Quarterly Newsletter/ May 2013 - Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic

The History of Jewish Life in Los Angeles Researched, Interpreted, and Displayed as Never Before

     If you've been receiving my newsletter for a while, you know that I was born in Boyle Heights in 1924 and spent my first twenty years in a house my parents built on recently subdivided ranchland. Also, that in a few years both sides of the newly paved street were lined with mostly single family residences, all occupied by Jewish families. And that from kindergarten through twelfth grade I attended schools where I, like my ethnically and racially diverse classmates, was enjoined to embrace the culture of my family, and to respect those of my fellow students. Well-informed on how young minds function, our educators softened the injunction with engaging programs: stories, songs, and dances of various cultures, and school-wide native costume parades. Between 1920 and 1940, the mixed population of Boyle Heights reached its peak: Jews, 35,000, Mexicans, 15,000, and Japanese, 5,000. Smaller enclaves of Russians, Armenians, Greeks, and Italians settled in mini-neighborhoods served by churches and stores that catered to their traditional tastes. Anglos and African Americans, few in number, found housing and adapted, the more outgoing, with noticeable ease.
     By the late 1950s, the Mexican American population in Boyle Heights had significantly increased, while other ethnic and racial groups, my family among them, gradually relocated in Los Angeles at large. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, where I majored in Hispanic America, I married a Jew from the Arizona-Sonora border, and lived first in Hollywood, then for three decades in the San Fernando Valley. In the late 1960s, captivated by the growing national ethnic history movement, I began to research and write about Jewish pioneering in the newly American West. The endeavor brought to mind memories of my multicultural school days in Boyle Heights. As did our move in 1981, after our children were grown, to an eighteen-story condominium in West Los Angeles where the residents were of as diverse origins as my classmates in Boyle Heights.
     So why am I telling you this now? Because as a Jew, pluralist, and lifelong Angeleno, I'm delighted to apprise you of a first-of-its-kind exhibition now in progress at the Autry National Center. Titled Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic, it will run until January 5, 2014. For a number of reasons, the show is likely to arouse more attention than most histories of Jewish life in a large American city, and also controversy, given its size and the diversity of the metropolis. Its guest curator is Karen S. Wilson, Kahn Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. Of a number of quotable passages in Wilson's introductory chapter to a book accompanying the exhibition, the following is most pertinent here. "The presence of Jews, in all their heterogeneity, has enhanced Los Angeles, and Jewish Angelenos have mirrored the challenges and advantages of American society."
     In addition to Wilson's introduction and article, "Becoming Angelenos," are four other extraordinary pieces: "Reexamining Los Angeles' 'Lower East Side': Jewish Bakers Union Local 453 and Yiddish Food Culture in 1920s Boyle Heights," by Caroline Luce; "Letting Jews be Jews: Ethnicity and Hollywood, Its Fall and Rise," by Kenneth Turan; "At the Intersection of Gender, Ethnicity, and the City: Three Jewish Women in Los Angeles Politics," by Amy Hill Shevitz, and "White Chistmases and Hanukkah Mambos: Jews and the Making of Popular Music in L.A.," by Josh Kun.
     Listed below is a wide variety of exhibition events planned from May to October, along with detailed ticket information for non-members. Also cited in detail are the the days and hours the exhibition is open to the public, the address of the Autry Museum, and general ticketing information.

Programs & Events

Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic Symoposium
Date/ Time: Sunday, May 19, 2012, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm.
Admission: Museum admission is included with the purchase of a Symposium ticket. Preregistration is recommended, as space is limited. Ticket includes a light breakfast and closing reception. Lunch will be provided for an additional charge of $20.

     Inspired by the new exhibition at the Autry, Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic, this symposium, presented with the Historical Society of Southern California and the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, will consider the influence of the Jewish community in Los Angeles and the ways in which the city has shaped it in return.
Bringing leading scholars together with community leaders, panel discussions will examine the multiethnic experience in Los Angeles, the formation of the mosaic, and consider the Jewish experience in Los Angeles as a part of the broader picture of Jewish life in America. The wide-ranging conversations will explore race riots and philanthropy, Hollywood and politics, religion and public art, and other topics.
     Panelists include: Stephen Aron, chair of the Autry Institute and professor of history, UCLA; Arthur Benveniste, Sephardic community historian; Bill Fishman, Newmark/Lazard family historian; Erik Greenberg, director of education, Autry National Center; Todd Presner, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, and professor of Germanic languages, comparative literature, and Jewish studies, UCLA; Steven J. Ross, professor of history, University of Southern California; Carol Schneider, family member of artist Lorraine Schneider; Sarah Schrank, professor of history, California State University, Long Beach; Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, California State University, Los Angeles; Brenda Stevenson, professor of history, UCLA; Allison Varzally, associate professor of history, California State University, Fullerton; Karen Wilson, exhibition curator and Kahn Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, UCLA Center for Jewish Studies; and Steven Windmueller, Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Why History Matters
Conversations on Convergence
Legacies and Prospects: Which Way (Jewish) L.A.?

