Federation leads Jewish community of Pasadena to crucial city council win

On March 11, the Pasadena City Council announced that it would vote the following week on a resolution to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.  Executive Director of Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys Jason Moss penned an op-ed that was published in five area newspapers, as well as in the city’s online and print news magazine Pasadena Now. Moss urged members of the city council to refrain from supporting the resolution, which he warned would embolden hateful actors and exacerbate divisions in the community.

The piece received a great deal of attention and was cited frequently by pro-Israel advocates at the city council meeting. Moss also met with the Pasadena mayor and the city council members, many of whom did not have deep knowledge of the issues and how other city councils were dealing with it. 

In addition to placing the op-ed, the Federation took a multi-pronged approach to combating the inflammatory resolution, including issuing an action alert that urged community members to email their city council members and to attend the council meeting when the vote would be taken. In response, over 100 members of the Jewish community attended that city council meeting. They were outnumbered nearly five to one, as many anti-Israel activists traveled from outside Pasadena. These activists heckled the city council members and interrupted the pro-Israel voices. 

Moss had set cultivating relationships with city officials as a strategic goal back in 2022, when only four mayors in the Federation’s jurisdiction of 48 cities signed a pledge against antisemitism initiated by AJC and the United States Conference of Mayors.  He had the foresight to project that city councils would play an integral role in the fight against antisemitism and that the Federation would require key allies in city politics. Just one-and-a-half years later, a total of 29 cities have joined together to combat antisemitism and other forms of hate in response to the Federation’s outreach.

Moss addressed the city council members from the podium and implored them not to pass the resolution. “By adopting a resolution tonight, you will not change what is happening 7,500 miles away,” he said. “You won’t stop the innocent children dying or bring an end to the suffering. But I can tell you with 100% certainty that your decision will have dire consequences on the Jewish community, particularly Jewish children, right here in Pasadena and the greater Southern California area.”

After a few hours of public comments and deliberation among members of the council, they arrived at a compromise by issuing a declaration rather than a more formal resolution. The Federation worked with the council to draft language that was more even-handed and that did not include inflammatory language.  They also demanded the immediate release of all the hostages.

It was a major win for the Federation. 

“People not only saw the value that Federations can have on the community, but also the value we can have to advocate on behalf of the community and to have an impact on the outcomes,” Moss said. “It is all about the relationship building because I know all of this will be beneficial to the Jewish community in the long run.  Decision makers will be more willing to give us a listening ear and open their doors to our leadership to understand the impact that decisions they make will have on their Jewish constituents.”

Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys is just one of the dozens of Federations across the system that have been playing a leadership role in combating one-sided city council resolutions that deny Israel’s right to self-defense.