It’s Sunday night, Erev Rosh Hashanah, and Hebrew chatter fills the air of a Masonic center on Westwood Boulevard. Approximately a dozen round tables covered in white cloths fill the large room.
While hundreds of American athletes are eagerly anticipating the beginning of the Olympics in London this month, another Team USA is preparing for a different international competition.
One of the biggest and most obvious challenges in raising Jewish awareness and building Jewish connection is finding ways of getting your point across. Every week, across Los Angeles, there are hundreds of classes and sermons that aim specifically to do that: get a Jewish point across. This could be a Shabbat sermon on the parasha of the week, or weekday classes on raising Jewish children, improving your marriage, refining your character, connecting to Jewish peoplehood and so on.
There's more to Jewish Los Angeles than Hollywood, outsider perceptions notwithstanding, and a wide-ranging UCLA project aims to paint a fuller and more accurate picture of the metropolis' 650,000 Jews.
"Los Angeles is one of the greatest Jewish cities in the Diaspora, the second largest in the United States, and it is time to subject it to serious inquiry," said historian David N. Myers, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies (CJS).
The inquiry by the center, joined by the Autry National Center and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, will focus on two critical questions: