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JPAC Summit Draws 500 People to Sacramento, ‘Heroes’ Concert at Adat Ari El

Approximately 500 Jewish leaders, community members and college students from across California turned out to the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California (JPAC) Capitol Summit, a two-day conference held from May 14-15 at downtown Sacramento’s Sheraton Hotel.

A delegation of nearly 100 members of Jewish Federation Los Angeles were among those who turned out to hear from keynote speakers including California Democratic state leaders Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who delivered prerecorded remarks via video; State Attorney General Rob Bonta; Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis; State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond; and Jewish Council for Public Affairs CEO Amy Spitalnick.

The keynotes underlined the importance of standing strong with the Jewish community at a moment widely considered among the most challenging in recent history. Indeed, events related to Oct. 7 were top of mind among those in attendance. 

The summit began Tuesday evening with California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) presenting Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) with the Jerry Sampson Memorial Award. Gabriel, a representative from the San Fernando Valley, cochairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. 

Rivas called Gabriel “a seasoned pro” and praised the elected official’s commitment to tackling antisemitism at California’s state-run college campuses and K-12 public schools. “I share Jesse’s commitment to keeping students safe, particularly our Jewish students,” Rivas said.

At JPAC’s recent advocacy summit in Sacramento, Jewish leaders from across the state visited the State Capitol to lobby for a package of bills focused on preventing antisemitism, nonprofit security grants and Holocaust education. Photo courtesy of JPAC

JPAC also honored Shelley Rivlin, who serves on the regional boards of the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, with the Earl Raab Award. The award is named for the late Jewish intellectual, writer and leader.

Additionally, community leader Nancy Volpert — who for more than 17 years worked at Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, including as its senior director of public policy and community engagement—was feted with the Barbara Yaroslavsky Award. The honor is named for the late activist and leader, Barbara Yaroslavsky, who was the wife of former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The conference kicked off with a bang, with 50 elected officials, nearly half of the total legislators serving in the state assembly and senate—the California State Assembly has 80 members, and the State Senate has 40 members—showing up to a dinner at the hotel ballroom. 

Among them was the leadership of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, including State Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who with Gabriel co-chairs the Jewish Caucus; Ben Allen (D-El Segundo); and Josh Newman (D-Fullerton); and Assemblymembers Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Hollywood); Laura Friedman (D-Burbank); and Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). 

Newman—a Democrat whose district encompasses parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties—said that since Oct. 7, two wars were being fought: one in Gaza and one on college campuses. He was one of many elected officials to express support for Jewish students confronting antisemitism on campuses.

An annual event, the JPAC Summit provides representatives of Jewish communal groups an opportunity to hear from elected officials in the state legislature and lobby for a package of bills supported by Jewish groups. This year, much of the focus was the rise of statewide antisemitism in the aftermath of Oct. 7. 

Over the clatter of silverware as people enjoyed lunch on Wednesday, David Bocarsly, executive director at JPAC, spoke to the Journal about the relationship-building aspect of the summit. 

“These lobby meetings,” he said, “are really about building an understanding of our community’s top priorities.”

Israeli singer-songwriter Gilad Segev and Israeli singer Shanee Zamir perform at Adat Ari El during a “Heroes” concert commemorating Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. Photo by Abraham Pal

An uplifting musical concert, “Heroes,” drew more than 450 people to Adat Ari El on May 13 and paid tribute to those who gave their lives saving others on Oct. 7. 

The multimedia evening commemorated Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut and featured Israeli singer-songwriter Gilad Segev. For a couple of songs, Segev was joined by Los Angeles-based singer Shanee Zamir. 

Also turning out were Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei and Cantor Judy Dubin Aranoff, who welcomed guests and recited the “El Maleh Rachamim” prayer. Thirteen-year-old Eden Kontesz sang the U.S. national anthem, and Aranoff sang Hatikvah.

Featured speakers included a wounded veteran from Beit Halochem, which raises charitable funds for the rehabilitation of wounded Israeli veterans, and Lior Yehuda from IAC Lead.

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