Congratulations to Rabbi Richard Steinberg, Distinguished Citizen Honree on the Irvine Wall of Recognition

I recently had the pleasure of nominating Rabbi Richard Steinberg, Senior Rabbi at Congregation of Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine, to be honored as a Distinguished Citizen on the City of Irvine Wall of Recognition.

Established in 2006 and located in Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park across the from Civic Center, the Wall of Recognition is a hallmark of Irvine. Even before Irvine became a city, there was a spirit of community activism, involvement, and pride that set the tone for the municipality Irvine would become. Since the City’s incorporation in 1971, hundreds of individuals have dedicated themselves in service to Irvine as Mayors, City Council Members, Commissioners, Committee Members, and leaders of community organizations. The Wall of Recognition honors these individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses who have made significant contributions to the community.

Rabbi Steinberg embodies the spirit of service to the community. Born in Northern California, Rabbi Steinberg initially studied criminal justice in college and trained to be a police officer.  He then felt a calling to serve as a rabbi, earned a masters degrees in Hebrew letters and family therapy, and was ordained as a rabbi in 1995. After serving a congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio, Rabbi Steinberg returned to California to lead Shir Ha-Ma’alot in July of 2001.  At that time, the congregation consisted of 300 member families. Today, it is a thriving congregation of well over 600 families.

In the years since he assumed the leadership of Shir Ha-Ma’alot, Rabbi Steinberg has become a community leader in Irvine and Orange County.  He has long served as Chaplin for the Irvine Police Department and as a member and Chair of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, whose mission is to “seek out the causes of tension and conflict, discrimination and intolerance and attempt to eliminate those causes.”

Rabbi Steinberg also serves on the Boards of the Jewish Federation, Orange County Board of Rabbis, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League. He is extremely active at the Jewish Community Center, Tarbut v’Torah and Morasha Day Schools.  He is key point person on the University of California, Irvine, campus dealing with the issues of tolerance and diversity. He is the recipient of the “Outstanding Devotion to the Jewish Community Center” award, the “Yachad Award for Outstanding Jewish Community Service” given to a local Jewish professional each year and he was honored by the Central Region of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

I have known Rabbi Steinberg as a friend and spiritual advisor.  When my mother passed away, he visited and brought kindness and healing to my father.

I have also known Rabbi Steinberg as a fighter for justice, a powerful voice against bigotry and intolerance, and as an inspiration in my own journey toward more effective servant leadership.

In response to the hatefull, White Supremist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Rabbi Steinberg urged the OC Human Relations Commission to speak out against it loudly and clearly. “When there is hatred, it needs to be called out as such and responded to with a loud voice that is unequivocal,” Rabbi Steinberg said.  The OC Register wrote that “[Rabbi] Steinberg became emotional as he described his feelings as a Jewish man listening to anti-Semitic chants and seeing flags bearing the swastika, the symbol of Adolf Hitler’s regime that exterminated 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. ‘We need to find ways to have peaceful conversations,’ he said.”

When there were anti-Jewish incidents in Orange County, Rabbi Steinberg wrote that “Hate always begins with words. Then words un-responded to will always lead to hate action. And hate action un-responded to will always lead to hate violence.  Let us be people who respond.  If we lose friendships over our responses, so be it.  If we are not part of the group because of our righteous response, then so be it.  The alternative of not responding at the very least is re-wounding those who have been literally scared by violence rooted in hate.  The very most that can happen if we respond is that we might change someone’s heart from hate to love, from ignorance to knowledge, from foe to friend.”

Irvine is a far better place because of Rabbi Richard Steinberg and he well deserves to be honored as a Distinguished Citizen on the City of Irvine Wall of Recognition.

But it is not only Irvine that is a better place — the world is better place because Rabbi Steinberg lives among us.


Top photo credit: Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG.





Yes, Let’s Create a Gun Violence Task Force — And Let’s Also Have a Real Discussion about How to Prevent Mass Shootings and Gun Violence

Based on her recent social media post, it appears that in the wake of three recent mass shootings (in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio) leaving at least 45 people dead and many dozens more injured, Irvine Mayor Christina Shea intends to create a task force to discuss what we can do in Irvine to prevent gun violence.

Significantly, Mayor Shea asks that we not turn this discussion into a “partisan” issue, and that we not hold local, state, or national politicians responsible for their actions, or lack of action, leading to the proliferation of mass shootings and gun violence.

I fully support a discussion of how our City Council can help prevent Irvine from becoming the site of the next gun violence atrocity. This discussion is long overdue. Our nation is suffering from a gun violence emergency.