Date/ Time: Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 7:00 pm.
Admission: Free. Tickets available at the door, or reserve in advance online or via 323.667.2000, ext. 371.

     The latest in UCLA's Why History Matters series, this panel discussion looks at the future of the Los Angeles mosaic and the place of Jews within it, in light of the history presented in the exhibition Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic. Panelists will reflect on life in a diverse and cosmopolitan metropolis, while considering the struggle of choosing between integration and the drawing of community boundaries.
Moderated by Rob Eshman, publisher and editor-in-chief, Tribe Media Corporation and the Jewish Journal, this program features Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR; philanthropist David Lonner, founder of Oasis Media Group; David Myers, chair of the UCLA History Department and former director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies; and Councilwoman Jan Perry.

Maggids of Memory
Date/ Time: Once a month, May through December 2013, 1:00-2:00 pm.
     The maggid is a kind of storyteller, a person whose connection to the tales of the Jewish past can illuminate and inspire us in the present day. Each month, hear from a variety of modern maggids as they share their stories and memories of the Los Angeles mosaic.
     Sunday, May 26, 1:00-2:00 pm. Bruce Phillips, professor at Hebrew Union College, demographer and historian of American Jewish life, will speak about his father Bill Phillips, who owned Phillips' Music Store in Boyle Heights.
     Sunday, June 23, 1:00-2:00 pm. Storyteller, teacher, and historian Art Benveniste tells stories of Los Angeles' Sephardic Jewish community. Sephardic Jews are those whose families come from Spain, North Africa, and the Levant.
     Sunday, July 28, 1:00-2:00 pm. David Epstein, publisher and member of Western States Jewish History, a nonprofit organization dedicated to discovering, chronicling, and publicizing Jewish history in the American West, Canada, Mexico, and the Pacific Rim. He will speak about early Jewish Angelenos.
     Sunday, August 25, 1:00-2:00 pm. Professor and storyteller Cate Roman descends from a long line of Jewish grocers in L.A. Join us as she shares stories of her family's history.
     Sunday, September 22, 1:00-2:00 pm. Bruce Powell, PhD, Founder of Milken Community High School and New Jewish Community High School, talks about his memories of Camp Alonim, the Brandeis Bardin Institute and the history of Jewish education in L.A.
     Sunday, October 27, 1:00-2:00 pm. Longtime Jewish communal service professional Beryl Geber, a native of South Africa, has spent decades working and teaching in Los Angeles' Jewish community. Tracing her own career, she will explain how it has changed over time.

Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Ear
Women of the West
With Ann Kirschner

Date/ Time: Saturday, June 1, 2013, 2:00 pm. 
Admission: Museum admission rates apply/ Free for Autry members.
    Ann Kirschner presents her biography of Josephine Marcus Earp, a Jewish woman from New York who became the common-law wife of famed lawman and gambler Wyatt Earp.
   Lady at the O.K. Corral uncovers conflicts and questions about American history dramatized in Josephine's story: the end of the real American frontier and the rise of its mythology; the seismic shifts in public attitudes toward prostitution, gambling, and alcohol; and the untold stories of the fearless women who helped develop the American frontier. A book signing follows the program.

Double Indemnity (1944)
What is a Western? Film Series.

Date/ Time: Saturday, June 8, 2013, 1:30 pm.
RSVP/ Reservations: Buy Tickets Now.

    Traditional Westerns provide insight into life on the American frontier, but a variety of other films set in the twentieth-century West are equally informative. Noir films such as Double Indemnity clearly illuminate the social and cultural changes that took place in Western cities, especially Los Angeles, during and after World War II.
    Prior to the screening, Glynn Martin, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Police Museum, will discuss the history of crime in Los Angeles and the pivotal role the city played in film noir.

Summer Solstice Celebration
Date/ Time: Friday, June 21, 2013, 6:00-8:00 pm.
Admission: Museum Admission Rates Apply/ Free for Autry Members.
RSVP/ Reservations: Buy Tickets Now.
    Drum in the beginning of summer at the Autry! Learn the symbolic and cultural significance of drums in this multicultural, interactive presentation and workshop at the Autry, which features participants from the Asian, Jewish, Latino, and Native American communities. Families will make their own drumming instrument and participate in the community drum circle as the sun sets and we welcome the summer solstice in Griffith Park.

