On a wall of the Autry National Center — among Los Angeles Jewish immigrant artifacts, biographies of Hollywood Jewry, above a case of kippot from Uganda — a white banner proclaims in crimson letters: “Beth Chayim Chadashim, Jewish, Gay & Lesbian & Proud.”
What do the recent city elections that saw Jews step into the three top citywide offices — mayor, city attorney and city controller — mean for the role of the Jewish community in Los Angeles?
Just before I sat down to talk about the future of L.A. Jews, I took a quick tour of L.A.’s Jewish past.
Some 20 public events — including lectures, discussions, musical performances, film screenings and bus tours of Jewish Los Angeles — will complement the “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic” exhibition at the Autry National Center (May 10, 2013, through Jan. 5, 2014). Included are:
Coinciding with the run of the “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic” exhibition at the Autry National Center — and we hope, continuing well beyond — this issue of the Jewish Journal marks the beginning of a new monthly feature showcasing various aspects of Los Angeles’ Jewish history.
W. (Walter) Richard West Jr., the new president and CEO of the Autry National Center, believes that a key job of this country’s museums is to interpret the complexity of the American heritage, and he embodies this mission both in his work and in his personal background.
When Los Angeles was incorporated as a city in 1850, eight Jews, all bachelors, were included on the population rolls. Today, according to the best estimates, somewhere between 600,000 to 650,000 Jews live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with figures varying depending upon who does the estimating, how they define the geographical boundaries and, indeed, the definition of who is a Jew.
Taking part in a local Jewish history conference came with a perk, the chance to tour the Autry National Center after closing. I circled twice through the current exhibit on the films of Sergio Leone, creator of the spaghetti Western. His films informed my fantasy life from the early 1970s until, say, marriage, and getting some alone time with Clint and his squint was priceless.