The Jewish Community of Los Angeles
After New York City, Los Angeles has the highest Jewish population in the United States, numbering at 662,450. This is the fifth largest on the planet, following Tel Aviv, New York City, Haifa and Jerusalem. Indeed, the Jewish population makes up a significant aspect of Los Angeles’ cultural and historical identity.
Jewish history within the city of Los Angeles traces back to the mid-19th Century in 1841, prior to California’s admission into the United States. Jacob Frankfort bears the distinction as being the first Jew to arrive and live in the city of Los Angeles. The population slowly and steadily rose thereafter, with the city’s first councilman, Morris L. Goodman, being elected to office shortly afterwards in 1850 and the first religious services being conducted in 1854. As the population slowly grew, so too did Jewish organisations and communities. The Hebrew Benevolent Society was established by Joseph Newmark, the city’s first practicing Rabbi. In the early 20th Century, the population rose slowly before booming during the 1920’s as Los Angeles emerged as a major American city and many people were drawn towards its economic opportunities. Another Jewish population occurred in the aftermath of the Second World War. By the end of the 1950’s, there were 400,000 Jews in Los Angeles, nearly 20% of the city’s population. Jewish residents of Los Angeles have provided a significant contribution to the city’s culture and economy, setting up a number of successful businesses, the population being particularly prominent in the city’s lucrative entertainment and real estate industries.
Due to the slow growth of the Jewish population in the city of Los Angeles, it took time for communities to develop. There isn’t really a historic Jewish district within the city. That being said, in the latter half of the 20th Century, Jewish areas did begin to spring up as the population increased. The city’s Orthodox Jewish population has been centered around the affluent Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. Furthermore, Los Angeles’ significant Iranian Jewish population is heavily centred within the affluent Beverly Hills. Other areas with high Jewish populations within the city include the San Fernando Valley, Westwood and Wiltshire.
Jewish Cuisine in Los Angeles
Jewish cuisine is key to Los Angeles’ versatile culinary identity. There are a wealth of Kosher Delicatessens and restaurants around the city. Canter’s, Wexler’s and Langer’s are three of the finest delis in the city, best known for their hearty Jewish American cuisine such as salt beef, matzah ball soup and lox.
A significant portion of the Jewish population in Los Angeles is comprised of Iranian Jews. It is estimated that 50,000 Iranian Jews live in the city, mainly in the areas of Beverly Hills, Westwood and Century City. Indeed, an area of Westwood has been dubbed Tehrangeles in reference to the significant Persian population and the many restaurants and stores selling the country’s foods and goods. The population increased significantly following the 1979 Revolution, which displaced several families. The Iranian population in Los Angeles is the largest outside of Iran, as is the Iranian Jewish population.
main image: Jewish communities, Miriam Mezzera, Flickr Creative Commons