But the discussion must not be a sham, and not be muzzled from the very beginning by preventing mention of the fact that Republican politicians — at every level of government — have sided with gun dealers and the NRA over the safety of our communities and families, and have stubbornly blocked Congress from enacting meaningful, common sense federal gun regulation.

We must also be willing to acknowledge the fact that President Donald Trump has incited violence and manipulated racial hatred in ways that many of us had hoped belonged to our tragic past. And we must explicitly reject and condemn Trump’s racist rhetoric.

As President Obama recently said, as elected officials and community leaders, we must reject the rhetoric of those “who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” Such language “has no place in our politics and our public life” and it is time “for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”

Let’s have a real discussion of mass shootings and gun violence — without any attempts at mirco-management by the Mayor or self-serving limitations on that discussion being imposed in advance by local politicians who are afraid that the public is fed up with the Republican Party’s spinelessness in the face of the NRA and the racist rhetoric of Trumpism, and their policy of creating diversions after each mass shooting rather than enacting real, common sense, gun control regulation.

I also ask that this Task Force be comprised of and led by real experts in the field of gun violence prevention. We have many such experts here in Irvine on the faculty of UCI and the UCI School of Law.  Our task force should not be solely composed of — or led by — politicians with an interest in self-promotion or self-protection, or protecting their political allies from justified and necessary criticism.

In addition, I suggest that the Irvine City Council immediately direct our Irvine Police Department to promote awareness of California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law, which allows family members and law enforcement to seek the temporary removal of firearms from someone they believe poses a danger to themselves or others.

While GVROs have been called “the best tool in the state of California for responding to a threat of gun violence,” they are rarely used because residents and law enforcement remain largely unaware of the law and its potential to help stop a crime before it has been committed.

You can see a video presentation of California GVROs here:

I also propose that the City of Irvine and the Irvine Police Department remind residents about California’s safe storage laws requiring that guns be locked away from minors and anyone who should not have access to them.

I look forward to a lively, positive and open-minded discussion of what we can do in Irvine to prevent mass shootings and gun violence, including an awareness and educational campaign about GVROs, issuing official statements from our City Council calling on President Trump to stop his inflammatory rhetoric demonizing immigrants, Muslims, and people of color, and calling on Congress to pass common sense gun regulations relating to universal background checks, military-style assault rifles, and high capacity magazines.


Irvine City Council Issues Proclamation Remembering Holocaust and to “Remain Vigilant Against Hatred, Persecution, and Tyranny”

At the Irvine City Council meeting on April 23, 2019, the Council unanimously voted in favor of my motion for an official proclamation recognizing April 28 – May 5, 2019, as “Days of Remembrance” in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and in honor of the survivors, rescuers and liberators, and urging all to “remain vigilant against hatred, persecution, and tyranny.”

I want to thank the Mayor and my City Council colleagues for their unanimous support for this proclamation. The memory of the Holocaust should serve as a reminder throughout the ages of the need to treat all people with respect and dignity, and to ensure that hatred, bigotry, and tyranny have no place in America or any civilized community.

Lisa Armony, Project Director at Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County, with Irvine Holocaust Remembrance Proclamation.

The proclamation reads as follows:


April 28 – May 5, 2019

WHEREAS, the Congress of the United States established the United States Holocaust Memorial Council to create a living memorial to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, to never lose memory of that terrible moment in time; and

WHEREAS, the Holocaust was the persecution of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945, and Jews were the primary victims – six million were murdered along with millions more targeted for racial ethnic or national reasons; and

WHEREAS, the history of the Holocaust offers an opportunity to reflect on the moral responsibilities of individuals, societies, and governments as well as remember the terrible events of the Holocaust and remain vigilant against hatred, persecution, and tyranny by rededicating ourselves to the principles of individual freedom in a just society; and

WHEREAS, the Days of Remembrance have been set aside to remember the victims of the Holocaust as well as to reflect on the need for respect of all people; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to an Act of Congress the United States Holocaust Memorial Council designates the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust to be Sunday, April 28 through Sunday, May 5, 2019, including the international Day of Remembrance known as Yom Hashoah on May 1;

NOW THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Irvine DOES HEREBY PROCLAIM APRIL 28 – May 5, 2019, as “Days of Remembrance” in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and in honor of the survivors, as well as the rescuers and liberators.

The Council also showed a powerful video on the Holocaust. Unfortunately, studies show an alarming number of American teens don’t know about the Holocaust. In the video, teens reflect on their visit to concentration camps in Poland where millions of Jews were killed.

This proclamation also serves as a reminder that antisemitism — and any form of racism or bigotry — will not go unchallenged by the good people of Irvine.

Irvine will always stand strong against hatred and intolerance and stand up for our neighbors.

An attack on anyone in Irvine because of their faith, race, or national origin, is an attack on us all.