Wednesday, September 14, 2022

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law a social media transparency measure that he says protects residents from hate and disinformation posts spread through social media platforms. 

A.B. 587 will require social media companies to publicly post their policies regarding hate speech, disinformation, harassment and extremism on their platforms and report data on their enforcement of the policies.

The newly signed legislation will also require platforms to file semiannual reports to the state’s attorney general’s office that will disclose their policies on hate speech, extremism and disinformation.

The state’s attorney general’s office is also required “to make all terms of service reports submitted pursuant to those provisions available to the public in a searchable repository on its official internet website.” 

The bill was first introduced by state Rep. Jesse Gabriel (D) and was co-authored by a group of state representatives including Buffy Wicks (D) and Jordan Cunningham (R) and state Sens. Richard Pan (D), Henry Stern (D) and Scott Weiner (D). 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A unique initiative championed by a Jewish East Bay state senator will invest $25 million in journalism across California, focusing on “news deserts,” or communities lacking in robust independent reporting.

The program is the result of efforts by Steve Glazer, a Democrat representing portions of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, and his staff. Glazer also sits on the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

Journalism “is critical to a functioning democracy,” Glazer said. “This initiative attempts to overcome the concerns about government interference in the media. It does this by supercharging journalistic endeavors that keep government and government leaders accountable for honest services.”

The program is funded by AB 179, or the Budget Act of 2022, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 6.

The initiative comes as communities across the United States, particularly in rural areas, continue to see local newspapers dwindle as a result of declining revenues, among other factors. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Abill to extend the California Nonprofit Security Grant Program permanently — and more than double the maximum amount that nonprofits, including synagogues, can apply for — has passed the Legislature and now awaits action from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Introduced by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat who represents a good chunk of the San Fernando Valley and chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, AB-1664 sailed unanimously through both the Senate and the Assembly in votes on Aug. 23 and 24.

The bill was co-sponsored by the Jewish Public Affairs Committee, which lobbied for $80 million for the program that allows organizations to bolster their security features. There is a serious need for the funding among California organizations, JPAC executive director David Bocarsly said.

“The reason it was important for us to establish the program in the first place [in 2019] was to clearly demonstrate that the State of California is invested in [the NSGP] and supporting the safety of all vulnerable institutions in California,” Bocarsly said.

If signed by Newsom before a Sept. 30 deadline, the bill would raise the limit on funds an organization can apply for to $500,000, from $200,000. It would also add security training as an eligible security measure for funding under the program, and would limit the amount an awardee can use on “construction and renovation” to $100,000.

The NSGP was established by a bill co-sponsored by Gabriel and other members of the Jewish caucus in the wake of a fatal shooting at Chabad of Poway in San Diego County. A previous version of the program had existed through the federal government, but it supplied applicants across California with only $4.5 million between 2015 and 2019.

Monday, August 1, 2022

With San Francisco having emerged as the epicenter of California’s monkeypox outbreak — with nearly 400 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, the day after the city’s state of emergency went into effect — local LGBTQ Jewish leaders are stepping to the forefront.

One prominent gay San Franciscan, state Sen. Scott Wiener, began urging city leaders early on to declare the state of emergency, saying it would “create significant flexibility around testing, contracting for services and administration of vaccinations.”


Wiener, a member of California’s Legislative Jewish Caucus and its Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, noted that “San Francisco was at the forefront of the public health responses to HIV and Covid-19, and we will be at the forefront when it comes to monkeypox. We can’t and won’t leave the LGBTQ community out to dry.”


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Two Jewish members of the state Assembly representing the Bay Area, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Marc Levine, have introduced legislation that would change hate crime laws by meting out the same punishment for using different “terror symbols,” such as swastikas, nooses and burning crosses.

AB 2282, motivated by the posting of pro-Nazi stickers in Marin County in November 2020, would also expand the number of places where the law is applied to include public property, parks and facilities; school campuses; places of worship and cemeteries.

Under current law, fines and minimum jail times vary depending on the hate symbol used. AB 2282 would apply the same ranges for sentencing and fines, no matter what the symbol.

A number of recent incidents have targeted local Jewish communities, such as the antisemtitic flyers dropped in several Bay Area cities earlier this year by adherents of Goyim TV, a group led by Petaluma’s Jon Minadeo Jr.

Last October, flyers reading “Hitler was right” were posted on a large menorah fixture at a messianic synagogue in Carmichael. Flyers advertising the Aryan Nations hate group were later left at homes and at Deterding Elementary School in Carmichael. Nicholas Sherman, 34, of Sacramento, was convicted of a misdemeanor count of making terrorizing threats for placing flyers bearing images of swastikas on school grounds, and a felony hate crime for desecrating a religious symbol by posting the flyers on the menorah. Sherman was sentenced to 180 days in county jail.

“The bill is focused on terror symbols that are used to, obviously given the name, terrorize people and used in hate crimes,” Bauer-Kahan told J. “Part of what we are trying to do is ensure that there is protection against the use of these terror symbols in more locations … as well as ensuring that we are consistent across the different symbols.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

LOS ANGELES (RNS) — The Breed Street Shul, once considered an epicenter of Jewish life in the western United States, has been granted $14.9 million in state funding to renovate its century-old buildings.

California legislators said the state budget allocation will help transform Breed Street Shul — heralded as the religious and cultural anchor of the early Jewish community in the Eastside of LA — into a shared multipurpose space that will honor the area’s Jewish and multicultural history as well as the current neighborhood’s mostly Latino residents.

The shul, which encompasses two buildings in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places and is the last of the Eastside synagogues to remain open after postwar-era population shifts.

“This was at one time the center of Jewish life in the city of Los Angeles, the center of Jewish life in the western United States,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat who chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, at a Tuesday (Aug. 10) gathering to announce the grant. “So much of our history as a community traces back to here in Boyle Heights.”


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A crumbling synagogue in a neighborhood long ago abandoned by the Jewish community just received millions of dollars from the State of California. At a time when the state faces urgent needs for affordable housing, homeless services and drought relief, you might ask: “A synagogue?”

On Aug. 10, the Breed Street Shul Project announced that California’s recently passed 2021 budget includes a $14.9 million allocation for the restoration of the historic Breed Street Shul in the Boyle Heights neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles.

Supporters of the largesse say the money will pay for much more than the rehabilitation of an old shul.

The money, said Stephen Sass, president of the Breed Street Shul Project, will not only renew a “culturally iconic historic” building but will spur collaboration among the Jewish, Latino and other minority communities in Boyle Heights and throughout the city.


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The century-old Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights is getting a new lease on life thanks to millions in dollars championed by California’s Jewish and Latino lawmakers to renovate the historic landmark.

Nearly $15 million in state funding was announced Tuesday to transform the historic, cultural monument into a multipurpose space and highlight the rich and diverse immigrant history of the Latino and Jewish communities in the Boyle Heights neighborhood.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The California Jewish Legislative Caucus this year was able to push through several of its priorities benefiting the state’s Jewish communities, including funding for a Holocaust and antisemitism training program run by S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services and for a grant-making program for nonprofits looking to improve their security.


Saturday, July 17, 2021

When Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Budget Act of 2021 into law on July 12, it included $14.9 million to the City of Los Angeles for restoration of the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights, a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places that has languished in disrepair for years.

The nearly $15 million appropriation from the state budget is a culmination of many years of political grassroots support, led by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), Chair of the California Legislative Caucus. Gabriel worked to secure support from Latino and Jewish members of the Legislature as well to champion the cause, with Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, who represents parts of Boyle Heights in the legislature, also instrumental in securing the funding.

Gabriel’s interest in preserving the Shul started long before he became an Assemblyman three years ago. Gabriel had toured the surrounding neighborhood and the Shul itself while working with The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles.