Mayor Eric Garcetti said his close ties to the Jewish community will not only enable him to respond better to communal concerns, but also spur him to draw on the community for its help in addressing some of the city’s pressing needs.
The new mayor spoke to about 150 invited guests at an Aug.4 reception in his honor, sponsored by the Jewish Federation. Representatives of numerous synagogues and Jewish institutions, as well as Israel Consul General David Siegel, greeted the mayor at the sprawling Brentwood estate of Bill and Cece Feiler.
In her opening benediction, Rabbi Sharon Brous of the IKAR congregation, which Garcetti attends, urged Garcetti to continue his focus on the poor and underserved in the city.
“I want to bless you with urgency. We are here to help you, and to utz you,” Brous said, using the Yiddish word for “push.”
Garcetti opened his remarks with a humorous take on his place in L.A. Jewish history.
“I’m not the first Jewish mayor of this city,” he said. “There was a guy named Bernard Cohn in the 1800s, who was appointed mayor and promptly died. So I’ve already outlasted him. I am the longest serving, elected Jewish mayor in L.A. history.”
Garcetti’s mother, Suky Roth, is the daughter of Harry Roth, a successful clothing merchant. His father Gil Garcetti’s family is of Italian, Mexican-Catholic background.
The rebirth of the original Sinai Temple in Pico-Union as a multi-faith community center, and the Jewish community’s revival of the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights are emblematic of the way he—and the Jewish community—can use history to shape the future, Garcetti said. He said his maternal grandparents used to pray at Breed Street Shul, while his Latino paternal grandparents lived in the neighborhood.
“It’s our roots that somehow guide our future,” the mayor said. “When we reconnect with where we come from we become not only more fully realized in terms of who we are as human beings, but as Jews as well,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti urged the Jewish community to help him address all of L.A.’s issues. “How many of you, if I just fixed traffic on Sunset, dayenu?” Garcetti said, using the Hebrew expression for “that would be enough.”
The crowd laughed—and many raised their hands. But Garcetti continued to speak about a broader agenda.
“We’re the Jewish mayor,” said Garcetti, “what sort of opportunity do we have first for folks to come and let me know what we need as a community, but secondly for me as a mayor to say this is what I need from the community, on immigration, poverty, literacy, schools, on traffic. We can lead the way.”