50 reasons why L.A. is America’s coolest Jewish city
Three years ago, I left swampy New Orleans, and rather than return to my Maryland hometown, I found myself lured to Los Angeles. I was hypnotized by Southern California, and I moved here for its beautiful beaches, mountains and people (OK … girls).
It was also where I had the promise of a job.
Moving to L.A. was maybe my best decision ever. It was also — hold your breath — an awesome Jewish decision. If you’re a Jew, particularly a young one who’s living somewhere other than Los Angeles, here are some reasons to at least consider a move:
L.A. is home to more than 600,000 Jews — it is the city with the largest Jewish community outside of Tel Aviv and New York. But L.A.’s climate and topography are much closer to Israel’s than Manhattan’s — if it were always (with the exception of September in L.A.) springtime in Israel. Los Angeles also has some of the best kosher restaurants in the United States, as well as every type of synagogue and young Jewish professional group under the sun. It also supports vast numbers of creative Jewish thinkers — including, but not limited to, those in Hollywood, who influence billions of people worldwide.
Never mind that L.A. typically ranks second, at most, when people name the top American places to live as a Jew. New York almost always tops the list, followed by some mishmash of Miami, Boston and Chicago — then maybe L.A. That’s just pure geographic prejudice: L.A. is not on the minds of many of America’s organizational Jewish leaders, most of whom live somewhere along the Washington-New York corridor. Out of sight, out of mind.
But, I found, L.A. is the best city in America for Jews who want to be Jewishly active, whether meeting (or dating) other Jews, belonging to a synagogue, writing that Jewish-themed screenplay, eating great food, or doing whatever it is you define as living a Jewish life.
Here are 50 reasons to love America’s coolest and most dynamic Jewish city, from the heart of a twenty-something relative newcomer. Some are serious. Some are not. All are certifiably 100 percent true.
50. Not one, but two(!) Holocaust museums
49. The beach
Photo by Morgan Lieberman
In addition to the various synagogues that celebrate the occasional Kabbalat Shabbat by the water, there’s always the Pacific Jewish Center (aka Shul on the Beach, aka PJC), located smack in the middle of the Venice Boardwalk. Established in the 1940s, PJC didn’t take its current form until the late ’70s, when, after some lackluster years, Rabbi Daniel Lapin and conservative talk-show host and author Michael Medved reinvigorated it. If the Orthodox PJC is not your thing, Conservative Mishkon Tephilo and progressive Open Temple on Abbot Kinney Boulevard are also in Venice and beach-adjacent. And if Venice isn’t your thing, just up the Pacific Coast Highway there’s the Malibu Jewish Center, a Reconstructionist synagogue just steps from the Pacific Ocean. Beaches here, by the way, are second to none as both a crumb receptacle for tashlich (see cover) and a scenic backdrop for blowout Lag B’Omer bonfires.
48. The good New Yorkers move here
Anyone who’s spent time in New York City can attest to the following observation: New Yorkers who are fundamentally kind and laid-back eventually grow to dislike living in New York. And at some point in their lives, these disillusioned New Yorkers try living in Los Angeles. New York is too loud, too stressful, too short on green, open space. New York just can’t accommodate most people who are not stereotypical go-go-go, get-the f–k-out-of-my-way New Yorker. These folks still crave a city, just not an insane one, and they will at some point end up living in L.A. Just ask Larry David or Billy Crystal or Phil Rosenthal or…
47. The annoying ones go back to New York after 12 months
Some New Yorkers move to L.A. and then make the mistake of returning to the dungeon from whence they came. Those people were never truly fed up with New York. They just needed a break, and came to L.A. for a quasi-vacation. Those people are go-go-go, get-the-f–k-out-of-my-way New Yorkers, and L.A. isn’t built for them.
