Newsletter: L.A. rabbis navigate politics from the pulpit, and more in the week ahead

Jared Stein of the Jewish outreach center Nashuva blows the shofar to celebrate the first day of Rosh Hashana in 2014.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Sept. 30, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

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Sound the shofars: Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, began on Sunday evening and ends on Tuesday evening. (Yom Kippur will begin at sundown the following Tuesday, Oct. 8.)

As the High Holy Days begin, L.A. rabbis have been grappling with the politics of faith — and whether they plan to bring those politics to the pulpit during the best-attended observances of the religious year. My colleague Sonja Sharp spoke to numerous rabbis across the ideological spectrum about a decision that has split synagogues in Los Angeles.

[Read the story: ‘None of us are prophets’: After a turbulent year, L.A. rabbis wrestle with the politics of faith in the Los Angeles Times]

Tuesday is the deadline for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to qualify for the October debate.

The annual Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans will be published on Wednesday. Bill Gates was unseated from his No. 1 perch for the first time in more than two decades last year, when Amazon’s Jeff Bezos topped the list for the first time.


Friday and Saturday: The Service Employees International Union and “Fight for $15 and a Union” members will hold their Unions for All Summit in Los Angeles with a slew of 2020 presidential candidates in attendance.

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival will be in Golden Gate Park this weekend.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


Gentrification is defining the race for county supervisor in South Los Angeles: The last time there was an open seat for the 2nd District on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, it was 2008 and South L.A. was a very different place than it is today. Now, after generations of disinvestment, the area is in the midst of a renaissance, driving up housing costs and homelessness and leading many voters to worry about the future of one of California’s last black enclaves. So far, these issues have dominated the campaigns of the eight candidates — including L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson — vying to replace termed-out Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and represent a district stretching from Culver City to Compton. Los Angeles Times

See also: More than $2 million in campaign donations have flowed into the hotly contested 2nd District supervisor race. The money has come largely from neighborhoods outside the district. Here’s a look at where that money is coming from. Los Angeles Times

A quick plea: If you live in Los Angeles and can rattle off the details about faraway congressional races but don’t know who is representing you on the Board of Supervisors, you’re making a mistake. These five people (long nicknamed “the five little kings,” although they now have a historic female supermajority) wield enormous power despite their relatively low profiles. Counties, after all, are “the chief entity responsible for basic human services: public health, public safety, jails, parks, hospitals, transportation, sanitation, care for the homeless, the jobless, the abused and neglected, and more,” as this paper explained in an editorial a few years back. You can enter your address here to see who represents you.


A horse died at Santa Anita on the second day of its fall racing season. The death is likely to intensify the debate over the safety and viability of horse racing in California. Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Police Department opened an inquiry after a recruitment ad went up on the right-wing website Breitbart, saying such a job listing would conflict with the department’s “core values.” Los Angeles Times

An L.A. County supervisor avoids traffic with helicopter rides costing up to $9,500 an hour. Reaching far-flung destinations in Kathryn Barger’s huge district can be cheap or quick, but rarely both. Los Angeles Daily News

It took two years to arrest Democratic donor Ed Buck despite shocking allegations and red flags. Why? Los Angeles Times

Scooters and bad sidewalks aren’t the only hazards for disabled people in the city. Columnist Nita Lelyveld identifies bad sidewalks as the tip of the iceberg, and looks at the other, less obvious challenges. Los Angeles Times

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Tijuana’s call centers offer a lifeline to deportees struggling to live in Mexico. Los Angeles Times


No state will play a more pivotal role in the impeachment process than California as House Democrats launch their inquiry into President Trump. Los Angeles Times

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), pictured with Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). Other prominent Californians on both sides of the aisle include Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, and the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes of Tulare.
(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

After months of controversy and debate, Assembly Bill 5 (the so-called “gig worker bill”) has been signed into law and will take effect in January. So businesses will automatically reclassify hundreds of thousands of contractors as bona fide employees with benefits, right? Not so fast. Los Angeles Times

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is fuming over a video showing Yolo County sheriff’s deputies dropping off an unidentified homeless man at a McDonald’s parking lot in the city. “I am concerned this is not a single, isolated incident and is more of a widespread practice,” the mayor said. Sacramento Bee

Suicides in California prisons continue to rise, despite decades of effort by federal courts and psychiatric experts to fix a system they say is broken and putting lives at risk, a Chronicle investigation has found. San Francisco Chronicle


A Sonoma County man fled police by running into one of Northern California’s largest corn mazes. Worried about getting lost in the complex maze, the officers in chase asked for maps from the farm’s employees. The suspect was apprehended after a two-hour search. Mercury News


A tornado touched town in Davis amid thunderstorms sweeping the Central Valley. One family caught it on video. Los Angeles Times

A historic proposal to allow limited boating at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park is being considered. San Francisco Chronicle

A student vaping epidemic has California schools frantically mobilizing. Los Angeles Times


The molecular science behind the famed blueberry ice cream at a Larkspur shop. San Francisco Chronicle

Skydivers keep dying at this Lodi business. The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board wants to know why it hasn’t it been shut down. Sacramento Bee

The reopening date of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has been tentatively delayed one week to Oct. 7 because of a faulty part. Desert Sun

Is it time to rename John Wayne Airport? The cowboy movie star was, by his own admission, a “white supremacist.” Orange County Register

A viral photo in her cap and gown standing with her immigrant parents on the edge of a strawberry field has brought this San Diego State University graduate a new career as a motivational speaker. San Diego Union-Tribune


Los Angeles: sunny, 74. San Diego: sunny, 71. San Francisco: sunny, 64. San Jose: partly sunny, 68. Sacramento: sunny, 68. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: Dodgers player Kenley Jansen (Sept. 30, 1987), actress Julie Andrews (Oct. 1, 1935), former slugger Mark McGwire (Oct. 1, 1963), Rep. Devin Nunes (Oct. 1, 1973), my mom Lucy Fisher (Oct. 2, 1949), musician Gillian Welch (Oct. 2, 1967) and Rep. Karen Bass (Oct. 3, 1953).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.