Book Talk With Fred Weintraub
Autry Book Club

Date/ Time: Sunday, June 30, 2013, 2:00-4:00 pm.
Admission: Museum Admission Rates Apply/ Free for Autry Members.
Reservations Required: (323) 667-2000, ext. 326.

    Fred Weintraub is the Hollywood legend you've never heard of. This visionary showman guided the careers of many celebrities, from Bill Cosby to Joan Rivers, Woody Allen, and Neil Diamond. He will speak about his book, Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me: From the Man Behind a Half-Century of Music, Movies, and Martial Arts.     "A superb example of the how-I-did-it Hollywood memoir, which may be the highest praise I can bestow upon the book. [Doubtful] that any showman coming along today can aspire to a career as diverse, rollicking, and accomplished as Weintraub's has been, but Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me will excite the imaginations and stoke the ambitions of its readers." -- Jewish Journal

Bus Tour of Jewish Los Angeles
Date/ Time: Sunday, July 21, 2013, 9:00 am-2:00 pm.
    Discover the people and places marking the growth of L.A. from dusty pueblo to thriving metropolis-and Jewish L.A. from less than a minyan (the quorum required for Jewish communal worship) in 1850 to the world's second largest Jewish community outside of Israel.
    Tour participants get a chance to visit some of the neighborhoods explored in the exhibition, such as Boyle Heights and downtown L.A., as well as the Wilshire and Fairfax areas. The tour will stop at the famous Canter's Deli on Fairfax for a self-paid lunch. It will begin and end at the Autry and includes admission to the museum.
    Presented in partnership with the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California.

What Makes a Jewish Movie?
A Conversation with Kenneth Turan & Vincent Brook with Screenings of Act of Violence (1948) & A Serious Man (2009)

Date/ Time: Sunday, Aug 4, 2013, 11:30 am - 5:30 pm.
    From Billy Wilder to the Coen brothers, Jewish directors have made varied contributions to the Los Angeles movie industry over the years. Kenneth Turan, film critic of the Los Angeles Times, and Vincent Brook, media and cultural studies professor at USC and UCLA, will consider some of those movies as they discuss the choices made by Jews in Hollywood and what influenced those filmmaking decisions. The conversation is bookended by a screening of two films selected by the panelists.
    Films at 11:30 am and 3:30 pm. Conversation at 2:00 pm. Visitors can attend the whole day, or stop in for one or both films and/or the conversation.
    Act of Violence (1948) confronts the survivor guilt faced by many of the émigré directors of the era and is described by Brook as "a compendium of noir elements."
    A Serious Man (2009) is an Academy award-nominated movie from the Coen brothers, which is, according to Turan, "their most personal, most intensely Jewish film, a pitch-perfect comedy of despair that, against some odds, turns out to be one of their most universal as well."

Morning at the Museum: Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic
Date/ Time: Sunday, August 18, 2013, 9:00-11:00 am.
Reservations Required: (323) 667-2000, ext. 326, or memberinfo@theautry.org.

    Members at the Turquoise level and above are invited for a breakfast reception and a curator-led tour of the exhibition.

Crossing Musical Borders
Date/ Time: Sunday, September 22, 2013, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm.
Admission: Museum Admission Rates Apply/ Free for Autry Members.

    How did Los Angeles become a place where musicians can cross borders and fuse cultural styles? How does the influence of Boyle Heights continue to impact the musical fusion within the city? Join us for a conversation led by Josh Kun, director of the Popular Music Project at USC Annenberg's Norman Lear Center and editor of The Song Is Not the Same: Jews and American Popular Music, and Paul De Castro, professor of music at CSULA and a noted composer of Afro-Latin music. They are joined by Junko Seki, a Japanese mariachi, and Otto Granillo, founder of the world music band KoTolan, which will perform.

Faith Meets 8
Date/ Time: Sunday, October 20, 2013, 2:00 pm.
Admission: Museum Admission Rates Apply/ Free for Autry Members.

    Moderator David Lazarus leads a lively discussion on the involvement of faith-based organizations in community activism and the LGBT movement, culminating in the issues surrounding California's Prop 8. Joining the conversation are the Reverend Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the world's first gay and lesbian Christian church; Paul Lichterman, professor of sociology and religion at USC: Joanna Brooks, scholar and author of The Book of Mormon Girl; and Rabbi Lisa Edwards of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), the world's first lesbian and gay synagogue. Founded following a gathering at MCC, BCC has long been a pioneer of the movement in Los Angeles and its featured in the Autry's exhibition Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic.


Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462
(323) 667-2000
Tues-Fri: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sat-Sun: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tickets can be Purchased at the Autry or Online