Jewish Homegrown History: Ten Intimate Accounts

Jewish Homegrown History:
Immigration, Identity and Intermarriage
Skirball Cultural Center
March 29 - September 2, 2012


Boyle Heights was an early enclave of Jewish life in Los Angeles that introduced a broad mix of other ethnicities, including Latinos and Japanese Americans. The children of first generation immigrants, who often spoke Yiddish or Spanish at home, as students they all spoke the same language in school and made friends with each other. These cross-cultural friendships defined their outlook on the world, which stayed with them, even after they had moved to other parts of Los Angeles.

Voices: George Sanchez (historian), Judy Chaikin, Richard Hurwitz
Home Movies: Judy Chaikin, and Richard Hurwitz 
Remixed by: Scott Mahoy
Length: 2:40 
Music: Waldeck - Bei mir bist Du schön (Dub) on album Ballroom Stories, 2007

Bob Gregory is a Los Angeles based actor and professional party-giver, who heads a company called "Parties by Celebrations." His home movies dramatize Deborah Dash Moore's claims in To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A., that life in Los Angeles encouraged migrants from the East "to imagine they might live as if on an endless vacation." Mostly shot by his father, an opera singer turned bail bondsman, the home movies display a constant round of parties, ceremonies and social gatherings that shaped Bob's identity as a performer and the rhythms of his life.

Voices: Bob Gregory, Marde Gregory
Texts: Deborah Dash Moore, To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A. (Macmillan, 1994)
Home Movies: Bob Gregory
Remixed by: Pearle Goh
Length: 5:55
Music: Mr. Scruff - Get a Move On; Gabin - Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap; Lynn Marino / Frank Cunimondo Trio - Feelin' Good (Feelin' Better- Streemer Mix)


Theater director Juliette Carrillo is the product of an intermarriage between a Jewish mother (Sheila Goldberg) and Mexican father (Eduardo Carrillo) who met in the Art Department at UCLA and fell in love. Fearing their daughter and grandchildren would not remain Jewish, the Goldbergs opposed the marriage but ultimately accepted it once Juliette was born. The story is told through voice-overs by the daughter and mother and through home movies that become Juliette's historical legacy. It ends with a lyrical interlude with the family camping with their hippy friends in Santa Rosa in the 1970s, being revitalized by the land.

Voices: Juliette Carrillo, Sheila Carrillo
Texts: Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (Yale University Press, 2004)
Home Movies: Juliette Carrillo, Sheila Carrillo, Eduardo Carrillo
Remixed by: Victor Aurelio Bautista
Length: 10:40
Music: Jami Sieber - Maenam, Red Mood and Long Past Gone; Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - Last Ride Back to KC; Mickey Katz - Mazeltov Dances; Les Baxter- April in Portugal; Jeff Alexander - Come Wander With Me

Arlene (aka Chana) and Harvey (aka Chaim) met and fell in love at the Hechalutz Training Farm in Hightstown, New Jersey, the Zionist youth camp that prepared them for life on a kibbutz in Israel. They were married in 1955 in Winnipeg, Canada, before leaving for Israel. Their first child was born in 1956 at a hospital near Kibbutz Nachshon, where they had settled. Though the Feingolds returned to the States, their son became a ballet dancer in the Israel State Ballet. When he married an Italian Catholic ballerina from the same troupe, the Feingolds flew in their own Rabbi from California to marry the interfaith couple. Harvey's parents originally came from Poland in the mid 1920s, immigrating to Canada and eventually settling in Winnipeg where Harvey was born. Arlene's family fled Vienna in 1939 when she was five, settling first in New York and then in L.A.'s Boyle Heights. Now living on L.A.'s Westside, the Feingolds recently attended a joint reunion of Kibbutz Gal-On and Kibbutz Nachshon in Israel.

Voices: Arlene and Harvey Feingold
Home Movies: Arlene and Harvey Feingold
Remixed by: Daniel Bydlowski

This story opens in 1967 with the Beverly Hills wedding of Sumner Saul, an Ashkenazi dentist, and his Moroccan wife Fiby Bouganim, whose family members are Sephardic and Berber Jews. The deeper we go into these home movies, the more engaged they become with world events. As we follow the couple to Morocco as tourists in the1970s, we learn more about the situation of Jews in North Africa. Her family's story reaches back to the historic expulsion of Jews from medieval Spain and ancient Egypt. It explores the ambivalence of living in exile, even when enjoying the prosperity of the new homeland.

