Eric Garcetti Embodies L.A. Melting Pot

Jew and Latino, 'Kosher Burrito' Candidate Runs for Mayor

Jew and Latino: Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti greets voters. He is running for mayor of the melting pot city by emphasizing his mixed Jewish and Latino heritage.
Meeno Peluce
Jew and Latino: Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti greets voters. He is running for mayor of the melting pot city by emphasizing his mixed Jewish and Latino heritage.

By Rex Weiner

Published July 03, 2012, issue of July 13, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

“The Kosher Burrito — that’s me,” Los Angeles City Council member Eric Garcetti exclaimed with a toothy grin.

Noshing on chocolate chip rugelach, Garcetti invoked the landmark fusion fast-food joint known for its signature pastrami taco dish to underline the mixed heritage that he hopes will help propel him to City Hall as L.A.’s first Jewish mayor.

Garcetti, who served a decade in the City Council and six years as its president, touts his record of public service as the main reason to elect him mayor in June 2013. But it can’t hurt to invoke his unusual background in a city where Latinos comprise nearly half the population and the 6% that are Jews customarily deliver as much as 20% of the vote.

The product of a Mexican family of Italian extraction on his father’s side and Russian Jews on the maternal side, Garcetti, 41, is a fourth-generation Angeleno. Both sides of his family came to L.A. in the early 20th century, fleeing the Mexican Revolution on one hand and conscription for the Russo-Japanese War on the other. Both settled within blocks of one another in East L.A.’s melting pot Jewish-Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

Early polls show Garcetti, one of three declared mayoral candidates, in a good position to take over when current mayor Antonio Villaraigosa departs after his second, and final, term in office.

He’s far from alone in courting the Jewish vote. His two declared challengers — African-American City Councilwoman Jan Perry (a convert to Judaism) and City Controller Wendy Greuel (married to a Jew) — also have pretty strong credentials in that department.

The 800-pound political gorilla in the room is L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, one of the city’s best-known politicians. The 63-year-old Yaroslavsky has not decided whether to join the race. The veteran politician and legendary champion for Soviet Jewry is widely perceived as the front-runner in the race should he choose to run.

Garcetti’s L.A. Jewish roots match Yaroslavsky’s, and then some. His maternal grandparents, Louis and Julia Roth, were Labor Zionists and founders of Louis Roth Clothes, which ran the first union shop in L.A.’s garment industry. Not far from there, Garcetti recalls, at the home of his Mexican grandparents, he enjoyed bowls of homemade menudo served on Sundays.

He is fluent in Spanish and acknowledges knocking back at least one tequila shot with Villaraigosa on a jaunt showing off the nightclubs in the Hollywood precincts of his district. He also attends services at IKAR, the congregation founded by Rabbi Sharon Brous, a charismatic figure in L.A.’s Jewish community who counts a number of entertainment industry movers and shakers as regulars in her synagogue.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.