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History of the Jews in Los Angeles

History of the Jews in Los Angeles — the history of Judaism and the Jews in Los Angeles, Southern California.

As of 1989 Los Angeles had the second highest population of Soviet Jews in the United States; New York City had the highest population.[1]


  • History 1
    • 19th century 1.1
    • 20th century 1.2
  • Demographics 2
    • Iranian Jews 2.1
  • Geography 3
  • Media 4
  • Education 5
  • Notable residents 6
  • References 7
  • References 8
    • Further reading 8.1
  • External links 9


19th century

In 1841 Jacob Frankfort arrived in the Mexican Pueblo de Los Ángeles in Alta California. He was the city's first Jew.[2] When California was admitted to the Union in 1850, The U.S. Census recorded that there were eight Jews living in Los Angeles.[3]

Morris L. Goodman was the first Jewish Councilman in 1850 when the Pueblo de Los Ángeles Ayuntamento became the Los Angeles City Council with US statehood.[4] Solomon Lazard, a Los Angeles merchant, served on the Los Angeles City Council in 1853, and also headed the first Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.[4]

Joseph Newmark, a lay rabbi, began conducting the first informal Sabbath services in Los Angeles in 1854.[4]

"First Jewish site in Los Angeles"
1855 Hebrew Benevolent Society Cemetery marker.

In 1854 Joseph Newmark arrived in of Los Angeles and helped found the Hebrew Benevolent Society for the evolving Jewish community, after organizing congregations in New York and St. Louis. The first organized Jewish community effort in Los Angeles was their acquiring a cemetery site from the city in 1855. The Hebrew Benevolent Society Cemetery was located at Lookout Drive and Lilac Terrace, in Chavez Ravine, central Los Angeles.[3] Present day historical marker for the "First Jewish site in Los Angeles" is located south of Dodger Stadium, behind the police academy, in the Elysian Park area. In 1910 the bodies were moved to the Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles.[4]

The oldest congregation in Los Angeles started in 1862, a Reform denomination, it is the present day Wilshire Boulevard Temple congregation.[3]

In 1865 Louis Lewin and Charles Jacoby organized the Pioneer Lot Association which developed an eastern Los Angeles area, later known as Boyle Heights.[4]

In 1868 Isaias W. Hellman (1842-1920) and partners formed the Farmers and Merchants Bank in the city. In 1879 he was on the board of trustees to create the new University of Southern California.[5] In 1881 Hellman was appointed a Regent of the University of California, was reappointed twice, and served until 1918.[4]

20th century

From 1900 to 1926 there was no distinct Jewish neighborhood.[4] 2500 Jews lived "downtown" which in 1910 was described as Temple Street (the main Jewish Street) and the area to its south. In 1920, this was described to include Central Avenue. Smaller groups lived in the University, Westlake, and wholesale areas. Except for University, these areas steadily declined between 1900 and 1926.

In 1900 two Jewish community historians stated that "there were far too few Jews to form a definitively Jewish district."[6]

In 1900 there were 2,500 Jews. This increased to 5,795 Jews in 1910, 10,000 in 1917, 43,000 in 1923, and 65,000 in the mid-1920s.[7]

In 1902 the Kaspare Cohn Hospital (1902-1910), which later became Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (Melrose/Vermont), and eventually Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was established in Angelino Heights. From 1902-1905 it treated tuberculosis sufferers from Eastern sweatshops, until rich neighbors forced them to stop treating TB patients.[4]

In 1906 the Sinai Temple was organized. It was the first Conservative congregation in Los Angeles and the first Conservative synagogue built west of Chicago.[4] From completion in 1909 to 1925 the congregation worshiped at 12th and Valencia Streets. The congregation moved to Westwood in 1961.[3] In 1911 the Hebrew Sheltering Association began, eventually becoming the Jewish Home for the Aged, now in Reseda.

In the 1920s, after an initial period in East Coast and mid-west cities, significant numbers of Jewish immigrants and their families drawn by the economic boom, move to Los Angeles, eventually making Boyle Heights home to largest Jewish community west of Chicago. The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 established annual quotas for immigrants from Europe. Northern Europeans were favored over Eastern and Southern Europeans. The law significantly curtailed the massive 1881-1924 influx of Eastern European Jews. However, the population of Jews in Los Angeles continued to increase rapidly as they moved West.

In 1927 I.M. Hattem, a Sephardic Jew, opened the first supermarket in America. The first Sephardic synagogue in Los Angeles was dedicated in 1932.

in 1935 a mass meeting was held at the Philharmonic Auditorium to protest against the treatment of the Jews in Germany. In 1936 the Los Angeles Jewish Community Council was incorporated, the present day Jewish Federation Council.[4] In 1940 Los Angeles had the seventh largest Jewish population of all the cities in the United States. Large numbers of Jews began to immigrate to Los Angeles after World War II. 2,000 Jews per month settled in Los Angeles in 1946. Almost 300,000 Jews lived in Los Angeles by 1950. Over 400,000 Jews lived in Los Angeles, about 18% of the total population, by the end of the 1950s. By the end of the 1970s, over 500,000 Jews lived in Los Angeles.[8]

In 1989, there had been about 1,500 Soviet Jews who arrived in Los Angeles by December 4 of that year. Los Angeles area authorities anticipated that in the next two months an additional 850 Soviet Jews were to arrive.[1]

There are now 662,450 Jews living in the greater Los Angeles area. ["The Association of Religion Data Archives | Maps & Reports". Retrieved 2012-06-11.]

