Los Angeles mayor pledges to work with Jewish community following antisemitic attacks
The town hall was convened by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following two separate attacks on Jewish individuals in the community
Addressing hate is a “chief component” of Los Angeles’ public safety agenda, Mayor Karen Bass said at a town hall hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Monday evening, following the arrest of a man charged in two separate shootings outside of local synagogues last Wednesday and Thursday.
“Antisemitism crawls out of the shadows,” Bass said. “Make no mistake, Angelenos from every community stand united to stamp it out and to ensure that justice is served. Antisemitism has no place in Los Angeles.”
The gathering, held at the YULA Boys High School in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Pico-Robertson, served as a solidarity rally, with speakers reinforcing that the Jewish community has the support of local government and law enforcement after the incidents, each of which wounded one person.
Antisemitism is “the world’s oldest hate,” federation CEO Rabbi Noah Farkas said to the crowd of 400 people, listing some of the communities, including Colleyville, Texas, and Pittsburgh, that have been the sites of anti-Jewish violence in recent years. “We have been assaulted, we have been beaten, we have been kidnapped and held hostage, and now we have been shot,” he said. “We know from our long history that hate speech leads to hate crimes. What begins with words, often ends in bullets.”
About 20 people representing local government, law enforcement and the Jewish community spoke to the events and the city’s plan to combat antisemitism. In attendance were many of Los Angeles’ nonprofit professionals, rabbis, educators, parents of children in Jewish schools and concerned community members.
The messaging from the community leaders was meant to boost spirits and identify how the community can move forward: promoting better education city-wide; increased reporting of any hate-related incidents, verbal and physical; and increasing the number of LAPD officers.
The event also included a security briefing from Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore, who recommended that community members volunteer with the LAPD to get some basic training and take on administrative and other tasks that might otherwise have taken officers off the street. He urged people to push back against hate. “Don’t allow it to go unchallenged,” Moore said. “And anyone, famous figure or otherwise, should be boycotted when they will not take a stand against such hateful rhetoric.”
Bass and several others noted that proactive steps to respond to such incidents include adding cameras, adding police presence as well as license plate readers. Those technologies were instrumental in tracking and apprehending the individual charged in the recent shootings.
Uniformed officers and Deputy Chiefs David Kowalsky and Blake Chow were also present, as was L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna, as well as representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
During a question and answer session, Bass was asked how the Jewish community could gauge her administration’s effectiveness on the matter, and she invited people to “come with me and plan together.”
“I don’t govern at the people,” Bass added. “I govern with the people.” She agreed that hate crimes are underreported and suggested a PR campaign about how to report hate crimes. “Develop the plan with me and you can hold me accountable.”
Bass also noted that “people get their information from so many places that it can be confusing,” suggesting an aggressive campaign for both education and for awareness.
Bass, who was sworn in as mayor in December 2022, announced that her deputy mayor for public safety will start work soon and the deputy mayor for community safety has already started; they’ll be touring the diverse neighborhoods and meeting with locals to determine what helps each community feel safe.
City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky said she’d do “everything in my power to make sure our community is safe,” including bringing a motion to the City Council meeting Monday morning to secure funding to expand the federation’s Community Security Initiative.
Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA) called the gathering “an act of resistance…Sometimes showing up, standing up, speaking up with your allies is the least you can do. The antidote for hate is humanity,” she said.
David Bocarsly, the executive director of Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC), told eJP he came to hear from elected officials and law enforcement about how they were engaged in this work, “making sure all communities are going to be protected.”
“We have to address the lifespan of hate. Root it out where it’s taught, stop it from being spread, physically protect ourselves from people who have held hate in their heart and want to do harm and how to respond,” he said. JPAC’s legislative agenda includes security grants, he said, and successfully secured $50 million a year for the last two years. This year, the group is asking for $80 million, Bocarsly said. “There’s a drastic need for this right now. Not only in the last week have we shown that need, but last year’s grants were given out to 30 percent of the applicants, so it’s very clear how much demand there is for security infrastructure.”