Jewish Journal

Israel Festival - Good Times at Rancho Park

by Mark Paredes

April 29, 2012 | 10:56 pm

Under the inspired leadership of Director Ron Smith, the Jewish Relations Committee for the LDS Church in Southern California has sponsored a booth at the Israel Festival in Los Angeles for the second time. Thousands of people attended today’s event, and many stopped by our booth to say hello and to thank us for being there. We handed out 250 Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs (Broadway tunes), along with information on the history of LDS-Jewish ties and BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. With New York’s Salute to Israel Parade and Chicago’s Jewish festival coming up in June, it would be great if Mormons could man booths at those celebrations as well.

This was my Romanian wife’s first Jewish festival and third Jewish event in LA. She was blown away by the energy and organization on display, along with the length of the food lines. For Mormons this was a chance to celebrate the achievements of our fellow Israelites, and it was a beautiful thing for us to see so many people spending their Sunday afternoon in a massive show of support for Israel and the Jewish people.

The LDS community does many things right, but our organized community of lay volunteers would have a hard time matching the output of the organized Jewish community, which is staffed by dedicated (and well-compensated) professionals. That said, I am proud to belong to a church with both a long history of philosemitism and a Jewish Relations Committee in this region. Judging from the comments made by visitors to our booth, more Jews are becoming aware of our bridge-building efforts. It is my hope that these interactions will lead to greater understanding and cooperation between our communities in the future. Am Israel Chai!

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Mark Paredes is a former Mormon bishop currently living in Los Angeles. He has worked for the ZOA, the American Jewish Congress, and the Consulate General of Israel in Los...

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