Several leading candidates running for mayor of Los Angeles have been busy
courting the Jewish vote and stressing their own Judaic ties in a race in which
the city’s proportionally small Jewish population may hold the key to
Los Angeles’s primary election is scheduled for March 5 and in
an election expected to receive a low number of votes, the high turnout among
Jewish voters could prove critical for candidates.
Three of the leading
candidates for mayor recently stressed their connections to Judaism at a debate
at the Beth Jacob Orthodox synagogue in Beverly Hills.
Garcetti, councilwoman Jan Perry and city controller Wendy Gruel all stressed
their close ties to the Jewish community at the event.
Democrat, is the son of a Mexican-American father and a Jewish mother of Russian
ancestry, Perry is an African American who converted to Judaism in the 1980s,
and while Gruel is not Jewish, her husband is and their son is being raised in
the faith. Also running are two non-Jews: Emanuel Pleitez and Republican Kevin
During the Beth Jacob debate, 89.3 KPCC Southern California Public
Radio reported that Garcetti told attendees that his “family came here as
dreamers and as doers... fleeing wars – on my father’s side, the Mexican
Revolution; on my mother’s side from pogroms under the czars.” According to The
Los Angeles Times, he called himself a “kosher burrito.”
reportedly attends a non-denominational congregation, attempted to gain traction
with Jewish voters by reminding them of his past support for captive soldier
Both he and Perry were reported as saying that they would
allow Jewish values to inform their decisions.
Perry said she would work
for families struggling to pay rising tuition costs for private Jewish day
schools and that her Jewish identity is integral to her identity.
to describe herself as something of an amalgam who represents the different
racial groupings in the diverse American city, Perry defined herself as “a woman
who is African American, chose to become Jewish and speaks Spanish in a city
where all doors are open to me,” according to KPCC radio.
synagogue and sends her son to Hebrew school. When asked by the local Jewish
Journal newspaper why she lives a Jewish life but has not converted, she replied
that conversion “certainly is a part of my perspective of something I would like
“I believe in the Jewish tradition and religion, the values that
the community have are important to me. About giving back, about the good moral
values, about being part of a community,” Gruel told the Journal.
journalist from KPCC radio noted that although Jews make up only 6 percent of
the city’s population, they are represented disproportionately in elections due
to their high voter turnout as a community.
One estimate pegged the
Jewish community as representing up to 17% of all ballots cast in the race for
the city’s top executive.
While some community members have expressed
suspicion that the candidates are playing up their Jewish ties merely to garner
votes, local federation leader Sam Yebri disagreed, telling the The Los Angeles
Times that, in his opinion, the candidates are “not showing up at Jewish events
in 2012 and 2013 because there’s an election looming. None of them are
strangers to the Jewish community.”