Susan Goldberg, rabbi of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, grew up in nearby Echo Park. “There were no Jewish families around when I was growing up,” Goldberg, 38, said. Now that these neighborhoods are being gentrified, and a young, creative crowd is moving in, the Jews are coming, too.
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Walk up the steep pathway and into the sanctuary of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock on any Shabbat morning. Congregants will jump up out of their wooden pews to greet you and introduce you to fellow worshippers, even if the service has begun. Chances are they'll also honor you with an aliyah and invite you to join them for the potluck Kiddush luncheon that follows their traditional but egalitarian Conservative service.
Once a year, Highland Park is converted into Chai-land Park for what might be the most gone-amok of all Jewish celebrations: "Jew Night."
Michael Perrick created a post-modern Borscht Belt bash that has become a local tradition for Jew and non-Jew alike.
"Every year, people ask me, 'So when is 'Jew Night?'" says the 34-year-old Silver Lake artist.
"Jew Night" is all about wacked-out Jewish kitsch: the gyrating Jelvis ("The Jewish Elvis"); the Whirling Hors-Dervishes klezmer band; the Sinai Puppets; a Whack-a-Mohel game; bagel flinging; and even a Miss JAP contest where contestants are judged on hair, nails and whining. The biggest draw: "Strip Dreydel." The Fourth Annual shtickfest will be hosted by Perrick's alter-kacker alter ego, Sye Goldstein.