A survey of historic landmark buildings in Boyle Heights will start shortly, spurred in part by the mysterious demolition of a former Jewish Community Center last year.
To prevent such thoughtless destruction in the future, City Councilman Jose Huizar announced funding of a survey to identify "sites of cultural and historic significance, enabling the city and community to proactively protect these cultural treasures."
Huizar emphasized that "after the Boyle Heights community lost the Jewish Community Center at Soto and Michigan -- and The Jewish Journal reported the tragic loss -- I redoubled my efforts to catalogue and preserve our cultural landmarks."
In the 1930s and '40s, Boyle Heights was the oldest and largest Jewish enclave in Los Angeles, with approximately 35,000 to 40,000 Jews living in 10,000 homes. It was dotted with small Jewish stores and such impressive houses of worship as the Breed Street Shul, currently being renovated and converted into a joint Latino-Jewish center.
The early Jewish, African American and Asian residents have now been largely replaced by Latinos, but, said Huizar, "Boyle Heights is filled with Victorian homes, stately synagogues and other precious remnants of our shared history, and we must protect them."
The survey will focus on the Adelante Eastside Project Area in Boyle heights, containing some of the oldest buildings in Los Angeles. Encompassing 2,200 acres with 2,800 separate parcels of land, the project area is roughly bounded by Indiana Street on the west, the Los Angeles River on the east, Valley Boulevard on the north and Washington Boulevard on the south.
The survey will be largely funded and conducted by a partnership of three municipal entities: Huizar's office, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Office of Historic Preservation.
The razed Jewish Community Center was an outstanding example of the architectural style known as California Modernism and was designed in the late 1930s by Raphael Soriano, a Sephardic native of Rhodes.
One year ago, The Journal first reported that the building had been hastily demolished without a permit and without notification to the appropriate city department or neighborhood organizations. An investigation by The Journal found that the culprit was the federal government, which acquired the property to erect a Social Security regional office.
After protests by the Los Angeles Conservancy and Jewish Historical Society, a U.S. government spokesman apologized and promised to take steps to avoid the razing of historical buildings in the future. Huizar said that the survey is expected to begin this spring and should be completed within 12 months.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Chabad expanding West Coast operation
Chabad-Lubavitch, the Chasidic organization known in the Jewish world for its success in outreach, is redoubling its efforts on the West Coast. At its 42nd annual West Coast convention last month, the organization announced that the coming year will see an additional 36 new shluchim, or emissaries. This is in addition to the 220 emissaries already on the West Coast, operating some 150 centers, as well as summer camps, university locales and operational centers.
The Feb. 17-19 convention in Glendale, attended by 212 shluchim from California and Nevada as well as supporters, hosted workshops and presentations designed to better help the rabbis perform outreach in their communities.
Sessions focused on the financial ("Managing Your Finances," "Making the Dream a Reality: How to build a Chabad Center"), youth (two parts on both "Engaging Your Students" and "Harnessing the Power of Student Participation") and negotiating in the non-Chabad world ("Resolving Conflicts and Managing Differences," "Walking on Eggshells: How to Discuss Sensitive Issues").
"This is one of the most inspiring events of the year for Chabad," said Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, the head of West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch. "It's a gathering of people who dedicate themselves every day to helping those in need -- whether it's at hospitals, shelters, preschools, senior centers or on college campuses."
Unveiled at the conference were the prototypes of the new "Chabad-mobile," a fleet of mobile mitzvah units that will drive through the streets, attend Jewish events -- both Chabad and non-Chabad -- to offer passersby the opportunity to do mitzvahs, study and get involved with Chabad. There will be 20 new Chabad mobiles to start, although, as with everything Chabad, they hope to increase the number soon. The new colorful design, by artist Marc Lumer, features a businesswoman holding a cup of coffee, a surfer, a "Fiddler on the Roof" character, a Chabad rabbi and more.
"They needed a facelift," Rabbi Chaim Cunin, communications director of Chabad said of the fleet. "We wanted to make it represent what Chabad is really about: A place where everyone feels completely at home -- both in the centers and in the mobiles."
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Rabbis and doctors gather at Brandeis for Jewish healing conclave
In January, the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health held its fourth biennial Partner Gathering at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute. The event drew more than 100 rabbis, physicians, social workers and others from the United States, Israel and Brazil whose work or interest involves Judaism's role in healing.
Tom Cole, director of the Center for Health, Humanities and the Human Spirit at the University of Texas, delivered the keynote address on "Aging and the Changing Nature of the Human." He spoke about modern medicine's potential to dramatically increase the human life span, and the implications of such longevity. "Judaism lacks a vision of the good life for our elder years," said Cole. "We need to create authentically Jewish visions of later life."
The gathering allowed participants to "learn, network and recharge," said Associate Director Michele Prince. "Themes of memory and aging were explored during this retreat, and will influence the ways the Kalsman Partners work with one another, their patients, congregants and students."
"A special element of the Kalsman Gatherings," she added, "is that we, as a department of the Reform movement seminary, are able to bring together leaders from across the spectrum of Jewish life -- from secular Israeli to modern Orthodox. This transdenominational effort is more than symbolic, and it gave us great pleasure as we davened, learned, networked and recharged together."
At an evening reception, Rabbi Richard Address, director of the Union for Reform Judaism's Department of Jewish Family Concerns, was honored with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's Sherut L'Am Award for "revolutionary work in Jewish congregational life."
Address has been instrumental in creating congregational programs dealing with such issues as the changing nature of the Jewish family, bioethics, aging and illness.
-- Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer