Rising aspirations at Ran Zimon’s Bread Lounge

Baker Ran Zimon leads a visitor through the doorway separating the cafe area from the kitchen of Bread Lounge, his neighborhood bakery in the Arts District downtown. The temperature suddenly jumps at least 10 degrees. “It reminds me of Israel,” Zimon says with a sly smile. 

This aspect of the bakery’s arrangement wasn’t intentional. Nor was the genesis of Zimon’s professional path. The Ra’anana native describes his career as having happened “by mistake.” But better to describe it as a happy accident, as Zimon’s unplanned success thus far and his dedication to his trade can’t be described as anything other than great news, both for him and for the bread lovers of Los Angeles. 

Zimon’s story doesn’t involve early-identified destiny. As a child, he wasn’t interested in food, short of eating it, nor would he trail his parents around the kitchen. “I was an ordinary guy,” he says with a shrug. Instead, for “weird” reasons Zimon still doesn’t quite understand, he bought a book about baking one afternoon when he was in his 20s. An odd move, as this son of a librarian never needed to buy books. (His father is a retired employee of an electrical company.) He then found a job as a baker in a cafe after responding to a classified newspaper ad that was two months out of date. 

“It wasn’t [as if] I wanted to pursue my dream to be a baker. It just happened,” he explains. “Once I started working in the bakery, I fell in love with it, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” So the trim, clean-headed, quick-talking Zimon will don flour-dusted baker’s garb for the foreseeable future. 

Zimon didn’t plan to live in the United States, either. He wanted to open a bakery in Tel Aviv but accepted an offer to visit relatives in West Los Angeles before settling down into what he knew would be a grueling work routine. Upon arrival, the natural entrepreneur wanted to tour local bakeries and instantly saw an opportunity. “When I asked what’s the best bread I can get here, everybody said La Brea Bakery in the supermarket,” he remembers. “If that’s the best bread you can get in L.A., then we have to do something about it.” 

Zimon got to work. He got his affairs in order in Israel so he could move, returned to Los Angeles in 2007, found a shared kitchen on the Westside and started making a small repertoire of baguettes and a few loaves based on his natural sourdough starter, which he brought home each day rather than tempt fate by leaving it in the commercial kitchen where it might accidentally get tossed away. Zimon’s first wholesale clients were Wally’s Wine & Spirits, Monsieur Marcel and Church & State. He also took a side job baking breads for Suzanne Goin’s beloved Lucques and A.O.C. restaurants. 

Given all this, he began to search for suitable commercial kitchen and retail space on the Westside, and at a point of frustration at the costs and real estate hurdles there, he reached out to Yuval Bar-Zemer, a developer with Linear City, who was also a family friend. It was Bar-Zemer who eventually brought Zimon to the now-burgeoning Arts District. (Linear City is the company behind some of the larger-scale developments in the area, such as the Toy Factory and Biscuit Company lofts.) “We came here, put in my little mixer and my little oven, and we started,” Zimon modestly recalls of his downtown bakery’s origins in 2010. What came out of that oven generated big demand and a cult following among the city’s leading chefs, including Walter Manzke (then at Church & State), Craig Thornton of Wolvesmouth underground supper club, and Jessica Koslow of Sqirl. 

Bread Lounge’s nondescript concrete block building sits on Sante Fe Avenue at the very eastern edge of downtown, adjacent to where the Seventh Street bridge arcs over the Los Angeles River. The absence of a sign or a Web site isn’t a deliberate move to cultivate mystique. Zimon is just “too busy” focusing on his products. His cafe component is now just over a year old, almost the same age as his son. 

Baker Ran Zimon

Zimon says he tried to keep his business quiet at first, but, “Once we opened, they all came here. It’s a really great community. I’m so happy I’m here.” Bread Lounge’s minimalist style fits into the aesthetics of the area, which has all the hallmarks of a commercial and industrial urban neighborhood in the throes of intense growing pains and identity shifts: destination-worthy restaurants tucked into former warehouses, top-quality coffee, new residential buildings, along with practically deserted streets at night and some crime. 

Folks come out of the woodwork and congregate at daytime hubs around the Arts District — at Bread Lounge as well as at nearby simpatico businesses: Urth Caffé, The Daily Dose, Wurstküche, Pizzanista! and Handsome Coffee Roasters. Zimon says he has noticed an increase in Israeli clientele, as well, thanks to word of mouth. While we are talking, chef Ori Menashe of Bestia drops in with a fellow Hebrew-speaking chef from his kitchen for a Mediterranean breakfast. They all catch up on neighborhood news and food industry shoptalk. 