46. Drugs … rehab, that is
Is it any surprise that L.A. has some fantastic drug rehab centers? Or that some of the best (and only) Jewish drug rehab centers are here? From the Chabad Residential Treatment Center to Beit T’Shuvah, drug rehab (like having a shrink) isn’t taboo in L.A. the way it is in most other places. Beit T’Shuvah is Torah-intensive, co-ed, has an annual budget of about $11 million, and is run by power couple Harriet Rossetto and Rabbi Mark Borovitz, the latter of whom, in his previous life, was an alcoholic and did time in a state prison in Chino. He found redemption in Torah and wrote a book about his journey, “Holy Thief,” which was a Los Angeles Times best-seller.
45. Steven Spielberg
Photo by Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com
He’s probably the greatest living filmmaker, and certainly among the top 10 most influential Jews of our time. Aside from the classics he’s directed that everyone knows about (“E.T.,” “Indiana Jones,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Catch Me If You Can”), his fingerprints are on so many other films and TV shows for which he’s been an executive producer. To date, Spielberg has won 126 awards, including three Oscars, seven Golden Globes and 11 Emmys. But forget all that, because one of the criteria for this list is that whoever directed “Schindler’s List” is automatically included.
44. Steven Spielberg’s mother
43. The USC Shoah Foundation
Established by Spielberg in 1994, the USC Shoah Foundation is the world’s largest archive of Holocaust testimonies, having collected 52,000 video and audio recordings of Holocaust survivors, including Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma (Gypsies), political prisoners, aid providers, witnesses and liberators. The foundation’s archives are an invaluable historical resource, especially considering that though there will always be Holocaust deniers, one day there won’t be any more survivors or witnesses.
42. The Kibitz Room at Canter’s Deli
Once the go-to joint for Guns N’ Roses, the Kibitz Room is still one of the coolest music lounges and dive bars in L.A. It’s open every night until 1:40 a.m. and you’re all but guaranteed a great jam session if you go late enough. This space has also featured the likes of Joni Mitchell, Rick James, The Wallflowers and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
41. Best shawarma and matbucha outside Israel
Based on an informal poll of fellow ex-Marylanders, the only shawarma in the U.S. that rivals Ta-eem Grill’s is at Max’s in Silver Spring. Ta-eem has earned 4.5 stars on Yelp, and that’s with nearly 500 reviews, many of which echo the “as good as Israel’s shawarma” claim. How good is Ta-eem’s fare? Two examples. First, Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly has the place’s matbucha delivered to his home. And Seung Eun C., a Yelp reviewer, had this to say: “Who cares if the place is kosher??? Everyone should try it b/c they are going to LOVE TA-EEM!!!”
40. The best and most accessible kosher restaurants in America
New York probably has more kosher restaurants, but L.A.’s are better and less expensive, and most of the best ones are within the 1.03-square-mile hood that is Pico-Robertson, which means that you can grab a slice at Nagila Pizza, take a swig of water to wash down that milchig flavor, and walk five feet to your right to Nagila Meating Place for a shawarma. Another thing about L.A.’s dining establishments is the role they don’t play in this town’s Jewish dating scene. In Manhattan, where so many young, single, observant Jews on the Upper West Side all go to the same kosher restaurants with their dates, they often spot their exes and no-call-backs when they’re just trying to move on! I imagine it’s awful. L.A. is way more progressive, so many of our observant Jews keep kosher just by going vegetarian at any number of “treif” (yummy) L.A. restaurants, thereby significantly reducing the chances of seeing someone you’d rather not.
39. Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory
Photo by Morgan Lieberman
Maybe kosher-observant Jews have a warped view of what truly constitutes an excellent burger joint, but before I ate only kosher meat, I didn’t eat only kosher meat, and I distinctly do not remember dining at a burger establishment as delectable as Jeff’s. There are Jews who come to visit and then take several Western Burgers (includes onion rings on the burger) and Pastrami Burgers on their return flight, which means a soggy burger from Jeff’s is better than whatever fresh kosher food awaits back home. We recommend the Samson Burger, an off-menu monster with two hamburger patties, Jeff’s famous Western sauce, a massive fried onion ring, pastrami, a sliced hot dog and a gift certificate for open-heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
38. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and its art collection are reason enough to get yourself admitted (for something minor)
From left: Cedars-Sinai Rabbi Jason Weiner and curator John Lange hold the tablets outside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Photo by Jared Sichel
It’s hard to find a major diaspora hospital that’s more Jewish than Cedars-Sinai. First, the word “Sinai” is in the name. Second, there’s a massive Star of David on the exterior of the hospital. Third, two of the tablets from Cecil B. DeMille’s classic “The Ten Commandments” were donated to the hospital by DeMille and his wife, Constance, more than 50 years ago and are currently in storage in the hospital’s basement. Fourth, the creation of Cedars-Sinai’s antecedent, Kaspare Cohn Hospital in East L.A., was a direct result of Jewish community leaders recognizing a need for a Jewish medical establishment for the city’s growing Jewish community. Kaspare Cohn became Cedars of Lebanon, then merged in 1961 with Mount Sinai hospital, which was created by a local bikur cholim organization. Also, an art collection of blue chip names that range from Picasso to Pollock to Warhol, Cedars-Sinai’s display throughout its halls of more than 4,000 paintings, sculptures, photos, drawings and lithographs has helped the hospital become a place where patients, visitors and employees alike can spend time in a beautiful and attractive environment.
37. The Skirball Cultural Center can make you look super-smart
Whether you’re talking Einstein, Lincoln or Graham (that’s Bill Graham, the pop music impresario), name-dropping the year-round exhibitions, lectures and author readings at the Skirball Cultural Center can make you sound up on Jewish culture and history, even if you’re not. And the Skirball’s summer Sunset Concerts offer some of the best world music in the city, including artists from Africa, Israel and Latin America. They are free, outdoors and perched conveniently above the 405 freeway, enabling you to enjoy a killer background soundtrack as you experience the ultimate L.A. schadenfreude — exiting the freeway while other people are still stuck in rush-hour traffic.
36. If there’s a kosher Mexican restaurant to die for, we have it
35. The Happy Minyan
As if it weren’t enough to be able to pray and sing with a former co-executive producer of “3rd Rock From the Sun” and supervising producer of “The Simpsons,” writer David Sacks, or with Moshav Band’s Yehuda Solomon, the Happy Minyan is home to one of the most spiritually uplifting and gaga-for-Shlomo Carlebach minyans in the country. With a preponderance of those massive scalp-hugging kippot and men with ponytails, the Happy Minyan comes as close to Safed as you’ll get in the United States.
34. Friday Night Live at Sinai Temple
Friday Night Live (FNL) has been a monthly West L.A. staple for young Jews since 1998, and, until mid-2014, featured the all-star, one-two punch of Rabbi David Wolpe and singer-songwriter Craig Taubman. That is, until the duo started feeling “old” and “tired,” as Wolpe told the Jewish Journal. Now a trio of “younger and spryer” rabbis — Erez Sherman, Jason Fruithandler and Nicole Guzik — lead the pack, and FNL continues to attract hundreds of young Jews monthly for Kabbalat Shabbat, to sing and dance and, obviously, to scout for a suitable future spouse, or maybe just get lucky for the night. Music? Short services? Hundreds of hot, young guys and gals? No wonder FNL’s slogan is, “For millennials, by millennials, about millennials.”
33. Get holy with celebrities in synagogue
Whether it’s Neilah with Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) at Beth Jacob or a comedy night with Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fame at Temple Israel of Hollywood, there’s no better place than L.A. to mix what may be your least favorite activity (praying) with what’s probably your favorite entertainment (celebrity-spotting). Bob and Jakob Dylan reportedly go to the Chabad of Malibu, while Barbra Streisand has been spotted at Leo Baeck Temple. Other sightings include Anne Hathaway, Nick Kroll and Seth Rogen at IKAR; Bob Odenkirk, Phil Rosenthal, Monica Horan, Jeremy Piven and the late Leonard Nimoy at Temple Israel of Hollywood; David Mamet and Jon Favreau at Ohr HaTorah; Jake Gyllenhaal at Nashuva; and Mayim Bialik at B’nai David-Judea. And, of course, Madonna, Sandra Bernhard and Ashton Kutcher at the Kabbalah Centre.