Voices: Fiby Bouganim Saul and Sumner Saul
Home Movies: Sumner Saul
Remixed by: Rosemary Comella
Length: 8:45
Music: Chalf Hassan - Marhaba Fi El-Magreb (Welcome to Morocco); Yankele - Intro Arau, Ciganska Svita, Beir Mir Bist Du Sheyn


Stephen O. Lesser tells the story of his family from his own unique point of view. On his father's side the presiding patriarch was his grandfather Sol Lesser, one of the movie moguls who downplayed their Jewish identity. The social and literal mobility of the Lessers is captured in stunning footage of a 1926 trip to Europe, in dynamic images of them moving freely in planes, cars, boats and trains, and hosting a round of birthday parties with famous guests (like child star Jackie Coogan and young Budd Schulberg whose father headed Paramount). Stephen's mother Regina came from a Midwestern family that practiced Judaism and made their money in department stores. Though she divorced Stephen's father and became a Faulkner scholar, she remarried writer/producer William Fadiman who had worked for mogul Howard Hughes.

Voices: Stephen O. Lesser
Home Movies: Courtesy of Stephen, David and Belinda Lesser, and Academy Film Archive where the footage is currently housed
Remixed by: Rosemary Comella


As children, Judy Chaikin and Richard Hurwitz loved visiting Murrieta with their parents in the 1940s. As a World War II vet, Bernie Rabins used to go there looking for single women. Although the parodic song by Yiddish comedian Mickey Katz calls Murrieta "the Catskills of the West," Tony Guenther (whose German family owned the resort) emphasizes the differences, claiming Murrieta helped define a West Coast Jewish identity. Both he and historian Lynn Kronzek explain why it attracted so many Jews.

Voices: Judy Chaikin, Richard Hurwitz, Tony Guenther, Mickey Katz, Lynn Kronzek, Bernie Rabins
Text: Deborah Dash Moore, To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A. (Macmillan, 1994)
Home Movies: Judy Chaikin, Richard Hurwitz, Tony Guenther
Remixed by: Scott Mahoy
Length: 5:57
Music: Mickey Katz - Murrieta Hot Springs on album Putting on the Dog, 1957

Successful lawyer Marsha Miller describes her childhood in City Terrace. Although her mother claimed they were the "poorest" Jews she knew, Marsha and her brother became the highest achievers within their family. The home movies, shot by her father Emil and Aunt Bea, show the family lavishing love on their children, including the Latina twins adopted by Bea. What they omit are the painful hardships and family secrets. When Bea died in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, her papers were destroyed but the home movies survived. Restoring this footage became Marsha's way to reclaim her Jewish heritage and identity.

Voice: Marsha Miller
Text: Michelle Citron, Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions (University of Minnesota Press, 1998) 
Home Movies: Marsha Miller, Emil Miller, Bea Stein Reskin
Remixed by: Daniel Bydlowski
Length: 8:40
Music: Cielito Lindo - Mika Agematsu Feat. DUARTE Bros.

When Harriet Shapiro met Fred Rochlin at UC Berkeley in 1946 they quickly discovered they had much in common. She and his mother had the same maiden name; they both spoke English, Spanish, and some Yiddish, and were born on November 4th. He hailed from Nogales, on the Arizona-Sonora border, and she from Boyle Heights. They spent the next 55 years together-raising four children in the Los Angeles area, and pursuing their respective careers, his in architecture, hers in literature. Together they created Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West--her writing and his images. Each also soloed. Under the mentorship of Robert Kirsch, Harriet wrote the first novel in her Desert Dwellers Trilogy. Fred created a WW2 monologue, first performed in a Spalding Gray workshop. His performance led to a full-length memoir, Old Man in a Baseball Cap.

Voice: Harriet Rochlin, Fred Rochlin
Text: Harriet and Fred Rochlin, Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West (Houghton Mifflin, 1984); Fred Rochlin, The Old Man in a Baseball Cap: A Memoir of World War II (Diane, 1999)
Home Movies: Harriet Rochlin
Remixed by: Daniel Bydlowski
Length: 9:58
Music: Cancion de Romeria; Mary deQuattro - Lover Earth; Frédéric Mesnier (Instrumental Guitar) - Cuando la guitarra baila and Leila's Tears

When Barbara Erlichman married her first husband in 1957, the wedding was professionally documented on 16 mm film. Not only does this beautiful footage reveal the bride's striking resemblance to Grace Kelley (who had married the Prince of Monaco the previous year) and the family's striving for mainstream glamour, but it also captures the physical affection that Jewish family members lavished on each other.

Home Movies: Barbara Erlichman Manzi
Remixed by: Daniel Rabins