Los Angeles Jewry and the Birth ofIsrael


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In 1917, local Zionists held a parade and meetingin gratitude for Great Britain’s Balfour Declaration, which expressedsupport for a Jewish national home in Palestine. Three years later,in the wake of the war, more than 25,000 gathered at the old LosAngeles Coliseum in Exposition Park to celebrate Great Britain’sacceptance of the mandate for Palestine. This event was the firstmass rally by Jews in Southern California and reflected thetremendous growth of the local Jewish population, a harbinger ofthings to come.

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The Jewish community’s 1948campaign for Israel included this display of Israeli pioneers in themid-city area (JHSSC).

After World War II and the Holocaust, the Jews ofLos Angeles, in unity with Jews around the world, seized the momentto create a Jewish state. They listened with great anxiety to theradio broadcast of the United Nations vote for partition in November1947. Although jubilant over the vote, they decried the escalatingviolence in Palestine. With the rallying cry “They Must Live inFreedom,” 60,000 Los Angeles Jews contributed a total of $10 millionin 1948 alone for the tremendous humanitarian needs facing thebeleaguered country. Some played heroic roles, traveling undersubterfuge, risking their lives to smuggle Holocaust survivors andembargoed aircraft, arms and ammunition past the blockade, andvolunteering in the War of Independence.

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The Menorah Centercollected 120 tons of food and medicine to send to Israel in 1949(Photo courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of SouthernCalifornia)

In the meantime, a steamship that was headed forIsrael awaited clearance in Los Angeles Harbor. The ship was loadedwith 120 tons of food, medical supplies and clothing collected by theJews of Los Angeles, who were continuing a tradition that began herein 1854, but, in reality, one that transcends the pueblo, the ghettoand the shtetl .

“Jews Here Pray for Peace as Nation Is Born,” readthe headline the next day in the Los Angeles Times.

Fifty years have passed. Our prayerscontinue.