32. Going to Vegas for Christmas with every other Jew in L.A.
31. Ari Gold
He’s one of television’s most famous and funniest fictional Jewish characters, and although the “Entourage” agent may not give Jews or agents the best rep, come on, he’s got a heart of gold. Gold is reportedly based on Ari Emanuel, whose agency reps Larry David and Vin Diesel, both of whom are represented by Gold in “Entourage.” And giving the Jewish Journal a shout out in the otherwise unremarkable “Entourage” movie was an automatic ticket onto our list.
30. Haim Saban
He’s worth $3 billion, created “Power Rangers” and is one of America’s most vocal supporters and most generous donors for all causes Israel. Meanwhile, his major gifts, along with his wife, Cheryl, to the Saban Theatre, Saban Community Clinic and Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles show his commitment to L.A., as well.
29. Sunbrella vs. umbrella
What do Jews do on Sukkot when the skies open up and the rains pour down on unsuspecting booth-dwellers who are just trying to enjoy a yummy yontif meal? We AnJewlenos have no idea, because we get so little rain. Yes, Tishrei is often inordinately hot in L.A., but, having some nice, cold gazpacho while sweating beats your $75 brisket from a Riverdale butcher flooding out into the Hudson River.
28. Israeli-style dress codes
We’re no different in this respect from many other cities in the Western United States, but it’s still worth a mention. Even the stuffy professions, except perhaps major consulting firms, often have very lax dress-code policies here. Trust me, it’s really comfortable to wear tank tops and short-shorts to work. Don’t judge. We’re in L.A. now.
27. Israeli-style drivers
Actually, worse than Israeli drivers. Some traffic stops seem optional in L.A., and only 1 in 4 drivers understand the rules of two-way and four-way stop signs. Perplexingly, though, when those careless surface-street drivers hit the freeways, they become the most risk-averse snails of all the drivers on all of America’s highways, going 55 mph in the left-hand lane. I get annoyed, as you can tell.
26. America’s biggest annual pro-Israel festival
Photo by Abraham Joseph Pal
The Israeli-American Council’s annual Celebrate Israel Festival at Rancho Park attracts some 10,000 to 15,000 people in any given year and attempts to re-create Israel in the heart of Los Angeles for one afternoon. Past festivals have featured Idan Raichel and Mashina as musical guests. And for readers concerned about L.A.’s matchmaking environment, when it comes to No. 12 on this list, this festival can be good for that.
25. The Israeli-American Council
It was Israeli American before it became cool to be an Israeli American. The IAC, a rapidly growing and ridiculously well-funded group, threw a balls-to-the-wall inaugural conference in Washington, D.C., in 2014, and just launched a multi-service Israeli-American community center in the San Fernando Valley.
24. Yes, you can fly to Israel nonstop from here
23. The Israel Film Festival and the L.A. Jewish Film Festival
Left to right, Hilary Helstein, Director of L.A. Jewish Film Festival; Geza Rohrig, actor; Laszlo Nemes, director of “Son of Saul,” the 2016 Golden Globe winner for foreign films; and Matyas Erdely, cinematographer. Photo by Suzannah Warlick
Believed to be the largest showcase for Israeli films in the United States, since 1982 L.A.’s Israel Film Festival has, over the years, screened about 1,000 feature-length films, documentaries, TV shows and student-shorts and given more than 500 Israeli filmmakers access to movers and shakers in Hollywood. It’s also given other Jewish Angelenos a chance to finally experience watching a film Israeli-style, in which they will spend the first 30 minutes shushing the rest of the majority-Israeli audience. Meanwhile, the L.A. Jewish Film Festival, which is a Tribe Media (parent company of the Jewish Journal) production entering its 11th year, showcases dozens of first-run films by, for and about Jews, including features, documentaries, comedies, and short films, along with interviews with directors, producers, actors and commentators.
