for the Council of Religious Leaders.

"The status quo is clearly not working, but proponents of secession would have to make their case that it will significantly improve the lives of residents both in the city and the Valley, and I think they have failed that test," he said. "In addition, as a religious leader I have a special concern for the needs of the poor and the disenfranchised. To date, I have seen no firm data that would demonstrate the folks in favor of secession really have the interests of the poor at heart."

Rabbi Don Goor of Temple Judea, which has campuses in Tarzana and West Hills, said he believes Jewish voters in the Valley would naturally be uncomfortable with the idea of breaking off from the city of Los Angeles.

"We understand the value of being a part of a larger community and believe very deeply in community. In fact, there is a quote from the Mishnah that says 'Al tifrosh min hatzibur,' which means, 'Don't separate yourself from the community,'" Goor said. "The other thing to consider is that the Jewish community in Los Angeles has been very successful at building coalitions and making sure the values important to us are heard at the citywide level. I would hate for that to be lost."

But secession proponents say the Times Poll results contradict the feedback they receive from Jewish sources.

"The results are contrary to what we hear out in the Jewish community," said Richard Close, chairman of Valley VOTE and longtime president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. "For my friends and associates who are Jewish, particularly those in the Valley, it is a question of smaller city council districts and more responsive government, and so they favor [secession]."

Regarding Diamond's comments, Close pointed out that, as noted in a recent article in the Daily News, "The city of Los Angeles gives the least amount of help to its poor compared to any of the surrounding communities like Burbank and Glendale. So I do not think Los Angeles is the city to look to as an example of what we could be doing for the poor."

"There is also more to the issue than just the poor," Close continued. "The middle class is leaving the city and the Valley in droves, businesses are leaving in droves because of inadequate police and paramedic services and because of the poor quality of the schools. If we're concerned about the poor, we should also be concerned about the middle class."

Still, if the Times Poll is accurate, the majority of Jewish voters would agree with Goor's analysis of secession.

"I think it's against our interests politically and against our principles Jewishly," Goor concluded.

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