The Most Powerful American Jewish Politician You’ve Never Heard of

Zev Yaroslavsky, a former activist to free Soviet Jewry in the 1970s is serving his fourth term on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, and may yet become its next mayor.

Los Angeles — The movement to free Soviet Jewry was just heating up in 1971 when Zev Yaroslavsky and a crew of co-conspirators steered a rented motorboat across Los Angeles Harbor, attached themselves with a pair of toilet plungers to the hull of a Soviet freighter and, with hasty strokes of spray paint, delivered a seaborne message to the Kremlin: “Let Jews Go.”

“My handwriting gets a little smaller towards the end, see…,” Yaroslavsky said, chuckling, in an interview as he pointed to the photograph of his defiant graffiti, framed on the wall of his office on the eighth floor of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration building, in downtown Los Angeles. “I was hurrying — afraid somebody on deck was going to drop something on my head!”

Zev Yaroslavsky
Courtesy of The Forward