22. Two 770s
We haven’t taken an official count, but we think the two replicas in Los Angeles of Chabad’s 770 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn headquarters is a world record for any city. Again, we haven’t taken that count. The Chabad of California’s headquarters in Westwood, and the Bais Chaya Mushka School in Pico-Robertson help ensure that anyone who needs their arm a-wrappin’ in tefillin or just needs a quick fix of Rebbe nostalgia have two options only five miles apart — and an easy 90-minute drive during rush hour.
21. L.A. Jews are probably the writers, producers and/or directors behind your favorite shows and movies
Inset: Steve Levitan, creator, writer, producer and director of “Modern Family.”
Pick a show or movie, almost any show or movie, and we can find an L.A. Jew who had a major hand in writing or producing it. “Orange Is the New Black” — Jenji Kohan. “Homeland” — Howard Gordon. “Modern Family” — Steven Levitan. “Transparent” — Jill Soloway. “About a Boy” — Jason Katims. “The Americans” — Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. “The Big Bang Theory” — Chuck Lorre. “Jessica Jones” — Melissa Rosenberg. The list goes on and on and on … kind of like the 1997 film “Titanic” — producer Jon Landau. What does this mean? Not that Jews control the media (sorry, Ann Coulter), but that these creatives influence the imagination of people around the world. Now that’s Jewish power.
20. All-star rabbis
We got ’em. But I’m not actually going to name any, because omitting someone would be micro-aggressive.
Thankfully, this portmanteau predates “Shahs of Sunset” and has nothing to do with a fear of a covert uranium enrichment facility off the 405, but rather everything to do with the people behind the deluge of Persian restaurants, rug stores and all sorts of other thriving businesses in Beverly Hills, West L.A. and Encino. Los Angeles was the No. 1 destination in America for Iranian ex-pats — Jewish and non — who left their country after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The culture, tradition and institutions they’ve brought to this community are pretty remarkable (see: 30 Years After). Just don’t try to invite them to your Shabbat dinner. They won’t come. Not because they don’t want to, but because they’ll be at their baba’s house, sitting each week in the same seats around the same table with the same people, just as they have every Friday night since they were born. Try Sunday brunch.
18. We got $
Jews made up almost 50 percent of the L.A. Business Journal’s 2015 list of the 50 wealthiest Angelenos, with Sumner Redstone (we, too, were surprised to learn a guy named Sumner Redstone is Jewish) and Eli Broad in the top spots. In all, we counted at least 23 Jews on the list. FYI: For every 50 people in Los Angeles, about 3.3 are Jewish. The combined net worth of the Biz Journal’s present-day Rothschilds is $65.39 billion — nearly 10 percent of L.A.’s gross domestic product. Note: This entry will likely soon appear on Stormfront.
17. Our Eastside is cooler than yours
Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, downtown L.A., Highland Park and even a rejuvenating Boyle Heights make L.A.’s Eastside (not to be confused with the formerly Jewish, now mostly Latino East L.A.) one of the most hipster-friendly places in the world and a welcome place for “Jews with confused identities,” according to the Facebook group of the “irreverent” East Side Jews collective. And our Eastside is more attractive than NYC’s Lower East Side, and (just barely) more affordable than the Upper East Side.
16. Our Westside is cooler than yours
It’s where the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air moved to from West Philadelphia, where he was born and raised, on a playground where he spent most of his days. What more must be said? OK, I’ll say it: Add Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades to the mix, and you have the coolest quasi-urban suburbia in the country, whether you’re looking for restaurants, bars, beaches or great hiking trails.
