In these Challenging Times: Why Los Angeles Requires a JCRC
In 1933 Los Angeles established one of the first and most successful JCRC’s (Jewish Community Relations Committee) in the nation. During its six decades of operation, the LA “CRC” was responsible for helping to coordinate collective community action on behalf of Jewish political interests, promote constructive intergroup relations, and advance the case for Israel along with other Jewish priorities.
In Steven Ross’ best selling volume, Hitler in Los Angeles, we can find no better testimony in pointing to the value, effectiveness and impact of such a communal voice.
The Community Relations Committee represented the Jewish political and civic interests of LA Jews. Through its cooperation with its national and local partners, the CRC addressed critical civic issues including civil rights, church-state, and other policy and legislative concerns. It’s work with local, state, and national officials and government institutions reflected one of its central functions.
During the immediate post-World War II era, as an example, the CRC was involved with such issues as civil liberties, immigration legislation, religion in public schools, interracial relations, discrimination in housing and fair employment practices. During this period, the Community Relations Committee was active as well with the Hollywood community in dealing with stereotyping of Jews and other minorities, employment discrimination and issues of religious tolerance.
During the later decades of the 20th century, the CRC’s agenda was focused on specific and essential Jewish priorities, directing its efforts in addressing anti-Semitism, advancing pro-Israel advocacy, and advocating for Soviet Jewry. Operating both in the public sphere and also through private channels, the CRC was particularly effective in serving the interests of the Jewish community. Over the years its meetings, rallies and public events brought a wide array of national and local leaders and Israeli officials before LA audiences. It’s public statements and actions drew media and press coverage.
Along with other communities in California, the CRC helped to create a Sacramento presence, JPAC (Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California), in order to address Jewish interests on a statewide basis. At times, the Committee played a convening role in representing the Jewish community at city hall and in Washington, D.C.
Embracing the practice of “decision-making consensus” permitted the broadest communal engagement in connection with the policies and positions adopted by the CRC. In its prime, the CRC’s membership was comprised of community relations agency representatives, synagogue and national organization delegates, and a significant cross section of this city’s prominent and most influential Jewish citizens.
Today, Los Angeles is the only major Jewish community in North America without such a public policy and advocacy voice! When it eventually went out of existence, this community lost a critical voice in managing the political interests of Los Angeles Jews. By contrast, over the past several years, a number of Jewish communities have actually established such representative structures, including Phoenix, Seattle and Atlanta.
In today’s politically divisive environment, the reestablishment of the CRC would permit thoughtful dialogue and essential collective action, bringing together a community that has few venues where such is possible. As anti-Semitic behavior grows and anti-Israel activities continue to unfold on a daily basis, Los Angeles Jewry requires an institutional framework for collaborative engagement and mutual action.