They didn’t kill enough of them,” ran through our skin and down our spines as I pushed one of the last bar stools back in place for the evening while the bartender and I locked eyes in fear of the thought of what kind of human mentality the statement was summoned from as the speaker sat at the bar and fixated on the television that was set to CNN. From its multiracial inception on September 4, 1781 Los Angeles began and blossomed from then on. Los Angeles boasts a rich tapestry of ethnicities and among them the Jewish community. Jewish life, the fabric of which stretches back to the earliest times of Herod and Cleopatra has been dutifully documented and specifically Much information has been amassed about how ones’ gender affects their choices of creative expression. Now is the dawn of the Jewish woman writer.
With constant uncloaking of the Jewish culture in Los Angeles what is becoming clear is that there are many unseen parallels between the Los Angeles Anglo and Jewish cultures in public life and in private. As the embers of a new feminist consciousness spread, many Jewish woman writers are now balancing their strong family life inclinations with a less discordant likeness of themselves in direct opposition to the traditional male writers imposition of over-generalizations which had led to guilty feelings of American-Jewish woman writers stuffing any creative force these expressions might have fostered.
Being a Jew means acknowledging a tradition and a history of fighting for civil rights, and also meant living on the periphery of a larger society that has been lukewarm its granting of those civil rights. It would not be unexpected to find so many people of Jewish decent working for human and civil rights in the United States. As Jews have learned through 2000 years of concentrating their power through grass-roots campaigns and broad-based coalitions, Los Angeles Jews have shown through our history their constant commitment to local urban issues and activism in political human rights. With their progressive attitudes, they build bridges between other minority aspirations and the entrenched Caucasian political structure.
Jews are not a race. Jewish identity is a mixture shared of attitudes of ethnic, national and religious elements. An individual may become part of the Jewish people by conversion to Judaism, but a born Jew who rejects Judaism or adopts another religion does not entirely lose his Jewish identity. The Jews are a people who trace their lineage from the biblical Israelites and who are united by the religion called Judaism. This diverse and dynamic Los Angeles culture, being the second largest Jewish community in the world, is as spread out demographically and by nationality now as when they started their first migration from their individual homeland to the City of Angels. In present day this American experiment continues to express itself in a multitude of cultures, races, nationalities, and belief systems. Albeit, this singularly resilient culture that has survived other contemptuous societies, never had experienced the mixed blessings of a culture dedicated to their natural cultural trait of success.
‘The word Jew is derived from the kingdom of Judah, which included 2 of the 12 Israelite tribes. The name Israel referred to the people as a whole and especially to the northern kingdom of 10 tribes. Today it is used as a name for all Jewry and since 1948 for the Jewish state. Israelis are citizens of the state of Israel, and not all of them are Jews. In the Bible, Hebrew is used by foreign people as a name for the Israelites; today it is applied only to the Hebrew language.
Jewish people migrated to Los Angeles as early as 1845, while California was still a part of Mexican territory. A small number of Jewish traders worked in Los Angeles in the 1840’s. In 1850, California joined the Union and Los Angeles became an American city. Jews continued to come to Los Angeles in the 1850’s and after, as Los Angeles continued its development. In the late 19th century, Jews played an important role in the rough-and-ready multi-ethnic community of Los Angeles.
Jews held public office, and helped establish the Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations. Within their communities they established credit unions and continued the Jewish heritage of charity to others as they established their first Shul (a Yiddish term for the German root of Schule (school) in Los Angeles. In securing property, the community built the first Jewish cemetery to properly care for the eternal souls who have passed on according to traditional Jewish practices. As more Jews began to assimilate and buy into the California dream, they opted for the American version of success and became economically successful. Because of their success, the Jewish cultural trait of education began to pale in comparison to accomplishments made in business and achievements in the professions. This brief timeline of the Jewish Los Angeles Diaspora could have just as well been an Arab community.
While closing the gate to the bar, I watched this troubled individual who was obviously not of Jewish nor the Islamic faith walk down the long hallway towards the front door of the restaurant. In frustration and bewilderment, I thought to myself that he just as well could have been describing his ignorance of the history of the area, and places like East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Arabs and their 2000 year old plight with Israel and their desire for a Palestinian homeland continues as does the constant tragic loss of humanity as Abel’s blood that streams through all humanity continues to be shed in the name of religion. While a strong majority of Israeli’s and Arabs pray alike for the day when they can truly be neighbors who trust each other, I believe it is the collective ignorance and fear mongering of all extremists alike of Israel, Palestine, and developed nations alike that continue to support the polarization of this region and her people. Finally, I also believe that Israel will account for and be judged in the future in its treatment of Arab’s and their homeland. Shalom and Salaam!