15. The city’s top three elected officials are Jews
The mayor (Eric Garcetti), city controller (Ron Galperin) and city attorney (Mike Feuer) all are in the tribe, joining a list of entrenched political Jews that includes former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, current City Councilman Paul Koretz and former Congressional candidate and current candidate for supervisor Elan Carr, who’s also a district attorney. What do all these Jews in office actually mean for the Jews of L.A.? The beit din’s still out on that one, but if you ever have to make a push for relaxed parking enforcement on Shabbat and holidays, be assured there are plenty of politicos you can write to.
14. Brandeis-Bardin Institute
It’s the largest property owned by a Jewish communal institution outside the State of Israel, with 2,800 acres of rolling, Israeli-like hills. It hosts a superb Jewish camp, collegiate institute and educational activities year round. Located about 30 minutes from West L.A., it looks something like a kibbutz, with cattle, goats, horses, farmland and hiking trails. Something extra cool? “Gunsmoke’s” James Arness once owned all this land.
13. 97 percent of the celebrities Abe Foxman has condemned are here
From Mel Gibson to Kanye West to Gary Oldman, your favorite celebrity may very well be in Foxman’s doghouse for uttering real or perceived insults to or about Jews. Come to L.A., run into them, and give them a piece of your mind.
12. Finding Jewish guys and gals is no harder here than anywhere else
There’s a theory within young and middle-aged Jewish circles of singles, and that theory is this: You have to be in New York or Israel or you’re just not going to find a Jewish guy/gal, and you’ll remain a miserable single guy/gal for the rest of your life — until you reach 40, want to have kids, drop your standards, and marry someone not as desirable as someone you could’ve met in the Upper West Side when you were 27. This theory is nonsense. First, don’t base your home base on where you may find your one true love. Base it on career and friends and family. If you wear deodorant and shower on a regular basis, the life partner will come after you have your life in order. Second, L.A. has 600,000 Jews. Are you really saying that there are no acceptable ones in L.A. and that you’ll find your one among that extra 400,000 in New York? Doesn’t that just sound ridiculous? There’s a great young Jewish scene in L.A., along with a young could-one-day-be-Jewish scene (potential converts) in L.A.
11. And they’re really hot
That’s another accurate stereotype (along with “The drivers are stupid”). People here are generally quite easy on the eyes.
10. America’s No. 1 deli city
A pastrami sandwich from Langer’s
Author David Sax put it best in his 2009 book, “Save the Deli”: “Brace yourself New York, because what I am about to write is definitely going to piss a lot of you off, but it needs to be said: Los Angeles has become America’s premier deli city.” Nate ’n Al, Art’s, Canter’s, Brent’s, Greenblatt’s, Factor’s, the No. 1 pastrami in the world at Langer’s, the house-cured lox at Wexler’s and Pico Kosher Deli. All of it speaks to L.A.’s preponderance of legit, old-style delis (even the new ones honor the standards). The steamed-kale-healthy-food phenomenon has indeed taken over this town, but thank God it hasn’t hit our delis. Chew on that, New York.
9. You can imagine you’re in Ramallah
Actually, more like Rawabi, a Palestinian city going up near Ramallah that’s being hailed as the Palestinians’ high-tech city of the future. Enter Little Arabia, a mostly Muslim enclave in historically WASP Orange County, with hookah lounges, mosques, halal butcher shops and Mediterranean restaurants. The neighborhood’s other name, Little Gaza, arose not because of thousands of katyushas launched toward Disneyland, but because the original name for this area was Garza Island.
8. You can imagine you’re in Mea Shearim
L.A. is progressive, but it’s not quite San Francisco, where finding black hats is harder than “Where’s Waldo?” In L.A.’s heavily Orthodox neighborhoods such as Beverly/La Brea, Valley Village, Hancock Park and even a few shtiebel minyans in Pico-Robertson, there are definitely some hardcore religious Jews of the Mea Shearim/Borough Park variety. But don’t worry — driving your car on Shabbat and wearing jeans won’t be met by a good ol’ stone to the face … because L.A.’s. Just. That. Progressive.
