Sunday, October 9, 2011

First Jewish Site in Los Angeles

Los Angeles County -  July 28, 1997 & june 14, 2009

A home run or two in the opposite direction from home plate in Dodger Stadium will put you out of the parking lot and on Lilac Terrace, the road that loops around the old Navy and Marine Reserve Center (now LA Fire Training Center) from Stadium Way. It’s an easy to miss landmark hidden in the trees by the chain link fence.

The 1850 census for Los Angeles shows there were 15 blacks, 8 Jews, and 2 Chinese, and then all races and religions began to grow quickly. Realizing the need for a place of worship and cemetery, the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles was formed in 1854, becoming LA’s first charitable organization. In 1855 they purchased this three acre plot for $1, and it became the final resting place for 300 people. Those graves were moved between 1902 and 1910 to the Home of Peace, located at the corner of Wittier and Eastern. 

Harris Newmark arrived at El Pueblo de Los Angeles in 1853 and stayed on to become a successful Jewish businessman, and commercial leader. He was also a historian with an eye to the past, and the other eye apparently keen to the future:

“When I came, Los Angeles was a sleepy, ambitionless adobe village with very little promise for the future. The messenger of Optimism was deemed a dreamer; but time has more than realized the fantasies of those village oracles, and what they said would some day come to pass in Los Angeles, has come and gone, to be succeeded by things much greater still. ... I believe that Los Angeles is destined to become, in not many years, a world-center, prominent in almost every field of human endeavor.”—Harris Newmark, “Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853-1913”

Harris Newmark’s autobiography ‘Sixty Years in Southern California’ is considered one of the best accounts of the region in the 19th century, and a great read. Though not on the usual readers, the work is in the public domain and available in a number of formats or read online through the Library of Congress.

Plaque inscription: NO. 822 FIRST JEWISH SITE IN LOS ANGELES - The Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles (1854), first charitable organization in the city, acquired this site from the city council by deed of April 9, 1855. This purchase of a sacred burial ground represented the first organized community effort by the pioneer Jewish settlers.
Location: Chavez Ravine, behind US Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center, 800 W Lilac Terrace near Lookout Dr, Los Angeles
GPS: 34.069591,-118.241161

1 comment:

  1. There is no Wilshire and Eastern. There is Wilshire and Western, which is near where Wilshire Blvd Temple is located (at Wilshire and Hobart, Wilshire Blvd Temple (one of whose original Rabbis was Harris Newmark) operates Home of Peace, which when it opened moved the graves from Chavez Ravine. Home of Peace is located at Whitter and Eastern, and Whitter in a sense is a continuation of 6th street, not Wilshire.