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Jews and Latinos: A crossroads in L.A.

September 10, 2008 | 12:07 pm


The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles announced grants designed to boost ties between the city's Latino and Jewish communities. According to City News Service:

The American Jewish Committee was awarded $150,000 for Esencia de Judaismo, a three-year program that educates 500 Los Angeles-area Latino clergymen about Judaism as a religion, culture and civilization. A $250,000 award went to the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance for Jewish Student Leadership in a Diverse World, a program for Jewish high school and college youth that aims to build cross-cultural skills, reinforce Jewish values, and prepare students for living in a diverse world through a two-semester course focusing on Los Angeles’ Latino communities.

In 2006, Daniel Hernandez wrote an interesting story in The Times about Jewish and Latino identity, focusing in part on the days when Boyle Heights was home to immigrants of both groups. A sample of the dialogue:

George Sanchez, a history professor at USC, has spent years interviewing former residents of Boyle Heights. His presentation centered on a period when the neighborhood’s vibrant multicultural patchwork was evident in the makeup of Roosevelt High School, which was founded in 1923. There was a point in the school’s history, Sanchez said, quoting one of his many interviews, where “you could divide the sports activities by race, with varsity football dominated by huge Russians -– and some Jews -– Mexicans and blacks in varsity track and tall Slavics in basketball.” Many audience chortled to themselves, but everyone laughed when Sanchez finished: “Debating was mostly the Jewish students."

More about the history of Jews in Boyle Heights here.

--Shelby Grad

Photo: Murals inside L.A.'s  Wilshire Boulevard Temple tell the history of the Jews. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times