It had been a tough week. The more news I read about the Boston bombing, the less I understood. Who were these young men, full of grievance, using a fresh start in America to maim and kill innocents?
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.
Choreographer Heidi Duckler isn’t content simply to make works for a stage. To her, the whole of Los Angeles, the whole of the world, even, is fit for dancing. Why leap across a theater floor when you can glide around the lobby of an office building? Why spin atop sprung wood when you can frolic in a laundromat?
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.
While the Emmy Awards were under way at downtown’s Nokia Theatre on Sept. 23, a very different — but no less emotional — celebration of the arts took place less than half an hour away in the leafy residential community of San Marino.
Last Sunday, my wife, our daughter and I hitched our bikes to our car, drove toward downtown and parked just across from MacArthur Park, otherwise known as Langer’s Deli adjacent.
Tess Friedman passes Ethel Kamiyama a bowl of charoset, and Kimayama spreads a spoonful of the fruit and nut paste onto her shard of matzah. Kamiyama leans over her plate as the small sandwich crumbles at her bite, and nods at Friedman, signaling that she finds this foray into Jewish culture quite tasty.
Stop in to the iconic round-the-clock Canter’s Deli most nights during the 7 p.m.-to-4 a.m. shift, and you’re likely to encounter another icon — a short, solid woman in her 70s with auburn hair who wears a white waitress uniform with metal snaps, a black sweater and sports a youthful twinkle in her eye.
Amid all the hubris and rancor flying around the subject of women’s reproductive rights these days, I suggest we stop for a moment and send a word of thanks to Planned Parenthood for its 100 years of caring for both women and men with nowhere else to turn — almost 50 of those years in Los Angeles.
The Jewish community as well as the larger Los Angeles area has lost a giant in education in the passing this week of Shirley Levine. In an age where we debate how we gauge, appreciate and pay our educators, it is time to pause and celebrate one of the best that ever lived.
David Suissa’s “Salon Nation: Israel’s Struggle For Renewal” (Aug. 26) was excellent in describing what common-sense actions should be taken. Unfortunately, too many changes are required before Israel could be considered a “light unto the nations.” In my opinion, the best chance for peace would have been Israel’s unilateral establishment of a Palestinian state after the victorious Yom Kippur War and the signing of the Egyptian peace treaty.
Letters to the editor
The old man ambled up the cement stairs leading to the small front porch of his wood-plank, single-story house on Bridge Street. And, like the house, Adolfo Finkelstein, 85, is a reminder of a previous time when he would have represented the predominant demographic in the area, a time when he would have been part of the large Jewish community that once populated Boyle Heights.
A plastic bag whips in the breeze, trying in vain to free itself from the coil of barbed wire atop a chain link fence that surrounds the Breed Street Shul just off Cesar Chavez Avenue (originally Brooklyn Avenue) in Boyle Heights.
“Boyle Heights wasn’t just a geographical term, it was a mind-set.” So says Abraham (Abe) Hoffman, and he should know.
The other night, my city councilman was wishing aloud for a new word to call what’s happening lately with our neighborhood, Boyle Heights. “Revitalization” and “resurgence” came to mind, but they sounded a little on the generic side — no more appropriate to Boyle Heights than to downtown, say, or Eagle Rock. Unspoken was the eagerness to christen it anything but what a few have called it: gentrification.
When Canter’s Deli first opened in Los Angeles, it was not at its now-famous location on Fairfax Avenue, but in Boyle Heights. And though Canter’s and most of the neighborhood’s Jews have long since deserted Boyle Heights, it was forever touched by the culture of the Jewish community that once called it home. Later waves of immigration brought Japanese, Latino and Russian immigrants to the area, giving Boyle Heights a unique and vibrant ethnic vibe.
An appreciation of Julius Shulman, the still much-in-demand architectural photographer famous for his photos of Modernist homes, who turned 97 a few weeks ago.
Someone has demolished a part of Los Angeles Jewish history and at this point no one in the Jewish community or even the city's building department seems to know who did it and why. The architecturally significant Soto-Michigan Jewish Community Center, the focal point of Jewish social and political community life in Boyle Heights from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, has disappeared under the wrecking ball.
"Boyle Heights was the Ellis Island of Los Angeles," said City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa at the Breed Street Shul Open Day on Sunday, Aug. 22. "And this shul was the mother of all synagogues."
But the "mother of all synagogues," which opened in 1923, was abandoned by its few remaining congregants in 1996, and left to molder away -- unused and unprotected from the elements -- in Boyle Heights, a primarily Latino neighborhood.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I was drawn to Boyle Heights, a Latino community that had once been the home of Los Angeles Jewish radical life.
It wasn't that I was looking for Eastside, left-wing Jewish roots. I didn't have any. When my grandparents lived in Los Angeles before moving north, they had a grocery store in Eagle Rock and later one near Bunker Hill. My mother commuted to UCLA by bus and streetcar to attend the first classes on the Westwood campus.
The East L.A. community of Boyle Heights has always been a neighborhood dominated by immigrants. Today, it's a poor Hispanic neighborhood. But Hershey Eisenberg, 75, remembers a different Boyle Heights: It was during the Great Depression, when the community was poor and Jewish, but the sense of community was very rich.
Although East Los Angeles, and the bordering Boyle Heights, is now the heart of Mexican Los Angeles, vestiges of its diverse past still remain.
For years, the only signs of life at Boyle Heights' historic Breed Street Shul were the flocks of cooing pigeons flying in and out through the large hole in the ceiling.
Among these earlier settlers were many Jewish families, who, notinterested in joining the growing ersatz shtetl up in Boyle Heights,built their graceful homes in the tony new district.