7. You can imagine you’re in the Negev
It may be tough to find an exact replica of David Ben-Gurion’s desert getaway, but come on, a cactus is a cactus, and if you’re in L.A. and drive eastward, you’re in a sizzling hot desert, and you may even come across some Hebrew-speaking backpackers. The best part? A wrong turn won’t put you in Gaza, Egypt or Jordan, although if you end up in the hippie haven of Slab City (Google it), you may be just as unwelcome.
6. You can imagine you’re in Tel Aviv
If you’re not into hearing more Hebrew than English as you walk along Ventura Boulevard, or receiving characteristically appalling Israeli-style service at any of this town’s dozens of Mediterranean restaurants, or breaking down in tears as you’re yelled at in a Krav Maga class taught by an Israeli Special Forces vet, then just unplug, grab some fresh juice from a street vendor and go to the Santa Monica Pier to get your Tel Aviv Marina vibe on.
5. Nobody cares about your religious observance
Keeping in mind this is a general statement with its share of exceptions, the many sub-groups of Jews that comprise this town’s community are generally quite open-minded when it comes to how you work (or don’t work) Judaism into your life. Maybe it’s a West Coast thing, or maybe it’s something in the steamed kale or in the medical marijuana brownies, but Jewish outreach is a huge theme in L.A. across the religious spectrum, from the black hats to the no hats, and every hipster beanie in between.
4. We’re the Silicon Valley of shul and minyan startups
We don’t have a strict definition of startup but neither does Silicon Valley. It’s more of a state-of-mind kind of thing. There’s the quasi-hipster Pico Shul; the outreach-minded Charedim of LINK; the go-go Chabadniks at SOLA; the Pico Union Project, a hot new Friday night minyan for young folks sponsored by Beth Jacob (full disclosure: I helped create it); and the “Fink or Swim” blog of Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, formerly of Pacific Jewish Center. Temple Beth Am, a great Conservative synagogue, has its own young crowd that runs a number of startup-y religious and musical events. The now well-established IKAR is a unique and nationally recognized congregation. Nashuva draws 400-plus people for services each month across the spectrum or outside it. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, one of the world’s most famous and architecturally beautiful synagogues, has the monthly Nefesh musical service on Friday evening. And there’s also East Side Jews, featured in No. 18 on this miraculous list. Speaking of startups, L.A. is also home to the $1 billion-strong Jewish Community Foundation, which may just give you one of its $250,000 Cutting Edge Grants to make your idea come true.
3. You will fit in somewhere
A common trope about L.A. is that it’s a disconnected and lonely city — a place where it’s easy to get lost. Blah, blah, blah. Not if you’re a Jew who wants to be involved in a community. Imagine a synagogue or any place where Jews congregate where you’d feel comfortable, and L.A. has it. Imagine a synagogue or any place where Jews congregate where you’d feel uncomfortable, and L.A. has that, too. But if you find yourself there, you may discover that those people aren’t too bad.
2. Being a “young professional”
The L.A. Jewish world is your (soy) oyster if you’re older than 21 and younger than 36. Tickets and/or memberships are 50 to 80 percent cheaper than for those 37 and older, and you’re eating the same factory-baked challah rolls and drinking the same Bartenura at the same gala that the “older” folks are. The Jewish Federation’s Young Adults of Los Angeles (YALA) and the Young Jewish Professionals of Los Angeles (who put on a killer “White Party”) have dozens of events aimed at you. Plus, synagogues design programs with you in mind and won’t turn you away for lack of money (you are, after all, a potential future 37-plus member). The one downside is those gala after-parties, which are just like bar mitzvahs, except the Shirley Temples have a kick and you don’t know anyone. But since when did that stop a 13-year-old boy — or a 28-year-old man (boy) — from acting like a fool on the dance floor?
1. America’s best Jewish newspaper