February 15, 2007
The Jewish accent’s on France at FeujLA
Ça va?" -- French for "How's it going?" -- was the first thing out of the mouths of the 50 or so attendees last Thursday at the bimonthly FeujLA gathering, which included live music at a private residence in West Hollywood.
With a name derived from the slang word feuj -- for Jew -- with L.A. tagged on, this hip crowd of young French and some Francophiles came together to catch up with friends, meet new people and listen to and perform favorite Hebrew and Jewish songs.
FeujLA serves as a resource for the French Jewish community ages 18 to 35, especially when it comes to visa issues, education questions, job inquiries or even a place to go for Shabbat. The organization also boasts three official couples who are either married or engaged.
Leader David Hini-Szlos, 28, plans at least biweekly Wednesday dinner gatherings for the group, which tend to take place at Bistro Baguette Café at Wilshire and La Cienega boulevards, where the French owners are hospitable and allow the group to stay awhile.
The group -- which has a Web site that features information about regular soccer and volleyball games, and a mailing list of about 200 -- is largely Sephardic Jews of Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan descent. There are also some recent arrivals from Tahiti.
FeujLA was started five years ago as a French Torah-reading group, so it has always had a religious bent. Many involved in the group have Modern Orthodox backgrounds, but some are secular. FeujLA's bimonthly gatherings continue to include a rabbi and a sermon.
Most of the participants have no immediate family nearby.
"When your family is abroad, you try to find a place to gather," said Marc Benguigui, 38.
Thursday's musical event also featured Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj of the Chabad of UC San Diego speaking about how music can connect to one's soul, which goes beyond the boundary of the body.
When Laurence Harroch faced a personal issue two years ago, the 29-year-old said her FeujLA friends were there to help her in many ways, she believes, that might not have happened in Paris.
"Here it's like living in a community," Harroch, said.