Jewish-Latino Melt­ing Pot

Forward Magazine - - Page Two - This in­ter­view has been edited for style and length.

Af­ter a year on the job, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, 43, has en­joyed mostly pos­i­tive re­views from An­ge­lenos who have cred­ited him with re­form­ing the daily op­er­a­tions of the city’s govern­ment as well as with mov­ing his “back to ba­sics” ini­tia­tives for­ward in job cre­ation, traf­fic and pub­lic safety.

Though crit­ics say that Garcetti has not been bold enough in cre­at­ing and pur­su­ing his agenda, the mayor can point to his vic­to­ries in ma­jor la­bor ne­go­ti­a­tions, a re­vamped fire depart­ment hir­ing sys­tem, as well as to gain­ing the sup­port of the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers for his am­bi­tious $1 bil­lion pro­posal to re­de­velop the L.A. River and its sur­round­ing ar­eas.

The city’s first elected Jewish mayor, Garcetti has also been ac­tively in­volved with cre­at­ing more co­op­er­a­tion be­tween L.A. and Is­rael, most re­cently in the form of the Los Angeles/Ei­lat In­no­va­tion and Co­op­er­a­tion Task Force, which aims to help Is­raeli and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia-based businesses, uni­ver­si­ties and not­for-prof­its work to­gether to solve is­sues re­lated to wa­ter re­sources, so­lar en­ergy and other en­vi­ron­men­tal tech­nolo­gies.

In an in­ter­view held at his of­fice in Down­town Los Angeles, Garcetti and the For­ward’s Noah Smith dis­cussed is­sues re­lat­ing to the Jewish and Is­raeli com­mu­ni­ties.

NOAH SMITH: In light of re­cent pro­pos­als to boy­cott and/or di­vest from Is­rael on Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia cam­puses and through­out the coun­try, what are some of the spe­cific ways in which the City of Los Angeles ben­e­fits from its co­op­er­a­tion with the State of Is­rael? ERIC GARCETTI:

Be­cause we have sim­i­lar land and sim­i­lar chal­lenges of drought, of en­ergy in­de­pen­dence, of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, I think we feel a real nat­u­ral affin­ity with Is­rael. With the coast line and moun­tains, you go to Is­rael and you feel like you’re in Cal­i­for­nia and vice versa, which I think is why so many Is­raelis prob­a­bly set­tle here so com­fort­ably and there are such close ties. This is not only an im­por­tant Jewish city, it has now be­come an im­por­tant Is­raeli-Amer­i­can city, I think one of the great cities of Is­raeli ex­pats in the world.

In terms of spe­cific pro­grams, there’s a lot of tech stuff go­ing on. Sil­i­con Val­ley is still No. 1, Tel Aviv is 2 and L.A. is 3 in the world when you look at tech star­tups.

As far as divest­ment, the City of L.A. went fur­ther than hav­ing to just do these [divest­ment votes] one at a time. We now have a pol­icy to say we will never not do busi­ness be­cause of BDS [boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions] with a com­pany. Coun­cilmem­ber [Bob] Blu­men­field put that for­ward, I signed it into law and it’s now a pol­icy of the city.

Why did you de­cide to en­dorse that pro­posal?

I’m a Jewish mayor. I’m sup­port­ive of the State of Is­rael, so I have a per­sonal im­pulse, but I can make the case to any­body, whether they care about Is­rael or not, that this is in our self­ish in­ter­est and [Is­rael is] one of the most aligned places in the world with the same needs we have, and L.A. is prob­a­bly the most open place in the world, the most di­verse pop­u­la­tion ever put to­gether in one place. If in any way we were to shut down those ties with any­body, then that would come at a cost to who we are.

How would you char­ac­ter­ize the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Latino com­mu­nity and the Jewish and pro-Is­rael com­mu­ni­ties?

I think there is a strong re­la­tion­ship be­tween Jews and Lati­nos. Cer­tainly among lead­ers there has been a con­scious ef­fort for the last 20 years. That said, the aver­age Latino prob­a­bly doesn’t know a lot about Jews, and the aver­age Jew prob­a­bly doesn’t know a lot about Latino cul­ture here, so I think, for your aver­age res­i­dent, there’s still a lot of work to be done. If Jews aren’t in­volved with Lati­nos, the chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics are go­ing to pass them by. I feel in a unique po­si­tion, ob­vi­ously, to help bridge that, be­cause I am the bridge. I am the ge­netic bridge be­tween us. I feel very proud to be both a Latino and a Jew.

You re­cently posted a photo of yourself on In­sta­gram in which you’re wear­ing a yarmulke. Were you sur­prised by the num­ber of anti-Semitic com­ments it re­ceived?

Be­cause I have an Ital­ian last name, most people have never as­sumed quickly [that] I’m Latino or Jewish, so I got to hear what people re­ally think of Jews and Lati­nos. The for­est fire of anti-Semitism may have burned out in this coun­try, but there are still a lot of brush fires and they have the abil­ity to light up. It made me feel a lit­tle ex­posed, a lit­tle sad, but also made me feel con­nected to what so many people feel in a much more ex­treme way — not just Jews, but people who ex­pe­ri­ence racism and prej­u­dice.


An­ge­leno: As the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti has gone ‘back to ba­sics’ in govern­ment, col­lab­o­rated with Is­rael, taken a city-wide stance against BDS and felt the brunt of anti-Semitism.

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