Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem
Letter to Temple Presidents
Dear Temple President,
As you may know, Hawaiian Gardens is one of the smallest and poorest municipalities in California. Comprised of about 15,000 people living on less than one square mile, there are more reputed gang members than college graduates. The median standard of living is well below that of surrounding communities Long Beach, Lakewood and Cerritos. For years, the people of Hawaiian Gardens have struggled to develop a viable city. Unfortunately, their vulnerability, lack of resources and growing dependence on one man, Dr. Irving Moskowitz, has resulted in a tragedy of such magnitude that our congregation and we believe other Southland congregations can no longer remain quiet.
Up until last year, the mainstay of Dr. Moskowitz's operations in Hawaiian Gardens was a high speed bingo parlor, which produces millions of dollars in revenue a year. This bingo parlor, operating under rules for charitable bingo operations, has spent millions of dollars on right-wing organizations and activities in and around Jerusalem. Equally important, the operation of Dr. Moskowitz Foundation's bingo parlor has so dominated Hawaiian Gardens' politics as to establish a stranglehold by Dr. Moskowitz and his lawyers over decisions normally reserved for elected officials. As a result, this tiny impoverished city has failed to thrive socially, politically and economically, divesting itself of viable businesses at Dr. Moskowitz's demand and becoming more and more dependent and beholden on the Moskowitz operations, to their detriment.
The most recent attempt to unravel the misdeeds in Hawaiian Gardens and reach out for justice has occurred through the investigation conducted by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee of the State Legislature. This group, comprised of both Assembly Members and Senators, recently released a report titled "The 'Gateway' Redevelopment Project in the City of Hawaiian Gardens; A Study in Redevelopment Abuse." A copy is being provided with this letter as well as articles published in Mother Jones and the Los Angeles Times.
But the bingo operations pale in contrast to the recently opened card casino adjacent to the bingo parlor. The card casino, through its revenues and establishment as the main business in town, threatens to further monopolize Hawaiian Gardens' politics and business to the demise of Hawaiian Gardens' need for independence and functioning as a real city.
As leaders of the Jewish Community committed to Tikun Olam, we can help. Dr. Moskowitz operates his casino only on a temporary license. His application for a permanent license is pending before the California Gambling Control Commission and State Attorney General Bill Lockyer. In order to grand the permanent license they must find Dr. Moskowitz of suitable character. This means "[a] person of good character, honesty and integrity." It also means "[a] person whose prior activities.... reputation, habits and associations do not pose a threat to the public interest of this state or to the effective regulation and control of controlled gambling or create or enhance the dangers of unsuitable, unfair or illegal practices, methods or activities in the conduct of controlled gambling or in the carrying on of the business and financial arrangements incidents thereto." In our view, the nearly twenty year involvement between Dr. Moskowitz and Hawaiian Gardens cannot in good conscience, support the necessary finding.
As we try to live the ideals expressed in the Days of Remembrance, we reflect on our responsibilities in the world and how we have not lived up to those responsibilities. What is now of the utmost concern is stopping the awarding of a permanent casino license to Dr. Moskowitz and the pursuit of the recommendation in the JLAC report so that the complete truth can be told and corrective action taken. The bottom line is that Hawaiian Gardens emerges as a self-determined viable municipality.
Our Board of Directors has unanimously passed a resolution directing the President and Social Action Committee Chair to write a letter to Attorney General Bill Lockyer pressing that he not approve or recommend approving a permanent casino license for Dr. Moskowitz's casino and that he, as State Attorney General, investigate as recommended by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. A copy of our letter to Attorney General Lockyer is attached.
We are writing to you to ask that you raise this issue with your Board, and, if approved, join us in the growing Latino-Jewish Coalition led by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak of Temple Ner Tamid in Downey, to address this very serious social and political issue.
Jan Stein, President
Marc Coleman, Chair