Eddie Goldstein, remembered as being the last Jewish resident from the original Jewish community of Boyle Heights, died on Jan. 5 after having lived in the neighborhood for almost eight decades.
Born and raised in Boyle Heights, Goldstein lived there his entire life. He resided in the same house on Folsom Avenue for more than 50 years, moving there with his mother and brothers after they were displaced by the construction of the Golden State Freeway, as were many other Boyle Heights residents in the 1950s. The family used the proceeds from the government’s eminent domain actions to purchase their home.
Goldstein attended Hollenbeck Junior High School and Roosevelt High School, though he told the Journal in a 2011 profile that he was expelled from the latter before he could graduate, due to conflicts with teachers and other students.
Long retired from the meat-packing business at the time of the article, he was more likely then to be wiling away the time watching television, visiting with his children and grandchildren and occasionally venturing onto iconic Cesar Chavez Avenue to pay some utility bills or buy groceries.
Goldstein had a strong connection to the predominant Latino community in the neighborhood. He married a Mexican-American woman and helped raise her children from a prior marriage. They adopted a child, Steve, who took his father’s last name. (A Los Angeles Times article also indicated that he had a Jewish son from a previous relationship.)
Goldstein told the Journal he felt comfortable sharing both cultures, though he straddled the edges of the two faiths. Because his children and grandchildren were raised in the Christian traditions, he attended church services for a family function but made it clear he could not kneel before the symbol of Christ.
“I’m Jewish” he said, “and we don’t kneel to Jesus.”
But he enjoyed celebrating the special foods of Passover, eating matzah brought to him by Chabad missionaries and buying horseradish and gefilte fish. The celebrations seem to have become more important to him over the years, especially since his beloved wife, Esther, died, according to the 2011 Journal story.
According to the Times, which indicated that he was hospitalized with pneumonia on New Year’s Eve, his funeral was attended by several family members and a large group of his Mexican-American neighbors.
Bruce A. Phillips, professor of Jewish communal service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles and senior research fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC, said that despite Goldstein’s death there remains a visible Jewish presence in the area — such as the lending library/bookstore Libros Schmibros and the effort to rehabilitate the Breed Street Shul — as well as gentrification efforts in nearby neighborhoods.
“There actually is an important Jewish presence there beyond just memory,” Phillips said. “Maybe we’re sort of seeing the last of one group and the beginnings of another.”