Jewish Journal

A Delegate’s Guide to Jewish Downtown

by Jerry Friedman

Posted on Aug. 10, 2000 at 8:00 pm

Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue, still a gathering place for Los Angeles Jews.

Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue, still a gathering place for Los Angeles Jews.

When not busy on the conven-tion floor or at parties, delegates and media representatives can take a quick tour of the sites of Jewish interest near downtown. The Jour-nal asked Jerry Friedman-Habush, who runs regular tours of Jewish Los Angeles, to compile a self-guided one. For more information on Habush's guided tours, contact him at (818) 994-0213.

1. Start at the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel (506 S. Grand Ave.), travel south to Sixth Street and then east two blocks to Broadway. Broadway, from Third Street to Olympic Boule-vard, was once the foremost row of movie palaces in the West and all were designed by Jewish theater architects, Arthur Lands-bergh or S. Charles Lee, and were "saved" by Bruce Corwin - whose family still owns most of them - and Ira Yellin.

2. Travel north on Broadway and slow at Third Street. The Grand Central Market is on the site of the Jewish-owned City of Paris, L.A.'s first department store in 1880. Beside it are Sid Grauman's "Million $ Theater," built in 1918, before he built the Egyptian and the Chinese theaters in Hollywood, and the Victor Clothing Company on the northeast corner, where you'll see huge, incredible murals. The Victor family is Jewish.

3. The next structure north of Victor's is the L.A. Times employee parking structure, where walkers can locate a sidewalk plaque marking L.A.'s first synagogue - the first site of Congregation B'nai B'rith (now Wilshire Boulevard Temple), where is stood from 1872-1895, until it moved to Ninth and Hope (1895-1928).

4. From there, drive north to Cesar Chavez Avenue (formerly Brooklyn Avenue), then turn right (east) and drive across the river into Boyle Heights. At Breed Street, one block before Soto Street, turn right. The Breed Street Shul (419 Breed St.) was once the biggest Orthodox congregation west of Chicago. Completed in 1923, the huge brick structure, closed since 1992, is now, finally, under the admini-stration of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California. It's hoping to raise $5 million to renovate the shul into reuse. Boyle Heights had 70,000-80,000 Jews from the 1910s through the 1950s.

5. Take Soto Street south to Olympic Boulevard and turn right (west). Turn left at Valencia Street and drive two blocks south to 12th Street. On the northwest corner is the first site of Sinai Temple (1909-1925). Since 1925 it has been the Welsh Presbyterian Church. There are still huge Stars of David still in the windows and above the interior ceiling chandelier. Organized in 1906, this was first Conservative congregation in Los Angeles and the first Conservative synagogue built west of Chicago.

6. Drive back to the Harbor Freeway (110), which runs next to Staples Center, and take the freeway northbound to the southbound Hollywood Freeway (101). Take the first exit, Temple Street. Turn right (west) on Temple Street and then right (north) on Beaudry Avenue. Turn left (west) on Sunset Boulevard, which will take you to the entrance for Chavez Ravine and Dodger Stadium. Once inside , turn right on Stadium Way and up the steep hill on Lilac Place (the first street on the left next to the Dodger ticket office parking). Continue up the hill and around to a prominent, tall cypress tree, where a four-foot high vertical plaque can be found marking the first Jewish site in Los Angeles, the Hebrew Benevolent Society Cemetery (1855-1910), from which all bodies were disinterred and moved to Home of Peace in East Los Angeles.

7. Return to the Sunset Boulevard entrance, turn right (west) on Sunset and then left (south) on Douglas Street. Further up the hill, at East Edgeware, turn left. The second street after the curve is Carroll Avenue. Welcome to Angelino Heights. The two blocks of beautiful Victorian homes are well worth the trip up the hill alone, but at 1335 Carroll stands a two-story home with red-and-yellow "fish scale" walls and a turret on top. This was the one-time home of Kaspare Cohn Hospital (1902-1910) - the first site of what is now Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. From 1902-1905 it was a home for tuberculosis sufferers from Eastern sweat shops, until rich neighbors forced them out.

8. Go the to end of the block and turn left on West Edgeware. Drive down the hill to Bellevue Avenue and turn left (east). Turn right on East Edgeware, go over the Hollywood Freeway back to Temple Street, and turn right. The West Temple Street area (1910s-1920s) was once heavily populated by immigrant Jews (and called "the Westside" to Boyle Heights' "Eastside"), but there are no buildings or markers to indicate this.

9. Continue west on Temple and turn left on Alvarado Street (south) to get to Langers Deli - considered by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Jewish Journal to offer the best pastrami sandwich in America - across from MacArthur Park at 704 S. Alvarado St. If you want bagels right out of the oven, drive north on Alvarado Street and turn left (west) on Beverly Boulevard to visit the Brooklyn Bagel Com-pany at 2217 W. Beverly Blvd.

10. Continue west down Beverly Boulevard to New Hamp-shire Avenue - one block past Vermont Avenue - and turn left (south). The intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Fourth Street is where the huge second site of Sinai Temple (1925-1961) still stands as the Korean Phila-delphia Presbyterian Church. Huge menorahs, Ten Command-ment tablets and the cornerstone make it obvious that a major synagogue once occupied this site.

11. Continue south on New Hampshire Avenue to Wilshire Boulevard. Turn right (west) to Wilshire Boulevard Temple (3663 Wilshire Boulevard), the third site of what was once Congregation B'nai B'rith. If you're there on a weekday or for services, go inside to see the sanctuary and the terrific exhibit on Jewish L.A. history in the hallway. Built to emulate a Florence synagogue, it was the central address of L.A. Jewry from the time it opened in 1928 to the 1970s, when it was eclipsed by Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air.

12. Continue west on Wilshire to La Brea Avenue. Turn right (north; you'll pass a plethora of Orthodox shuls and schools), at Melrose Avenue turn left (west), and turn left on Fair-fax Avenue. Between Melrose and Beverly you'll find kosher butchers, groceries, bakeries, Hebrew book and record stores, the fabled Canter's Deli and other signs of a vital, ever-changing Jewish LA. Take Fairfax south to Wilshire and turn left (east) to see the new Jewish Heritage Center at Ogden Avenue, across from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The old and soon-to-be-new-again headquarters of the Jewish Federation can be found a little to the west at 6505 Wilshire Blvd.

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