On July 17th, a panel of community leaders converged in the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights to discuss the complexities of a pressing and modern-day topic: gentrification.
The panel was a session of the Rautenberg New Leaders Project (NLP), The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ premier civic leadership training program. For over 25 years, NLP has sought to educate young Jewish leaders through immersive and in-depth educational opportunities that confront many of Los Angeles’ diverse and contemporary challenges.
During this July session, the NLP cohort gathered in the century-old synagogue in Boyle Heights, first to learn about the neighborhood’s colorful and constantly changing history from Steve Sass, President of the Jewish Historical Society. Breed Street Shul also currently houses From Brooklyn Avenue to Cesar Chavez: Jewish Histories in Multiethnic Boyle Heights, a multimedia exhibition by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, detailing this history.
Steve Sass then moderated a panel of three local leaders who each have deep experience in community and neighborhood issues, including gentrification. Joaquin Castellanos, Breed Street Shul board member and the founder of the Boyle Heights Neighbors Organization, collaborates with neighborhood organizations and local government entities to maximize and improve Boyle Heights’ resources. Sara Hernandez, Attorney at Liner LLP and Former Special Counsel to Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar has been involved in local issues and on and various policy initiatives. Wayne Perry, a board member at Self Help Graphics, creates art that incorporates the rapidly changing Los Angeles landscape.
The panelists provided broad and varying perspectives on the issue of gentrification, including the importance of community ownership of and involvement in new neighborhood projects, the dangerous effects of rising living costs across the city, and the fear of new and unfamiliar businesses and homeowners entering a tightknit and largely low-income community like Boyle Heights.
“As cities nationwide struggle with issues of affordable housing, new development, and displacement, disagreements over the effects of gentrification are common. Our goal in holding this session at the Breed Street Shul was to convene our New Leaders in a neighborhood in the midst of change, where we could begin the dialogue,” said Mary Kohav, the Federation’s Vice President of Community Engagement programs.
“Throughout the year at sessions like this one, NLP exposes participants to elected, civic, and community leaders to address some of the most critical challenges facing Los Angeles so participants can develop their leadership capabilities and gain a deep knowledge and understanding of the diverse fabric of our city,” she added.
Through these types of discussions and site visits about often difficult topics like gentrification, NLP participants will surely gain this deeper understanding of Los Angeles in general, as well as their own roles as Los Angeles leaders.
The Rautenberg New Leaders Project (NLP) is a premier civic leadership training program of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and has trained the next generation of L.A. Jewish leaders for over 25 years. NLP Applications will open in September! Stay tuned for more information. For more information, email NLP@JewishLA.org.