click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

LA’s Jewish Mayor

LA’s Jewish Mayor

Why his election doesn’t make me burst with pride (yet).


I never thought Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song – you know the one where he lists famous Jews (or not) – was very funny. Maybe I just don’t get pop culture, but I just don’t get the point. In fact I don’t get the point of any of those lists. And I feel the same way about the recent mayoral election in Los Angeles.

Apparently we (I use the term loosely; I confess to only voting in federal elections) elected Los Angeles’ first Jewish mayor. The media is trumpeting the news. And yet it leaves me cold. It doesn’t mean anything to me.

What’s going on? I’m certainly proud to be part of the Jewish people. I certainly share the joys and pains of our brothers and sisters. I care deeply for the Jews of Israel and across the globe. So shouldn’t I be excited?

I don’t think it’s because I don’t care; I think it’s a reflection of what I do care about – character. Now the new mayor, Eric Garcetti, may be a man of sterling character, someone to respect and admire, a human being who sanctifies God’s name in the world. If so, that would really be something to celebrate. But we don’t know yet; and neither do the reporters who are all bursting with pride.

On the other hand, he may be (although I certainly hope not), like many politicians – self-serving, of weak moral character, and a desecration of the Almighty’s name in the world. In which case, we would all hide our heads in shame.

Obviously I wish for the former. In fact, I pray for the former. But until I know for sure, we don’t know if this is good fortune or a tragedy.

Someone’s Jewishness alone doesn’t make them praiseworthy. It makes them my brother. It makes their happiness my happiness and their pain my pain. And it means that their actions affect me – for good and for bad.

Lists of Jews who are famous are meaningless to me. List of Jews who are famous for being extraordinarily kind, unusually generous, especially thoughtful, who gave of their time and their love to others; they inspire me. They make me proud.

I know Adam Sandler’s song is meant to be humorous. But it touches a chord. Yes, Jews have achieved prominence in society. Yes, they have received accolades and awards in their professions.

But only one type of accomplishment makes me proud, makes me sit up and pay attention – refinement of character. I know some Jews like that. You probably don’t know their names. They’re not mentioned in any songs, books, online articles or Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis. Yet their hearts and hands are open to Jews in need at all times. They can’t sleep if another Jew is lost, is in pain.

Maybe someday I’ll write about those people. But probably not. They wouldn’t want the publicity. They’d be mortified. They do what they do only because they are. They make me proud. They make me better. They make me want to be like them. They are my role models and not a Jewish mayor, actor or athlete.

I hope Mr. Garcetti will turn out to be just like my heroes. Maybe he is already. I don’t know yet. The Jewish pride will have to wait.

May 27, 2013

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 28

(25) Wendy, December 5, 2013 2:10 AM

In praise of the Real & Truthful

We will find out what this man is about. He will show his true colors. He chose a very public life and hopefully knows how to do the right thing. No one is perfect, and knowing how to be a mensch is often learned long before one is old enough to be elected to a public office.

(24) Mark, June 12, 2013 7:16 AM

Proud of Jewish Achievement

When I see Jewish people achieving distinction,, it reminds me of the special blessing that we enjoy. Is it not incredible that a people, who comprise less than one percent of world population, have representatives in the forefront of every endeavor?

(23) Suzanne, June 4, 2013 9:08 PM

I agree

There are plenty of Jewish politicians out there that are working AGAINST the interest of the Jewish people. It's a horrible fact.

(22) Rachel, May 30, 2013 8:17 PM

Honoring Jewish accomplishment, and voting

1. If my fellow Jew does well by honorable means, I will honor him/her -- whether the success is in the form of politics, academia, the arts, etc. And I think your characterization that we don't give enough honor to the charitable is inaccurate. Every time I get an invitation to a Jewish event, part of the event includes honoring members of the community (typically those who can afford large donations, but sometimes others who make other sorts of time commitments for the community.)

2. Why on earth would you refrain from voting in state & local elections? For one thing -- it gives readers the impression that you're really only interested in Israel, and thus in federal elections, because only the federal government plays a substantial role in US foreign policy. But in addition, there are many issues of concern to Jews in state and local elections, whether it's local governments providing public transportation for day schools as well as public schools, zoning that may affect the right to build a synagogue in a residential area, state and local taxes, police & fire department resources -- I could go on and on. And as another commenter put it: If you don't vote, you have no right to complain if you don't like the policies put in place by the politicians.

(21) scott, May 30, 2013 12:10 PM

I gotta tell you as a later-life ba’al teshuvah one of the biggest obstacles to starting the process of returning to Judaism was religious Jews. I understand from where I stand now that religious life is better for me and probably better for every Jew…but the earlier me really didn’t like the self righteous condemnation of everything culturally Jewish that wasn’t perfectly religiously Jewish that I kept hearing from religious Jews.

I like Adam Sandler. I like his movies. They are all-without exception irreverent morality plays that talk about personal growth and the value of charity to ones fellow man, honesty and family. I especially like the Chanukah Song because it is truly Jewish. Chanukah is about celebrating the miracle of a small nation of Jews overcoming the world largest power at the time and persevering as a people and a religion. His song is the secular version of lighting candles in full view of the street. It tells little kids that Jews are present and thriving even in a world in which we are an ostracized minority. He’s not dressed in black with a beard and kippah while singing, but the ethnic and cultural pride his song plays to has probably kept at least a few kids Jewish…maybe even got them thinking about what Jewish is.

As for the wait and see attitude on the new Jewish mayor…is it also appropriate to wait to express joy at a bris until we see whether or not the kid turns out well? A good thing that happens to a Jew is a good thing that happens to a Jew.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment