Jewish communities thrived in early L.A. — and helped the city thrive, too
There are many myths about L.A. history. Myths, and they are many. Some of them are a little far-fetched and a little more true than that, but I hope I can persuade you to consider some of them.
But before I do, let’s talk about an interesting fact: Not only did L.A. have a Jewish community that was thriving for many years in the late 1800s, but many of the people who lived in the Jewish quarter of the city were Jewish themselves. They were part of a community that was not just an ethnic phenomenon. They were part of a cultural phenomenon, and they thrived because culture matters and because they cared about each other and not because their ethnicity happened to be Jewish.
Of course our city has had many ethnic enclaves over the years, and some of those have become very distinct, even as their ethnicity has faded away. Some have a distinct culture while others don’t. Some have vibrant arts and entertainment scenes while others don’t. For some people, music comes before religion, as is the case in New York, which has a huge Jewish music scene and a much smaller, but even more active, gay and lesbian scene.
For some people, the arts play a much greater role in their lives. This role is seen in the San Diego community — for years it was a largely white community where the arts and the music were the main source of entertainment and where the gay and lesbian community was barely tolerated, but that changed when the city, the county and the state decided to come out and speak up for the gay community and they began to have a very significant and noticeable influence on cultural events around the city.
The Jewish community of the early 20th century in L.A. was quite different — it was the immigrant community, mostly Eastern European and