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L.A. Historic Core "Kosher Style"

Downtown Los Angeles Jewish History

Next tour:
Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Jewish community in the city of angels goes all the way back to the 1840s, stretching back to the late-Mexican and early-American eras. Jewish people have made many cultural and civic contributions to the city since the days of the old pueblo of Los Angeles. They came as tailors, merchants and grocers; though some of them quickly became major business men, bankers and even philanthropists who helped build up the modern city that we know today.

We will take a fun and historical look through the foundational Jewish history of Los Angeles. We will walk and talk through the Jewish history of the historic core of downtown Los Angeles. We will even take some tasty detours along the way. These are some of the sites we will visit and discuss:

  • Congregation B’nai Brith – in the civic center we will identify the location of one of the earliest and the oldest lasting synagogue in Los Angeles, founded in 1862. We will discuss the role that early played in the civic life of the community, including the first rabbi of Los Angeles Rabbi Abraham Wolfe Edelman; dubbed the Jewish padre of the pueblo, he was a noted civic leader and socialite, including being the founding Master of the Masonic Lodge in Los Angeles. We will learn how this original temple gave way to build the modern civic center. Learn the downtown foundational history of the congregation today known as Wilshire Blvd Temple.

  • Congregation Beth Israel (the Olive Street Shul) – founded in 1899, it was once one of the grandest of Los Angeles synagogues, which graced the old Temple District with it's eastern-style onion domes; it was the oldest of the orthodox synagogues in Los Angeles. The synagogue which especially appealed to much more old-world observant people of Polish and Eastern European origins. We will talk just a bit about how people struggled to be observant Jews in early Los Angeles.

  • Angel's Flight – let’s take a ride on this iconic shortest railway in the world, the funicular which once connected the bustling downtown to the classic neighborhood of Bunker Hill!

  • Grand Central Market – did you know that many of Los Angele’s first Jewish residents were merchants and grocers? He we will explore the history of the Jewish grocery business in Los Angeles, which has a special connection to this very market. We will explore the origins of the Jewish families, some of which got their start right here and then helped build the supermarkets you and I grew-up with! We will discuss the culture of Grand Central Market and how it has changed in recent years with downtown’s gentrification. And long the way we will swing by some of the old and new food stalls which make this place still one of the best eating spots in the city. Need lox and bagels, a pastrami sandwich, or even a falafel pita? This place has you covered, so bring some cash to grab some nosh to go!

  • Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank – Here in front of this grand building we will learn about the life of I.W. Hellman, the merchant become banker; he founded the first successful bank in Los Angeles, the F&M. He funded the creation of the Los Angeles Railway and Pacific Electric Railway, and was also influential in the development of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles. He was a notable figure in the early history of Wells Fargo Bank. He even served as regent of University of California. Here we will talk about a few of the early Jewish financiers and businessmen, and the philanthropic and social contributions they gave to the city of Los Angeles.

  • We will swing by and see some grand old Los Angeles theaters on Broadway. We will talk about how some of the early theaters hosted Yiddish plays and movies. And how some of them were even rented for Jewish religious services, including the local Sephardic community which got it’s start here in downtown. We will talk about the classic years of downtown Los Angeles.

  • And we will take a swing by some historic buildings in downtown, including the Haas Building; created by Jewish merchants Jacob Baruch and Abraham Haas; founders of the store brand that would eventually become known as Iris of Smart and Final. We will talk about how rented offices in this building were shockingly raided as the headquarters of the Klu Klux Klan in Los Angeles in 1922; and how today in the 21st century this recently revitalized building has become home to a thriving orthodox synagogue.

  • We will also quickly discuss the various streams of Judaism which have contributed to the pluralism of Jewish culture which has developed here in downtown since the later half of the 20th century, including the Conservative-Mesorti and also the Persian Jewish prayer chapels created to serve downtown business people in the Fashion District.

  • And we will see much more fun and fascinating stuff along the way!


In this walking tour we will talk about the history of old downtown Los Angeles, and even touch on the history of the first notable Jewish neighborhoods which sprung up off Temple Street and the Central Avenue corridor.

In this all new tour we will celebrate the cultural and civic contributions of Jewish people in the historic core of Los Angeles, while also taking a vivid look at the ever changing face of a modern downtown Los Angeles.


This is a Los Angeles historic-core tour with a “kosher-style” twist!

We will be meeting at Grand Park, in front of the Starbuck’s near the big fountain, at 11:45am in order to start our walk promptly at 12-noon.

This is an all walking tour, will be walking about 1.5 miles in total going at a steady pace; as we will not encounter seats at most locations, so people will be required stand most of this tour. This tour is not wheelchair accessible, as does have unavoidable steps and will be going on classic attractions are not built to accommodate large mobility devices. This is a rain-or shine event; do bring an umbrella to avoid extreme sun.

This is an all new tour and it’s expected to fill-up quickly, so do sign-up today!

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