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Jewish teachings greet Los Angeles drivers in billboard campaign

The billboards come at a time when cases of antisemitism are on the rise around the country.

A variety of billboards created by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on display in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

(RNS) — From the intersection of Pico and Hauser boulevards in Los Angeles to the Venice and Lincoln crossing near the beach, drivers across the city are being greeted with billboards featuring affirmations associated with Jewish texts and teachings.

“A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.”

“Be slow to anger and abounding in kindness.”

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

The billboards — sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and in partnership with Outfront Media — will be up for several months with no current end date. Signs were placed in late December to coincide with Hanukkah. There are about 10 billboards across the city.


RELATED: White House condemns Kanye-fueled antisemitic freeway demonstration in Los Angeles


Rabbi Noah Farkas, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said the billboards are “meant to introduce ourselves to the larger community,” at a time when cases of antisemitism are on the rise around the country and as L.A. has faced a wave of public antisemitic incidents.

Last fall, President Joe Biden’s administration was among those who condemned a group of L.A. demonstrators who gave Nazi salutes on a 405 Freeway overpass with several banners, including one that read “Kanye is right about the Jews,” referring to recent antisemitic statements by the musician.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (@jfedla)

Farkas said the federation is working to ensure safety through an initiative that provides “security monitoring and training” for the nearly 600 Jewish sites in L.A. County.

With the billboard campaign, Farkas said they hope to show the community “that we exist, and that we care, and that we’re not here to hate.”


RELATED: Los Angeles City Council adopts definition of antisemitism amid rise in hate incidents


The slogans on the billboards are modern translations of Jewish homiletical texts and ancient Jewish teachings, according to Farkas. The phrase, “Change your thoughts and you’ll change the world,” is on a billboard on Sepulveda and Olympic boulevards and, he said, is derived from the work of Maimonides, a 12th-century Jewish scholar. 

The slogans are “meant to be easy to understand as quickly as possible, especially if you don’t have a deep background in Jewish thought, Jewish culture and biblical text,” Farkas said.

The billboards include the federation’s website, directing users to the work of the organization in the city and inviting them to sign up for their newsletter. Farkas said they’ve received notes of support from “Jews and non-Jews alike, so it feels very encouraging.”

Earlier this year, the group JewBelong launched a similar effort to fight antisemitism, with hot neon-pink banners emblazoned with punchy and unapologetic slogans in bus shelters and major thoroughfares in New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia. 


RELATED: JewBelong goes digital — and hot pink — in campaign to sound alarm on antisemitism


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