LA city officials and Jewish leaders tackle ways to fight antisemitism

With antisemitism on the rise, Los Angeles city officials and leaders from the local and international Jewish community gathered at City Hall on Thursday, March 2, to discuss ways to tackle the problem, with some noting that the shootings of two Jews in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood last month are the latest reminders to be vigilant.

“We are among the most diverse cities in the nation, and we have to do better when it comes to fighting hate,” Richard Hirschhaut, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles chapter, said during a press conference following the roundtable discussion.

In November, the Los Angeles City Council adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of “antisemitism” to help city officials and employees better understand what constitutes antisemitism. The vote took place about a week after antisemitic banners were draped on an overpass over the 405 Freeway.

Katharina von Schnurbein, the first European Commission Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism, speaks to the media after participating in a round table discussion at Los Angeles City Hall regarding antisemitism in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Eddo Verdoner, the Netherlands’ national coordinator for countering antisemitism, speaks to the media after participating in a round table discussion at Los Angeles City Hall regarding antisemitism in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Richard S. Hirschhaut Regional Director, AJC Los Angeles, speaks to the media after participating in a round table discussion at Los Angeles City Hall regarding antisemitism in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international Jewish affairs, speaks to the media after participating in a round table discussion at Los Angeles City Hall regarding antisemitism in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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L.A. is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the nation.

Thursday’s roundtable discussion, hosted by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, included representatives of the American Jewish Committee and two European envoys who participated in discussions at the White House this week as part of the Biden administration’s effort to develop a national strategy to combat antisemitism.

Participants at Thursday’s roundtable also included councilmembers Heather Hutt, Nithya Raman and Hugo Soto-Martinez, as well as representatives for councilmembers John Lee, Traci Park and Katy Yaroslavsky and the city attorney’s office.

It was not open to the public. Afterward, participants said they discussed ideas to forge solidarity between different groups, and provide training to teachers, coaches and law enforcement personnel to help them recognize antisemitism and facilitate classroom discussions.

They discussed the issue of easy gun access, citing the recent Pico-Robertson shootings, and the need for more mental health services.

Eddo Verdoner, Netherlands’ national coordinator for countering antisemitism, said people erroneously thought antisemitism would end after World War II.

“Either we’ve been sleeping or either we’ve been too tolerant or maybe too indifferent – I don’t know – but it’s come back to haunt us,” Verdoner said, noting an increase in antisemitic remarks online and in political discourses.

“This is a wake-up call … to all of us,” he said. “Antisemitism is not something that harms only a Jewish community.”

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