EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Garcetti tells LA Jewish teens to build bridges to other groups in wake of Pittsburgh tragedy
Live with courage, not fear, mayor says in interview with the Boiling Point
October 29, 2018
It’s okay to feel the pain of what is happening, to feel it and cry. But remember to stand up afterward, get involved and build bridges.
That was the message to Jewish teenagers from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, speaking to Boiling Point reporters while canvassing door-to-door in Santa Clarita one day after 11 worshipers were gunned down at Saturday morning services in their synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Mayor Garcetti, who is Jewish himself, was campaigning in support of Democratic Congressional candidate Katie Hill.
“It’s okay to be sad and to cry and to feel this moment,” Mayor Garcetti said. “It’s really important to take a beat and recognize the pain of what happened.”
After that, he said, there is work to be done.
“Teenagers should get involved in their communities and in politics,” said the mayor. “Get engaged, and build coalitions with people inside and outside of the Jewish community.”
The massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation was the largest anti-Semitic terror attack in American history. But Mayor Garcetti said he does not think it is a harbinger of widespread attacks against Jews, similar to the ones in Europe before the Holocaust.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the New York Times on Saturday that it could be.
“I’m afraid to say that we may be at the beginning of what has happened to Europe, the consistent anti-Semitic attacks,” said Rabbi Hier.
Asked whether he thought Jewish teens should be afraid of the America they are growing up in, Mayor Garcetti said no.
“I choose not to live my life with fear, but to live with courage, and that is what I think Jewish teenagers should do in this moment,” Mayor Garcetti said.
Much later in the day, he recalled his Boiling Point interview during a speech to a citywide interfaith vigil about Pittsburgh held at the Federal Building in Westwood. Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish population in the United States.
“I was asked by a high school student who was Jewish today, ‘What do we do right now, Mayor — what would your advice be to my peers, to young Jews?’ the mayor said, referring to his Boiling Point interview.
“And I would say do not be afraid,” he told about 700 people there, according to police estimates. Many held lit candles in memory of the Pittsburgh victims.
“This is your country,” he said. “I would say do not retreat to our caves or to our tribes, but reach out to your fellow Jews, to the Muslims and Christians that are here, to African-Americans who feel pain this week, to people who have been attacked, and make sure that we say we will speak out loud and strong.”
At the vigil, he also read the names of the 11 Pittsburgh victims, adding to them the victims of a racially motivated shooting of two African-Americans last week in Louisville, Ky.
“Somebody looked for African-Americans in a church to kill, and when he couldn’t go in there went into a grocery store and shot Maurice Stalard, and in the parking lot Vicki Lee Jones,” he said.
“When our elders are mowed down, when our people are killed as a baby is being named, when our first responders who come to protect us are shot alongside, as we are told that we need to beef up our security, as we are told that it could have been worse, as we are told that we shouldn’t talk about guns or mental health or anti-semitism,” he said, “as one killing erases bombs sent around this country and this killing erases the memory of two African-Americans shot just two days before, we will not be silent.”
He said Americans should not give up.
“”We say we will stop the scapegoating, stop the conspiracies, stop the violence, the hatred,” he told the crowd. “Not in this America.”
A community prayer vigil and tehillim have been scheduled for tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills.
Staff writer Sam Rubanowitz contributed to this story.