As for what Zimon and crew like to bake: “We try to combine the classic — French, European baking — and then bring some Mediterranean flavors we relate to and things that will work with the American palate. Sometimes it works, sometimes not,” Zimon notes. Customers stock up on the gorgeous baguettes, olive loaves, ciabatta, plus house-made jams, cookies and granola packed to go, as well as sandwiches, soups and daily specials. Don’t, however, come to Bread Lounge looking for typical American treats because Zimon isn’t interested in cashing in on the cupcake craze or making bagels. If the latter happens, it’s in the form of a taut sesame-crusted Jerusalem bagel, which Zimon had only started making a couple of days before we met. Bread Lounge’s staff currently numbers somewhere between 20 and 25.

It’s an example of the fluid business-in-progress model that suits him best. “We don’t really plan anything, we just go with the flow,” Zimon says. That doesn’t mean he’s without a guiding philosophy or a perfectionist’s streak. “When you do something you love, it usually turns out better.”


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch ground cloves or allspice
  • 1 cup very hot coffee

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, sugar, honey and spices.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring only until no lumps. Do not overmix.

Add hot coffee in two to three increments, and quickly mix in.

Turn into two parchment-lined 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, filling pans only 2/3 full, to prevent overflowing while baking.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until cakes test done. 

Makes 2 loaves.

The Parish

At The Parish, breakfast is served with a twist. A dainty lineup of four gourmet biscuit sandwiches arrives containing such unusual fillings as fried chicken and maple Dijon; trout and pickles; sage eggs and sausage; and bacon and avocado. 

Proclaiming the array “beautiful,” restaurant co-owner Bruce Horwitz snaps a photo before the sandwiches are divvied up. Because Horwitz and fellow co-owner Mark Meyuhas have done the selecting — and will also be doing the dining — there is one ingredient that is noticeably absent. 

“No cheese,” Meyuhas says. “I don’t like cheese, so [the chefs] know, ‘If Mark’s coming, don’t put cheese on his plate.’ It’s not just for ourselves. It’s for our clients, too. If you’re a big client and we know you like a certain wine, we’ll make a note, ‘Mr. Evan likes his Pinot Noir 2009 from Sonoma.’ ”

As Horwitz explains, running a restaurant is just like operating the five (soon to be six) audio post-production studios that the pair own and operate under the Lime Studios imprint — it’s a service industry.

“Los Angeles is full of places that do post-production. It’s about how you take care of your clients, and that’s all restauranting is,” he says.

There are other factors as well, of course. As the biscuits are consumed, Meyuhas and Horwitz are happy to discuss how their first downtown venture, with its untraditional spin on pub food, breakfast menu and high-end mixology, fills a culinary vacancy. In downtown L.A., one can easily find all types of places to eat or get a cocktail, they maintain. But to bring food and libations together as the Parish does, they say, their eatery stands alone. 

 “If you live down here, you know there’s still an unmet need for just local good, regular food that doesn’t cost a ton,” Horwitz says. “This is an amazing example of taking a place and completely gutting it, putting great artists and designers and chefs together, and turning it into something it wasn’t just a year and a half ago. Doing the same thing that we just did with this building in Hollywood or Venice would be so much harder. Here, they want you to do it.”

The gastropub opened in August at the renovated flatiron building at the fork where Spring and Main streets merge near Ninth Street. With a design harkening back to 1930s-era Los Angeles, The Parish’s lower-level cafe handles the breakfast and coffee traffic while the upstairs pub is the place for dinner and drinks. Douglas-fir wood floors, vintage mirrors and antique glass windows evoke the feeling of an old railway car looking out over Spring Street. Unlike in a railway car, however, a meal at The Parish can be enjoyed around a fireplace. 

In its short existence, The Parish has quickly racked up accolades from Los Angeles magazine, the Los Angeles Times and Zagat, which cited the restaurant as one of the 10 hottest in the world — the only L.A. restaurant to make the list. It certainly helps that it features the culinary skills of a fast-rising star like chef Casey Lane. 

The co-owners make an interesting pair. The Chicago-born Horwitz was raised in Charlottesville, Va., the son of a prominent USC immunologist and researcher. Meyuhas was born in Israel, moved to Montreal at age 11 and came to the United States to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston with the aim of becoming a professional musician. 

Horwitz had been operating a post-production facility in Los Angeles and was looking to branch out, when a mutual friend introduced him to Meyuhas. For the past nine years, the two, along with third partner Loren Silber, have been making — or mixing — beautiful music and high-end TV commercials. At Lime Studios, Meyuhas and Silber are sound engineers, while Horwitz characterizes himself as the guy who “choreographs,” putting things in motion. In addition to the commercial work, Horwitz (who lives in Venice) and Meyuhas (Santa Monica) record and license their own music. 

“When we first started out, all we could think about was mixing commercials,” Horwitz says. “We think of so many other things now. Mark has been venturing out, and the entrepreneurial spirit has really been blossoming in the last 10 years, whether it’s restaurants or real estate or whatever.”