Jews have played a role in creating or developing many Los Angeles business and cultural institutions, including the entertainment, fashion and real estate industries. [3]


As of 1996 most immigrants from Israel to Los Angeles are Jews who are Hebrew-speakers.[9]

Iranian Jews

As of 2008 the Los Angeles area had the largest Persian Jewish population in the U.S., at 50,000.[10]

The Beverly Hills Unified School District, the established Jewish community, and security attracted Iranian Jews to Beverly Hills, and a commercial area of the city became known as "Tehrangeles" due to Iranian ownership of businesses in the Golden Triangle.[11] After the 1979 Iranian Revolution about 30,000 Iranian Jews settled in Beverly Hills and the surrounding area.[12] The Iranian Jews who lost funds in Iran were able to quickly adapt due to their high level of education, overseas funds, and experience in the business sector.[11] In 1988 1,300 Iranian Jews settled in Los Angeles.[13]

In 1990 John L. Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times wrote that these Iranian Jews "function as part of a larger Iranian community" but that they also "in many respects[...]form a community of their own" as they "still manage to live their lives nearly surrounded by the culture of their homeland--going to Iranian nightclubs, worshiping at Iranian synagogues, shopping for clothing and jewelry at Iranian businesses."[12] There had been initial tensions with Ashkenazi Jews in the synagogues due to cultural misunderstandings and differences in worship patterns, partly because some Iranian Jews did not understand that they needed to assist in fundraising efforts and pay dues. The tensions subsided by 2009.[11]


As of 2007 Orthodox Jews have increasingly settled Hancock Park.[14]

As of 1990 the majority of Iranians in Beverly Hills were Jewish. By that year many Iranian restaurants and businesses were established in a portion of Westwood Boulevard south of Wilshire Boulevard.[12]

Jews have increasingly settled in areas near Los Angeles, such as San Fernando Valley and Thousand Oaks, California.

When Jews settled in Los Angeles, they were originally located in the Downtown area. Industrial expansion in the Downtown area pushed the Jews to Eastside Los Angeles, where The Los Angeles Jewish community formed in the years 1910-1920. The Brooklyn Avenue-Boyle Heights area, the Temple Street area, and the Central Avenue area were the settlement points of Jews in that period.[7]

In the 1920s the Jewish population saw Boyle Heights as the heart of the Jewish community. In 1908 Boyle Heights had 3 Jewish families. In 1920 there were 1,842 Jewish families there. In the mid-1920s about 33% of all of the Jews in Los Angeles lived in Boyle Heights. By 1930 almost 10,000 Jewish families lived in Boyle Heights.[7]


The The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles is the local Jewish newspaper, is the main community Web site.


Milken Community High School is located in Bel-Air.

Jewish schools in the San Fernando Valley, as of 1988, included Einstein Academy (grades 7-12) in Van Nuys, Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School (K-9) in Northridge, and Kadima Hebrew Academy (PreK-6) in Woodland Hills.[15]

Rohr Jewish Learning Institute in partnership with Chabad is active throughout Los Angeles.[16][17][18][19]

American Jewish University is located in Bel Air, Los Angeles.

Notable residents


  • Gurock, Jeffrey S. American Jewish History: The Colonial and Early National Periods, 1654-1840, Volume 1. Taylor & Francis, 1998. ISBN 0415919258, 9780415919258.


  1. ^ a b Schrader, Esther. "Undertow: LA copes with the flood of Soviet emigres." The New Republic. December 4, 1989. Vol.201(23), p.11(2). ISSN: 0028-6583. ""And Los Angeles has a higher concentration of Soviet Jews than any American city except new York: the community has grown by about 1,500 this year, and 850 more are expected in the next two months."
  2. ^ Harnisch, Larry. "Bringing the history of Jews in L.A. into clearer focus." Los Angeles Times. May 24, 2013. Retrieved on March 31, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Los Angeles Times: "10 Selected sites that recall Jewish history in Los Angeles" (April 24, 1986) . accessed 05.18.2014
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Jews in LA timeline
  5. ^ About USC: History. University of Southern California.
  6. ^ Romo, Ricardo. East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio. University of Texas Press, July 5, 2010. ISBN 0292787715, 9780292787711. p. 94-95.
  7. ^ a b c Romo, Ricardo. East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio. University of Texas Press, July 5, 2010. ISBN 0292787715, 9780292787711. p. 95.
  8. ^ Gurock, p. 38.
  9. ^ Bozorgmehr, Mehdi, Claudia Der-Martirosian, and Georges Sabagh. "Middle Easterners: A New Kind of Immigrant" (Chapter 12). In: Waldinger, Roger and Mehdi Bozorgmehr (editors). Ethnic Los Angeles. Russell Sage Foundation, December 5, 1996. Start page 345. ISBN 1610445473, 9781610445474. Cited: p. 348.
  10. ^ Hennessy-Fiske, Molly and Tami Abdollah. "Community torn by tragedy." Los Angeles Times. September 15, 2008. p. 1. Retrieved on March 11, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c West, Kevin. "The Persian Conquest." W Magazine. July 2009. Retrieved on March 11, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Mitchell, John L. "Iranian Jews Find a Beverly Hills Refuge : Immigrants: Khomeini's revolution drove 40,000 of them into exile. At least 30,000 may live in or near the city that symbolizes wealth." Los Angeles Times. February 13, 1990. Retrieved on March 11, 2015. p. 1.
  13. ^ Mitchell, John L. "Iranian Jews Find a Beverly Hills Refuge : Immigrants: Khomeini's revolution drove 40,000 of them into exile. At least 30,000 may live in or near the city that symbolizes wealth." Los Angeles Times. February 13, 1990. Retrieved on March 11, 2015. p. 2.
  14. ^ Watanabe, Teresa. "Change drives tension in staid Hancock Park." Los Angeles Times. October 1, 2007. p. 1. Retrieved on April 2, 2014.
  15. ^ Lingre, Michele. "Early Linguists : Private Foreign-Language Schools Give Bilingual Education a New Twist." Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1988. p. 3. Retrieved on June 29, 2015.
  16. ^ Lakein, Dvora (October 6, 2014). "How Does She Do It?". Chabad Lubavitch World HQ / News. Retrieved 17 November 2014. Mrs. Shula Bryski, representative to Thousand Oaks, California, and a mother of six, says that the Rebbe “empowered women in a way perhaps never done before.” Embracing modernity, the Rebbe understood that today, “women need more sophisticated Judaism, more depth, more spirituality.” Bryski’s personal emphasis in this affluent Los Angeles suburb is educating women through a weekly Caffeine for the Soul class, monthly Rosh Chodesh Society meetings, and the wildly-popular bat-mitzvah classes she leads. Bryski also serves on the editorial board of the Rosh Chodesh Society, a project of Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) and is a prolific writer. 
  17. ^ Posner, Menachem. "300 Rabbinical Students Heading Out for Summer Sojourns". Lubavitch World Headquarters. is a division of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. Zarchi was followed by Rabbi Efraim Mintz, who served as a Roving Rabbi in California in 1990. Mintz, who directs the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, shared tips and advice on honing a Torah “elevator pitch,” as well as ideas about presenting more advanced Torah thoughts on a variety of subjects to share with others during the course of their travels. 
  18. ^ "What Chabad on Campus Offers". Chabad of UCLA. Los Angeles, California. Our Sinai Scholars program (in conjunction with the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute) is popular among college students as they discover the inner meaning of the 10 Commandments, and JLearn programs are run every semester covering a wide variety of Jewish and Chassidic topics. 
  19. ^ "10 Commandments program". LOS ANGELES, California: Shturem. Based on Article by Bradford Wiss/ The dinner for the first graduates at USC took place at West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Westwood, and began with a videotaped speech from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, in which he said that Torah study was an important birthright of all Jews, regardless of their class, education, or age. 
  20. ^ Geis, Sonya. "Iran Native Becomes Mayor of Beverly Hills." The Washington Post. Sunday April 1, 2007. Retrieved on March 11, 2015.

Further reading

  • Chammou, Eliezer. Migration and adjustment: the case of Sephardic Jews in Los Angeles. University of California, Los Angeles, 1976. Available in Snippet View from Google Books.
  • Gelfand, Mitchell Brian. Chutzpah in El Dorado: Social Mobility of Jews in Los Angeles, 1900-1920. Carnegie-Mellon University, 1981. Available in Snippet View from Google Books.
  • Newmark, Harris. Sixty Years in Southern California 1853-1913. NY:1926.
  • Soomekh, Sabah. From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture. SUNY Press, November 1, 2012. ISBN 1438443838, 9781438443836.
  • Vorspan, Max and Gartner, Lloyd. History of the Jews of Los Angeles. Huntington Library. 1970.
  • Wilson, Karen. Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic. University of California Press, May 1, 2013. ISBN 0520275500, 9780520275508.
  • The Jews of Los Angeles: Urban pioneers. Southern California Jewish Historical Society, 1981. Available in Snippet View from Google Books.
  • Phillips, Bruce. "Jewish population of L.A., Valley districts" (Opinion). The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. February 22, 2012.

External links

  • Timeline of Jewish History in Los Angeles
  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
  • Iranian American Jewish Federation
  • Center for Jewish Studies (CJS), University of California, Los Angeles
  • Mapping Jewish LA, a project of the CJS
  • [4] Jewish Journal
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