The two men are self-professed foodies, and given that Horwitz already operated Wabi-Sabi in Venice and that both men were interested in trying a new venture together, a new restaurant was the logical next step. The two created the Tasting Kitchen in Venice in 2009, with Lane as the chef there as well. Once that establishment was flourishing, the partners turned their focus to the new venture downtown in an effort to keep everybody’s creative juices flowing. 

The flatiron building, former home to Café Angelique, sits in easy proximity to L.A. Live and public transportation. With The Parish, the partners envisioned a place where patrons could grab an elegant breakfast, a tasty dinner or an elegant post-show cocktail. The restaurant’s name is a nod to Prohibition-era speakeasies. 

“It’s a little bit of a playful thing,”  Meyuhas says. “We’re in the fashion district, and we have an extensive bar program which influences our Prohibition-era style of drinks. So people come and have a drink and play.”

The urge to get playful should be no problem after a customer downs The Parish version of the Old Fashioned (bourbon, syrup, bitters and fruit twists); the bourbon-and-ale-mixed Black Bee or a fresh gin gimlet. 

On the menu side, Lane hopes to take pub grub to a new level via roasted bone marrow and crispy pork shoulder or — if you’re with a crowd — the group-appropriate Bishop’s Roast featuring a whole roasted rotisserie chicken, county-style ratatouille and a growler of Black Market Contraband beer. 

“It’s interesting, this whole idea of food as entertainment in L.A.,” Horwitz says. “A friend recently called me and said he had four tickets for LudoBites that he couldn’t use and did I want them. There you go: Four tickets to LudoBites; food is theater. Restaurants are becoming showcases for chefs and their artistry.”

Talmud in Downtown L.A.

Around 2,500 people turned out for the citywide Siyum HaShas celebration at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Aug. 1. The event marked the completion of the seven-and-a-half year cycle of daily Talmud study known as Daf Yomi.

The program began with Mincha (afternoon prayer) just after 5:30 p.m. and featured several speakers, including Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City. Dayan Aaron Dovid Dunner, a sitting member of the London Beth Din, delivered a main address.

“Everybody can be a Daf Yomi person,” Dunner said. “You find time for business and for pleasure. You can find time for Daf Yomi if you want to.”

Rabbi Mechie Blau served as master of ceremonies and opened the night by congratulating the misayamim, those who had completed the Daf Yomi learning, and pointing out that this year’s Siyum took place in the days following Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

“Everyone here deserves to be applauded,” he said. “This celebration shows that we are ready to restore the glory of the beis hamigdash.”

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion event featured a live digital linkup with a larger celebration at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.Approximately 90,000 men and women attended the New Jersey Siyum.

This year marks the 12th time that Daf Yomi has been completed, dating back to the practice’s Polish inception in 1923.

While the event focused mainly on those who had completed the daily learning cycle, only a minority of those in attendance had actually completed Daf Yomi. Rabbi Baruch Zheutlin, a sixth-grade Talmud teacher at Yeshivat Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu, said that though he had not completed Daf Yomi, he felt like a part of the celebration for several reasons.

“The Siyum combines two great things: Jewish unity and Torah study,” he said. “And I learn Gemara, so this is my celebration too.”

Zheutlin said he brought his 8-year-old son so that “he could see the honor of so many Jews unifying together.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Siyum’s press liaison, said that the impact of the Siyum could be seen as early as the next day when morning Daf Yomi Shiurim took place, beginning the 13th cycle.

“There were a lot of new faces on Thursday,” Adlerstein, who is the director of interfaith affairs at The Simon Wiesenthal Center, said. “Many people saw the majesty of Torah at the Siyum and were inspired.”

The next Siyum HaShas is set to take place early in 2020.

Delijanis put historic theater district back in the spotlight

The classic Los Angeles Theater at Broadway and Sixth Street is not much to look at from the outside—situated alongside a host of busy retail shops, its sidewalk is lined with street vendors selling toys and trinkets. But upon entering the theater’s French Baroque-style lobby, with its 50-foot ceiling, grand staircase, plush red carpet, detailed fresco paintings, ornate marble fountain and crystal chandeliers, one is immediately transported to a bygone era of opulent, glamorous movie palaces.

Yet the newly renovated 2,000-seat Los Angeles Theater has come a long way after falling into disrepair over the decades and facing near demolition by its previous owner nearly 25 years ago. Luckily, the theater was saved from the wrecking ball in the early 1980s after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley asked the late Iranian-Jewish real estate magnate and philanthropist Ezat Delijani to purchase the historic property. Since then, Delijani’s Delson Investment Co. has gradually poured millions of dollars into renovating the Los Angeles Theater as well as purchasing and renovating three other historic movie houses—the Palace, Tower and State theaters—in downtown Los Angeles’ historic Broadway Theater District, the largest concentration of movie palaces left in the United States.

“My dad was always very grateful to this country for taking us in and giving him the opportunity to rebuild,” said Shahram Delijani, Ezat Delijani’s youngest son. “So, for him it was of the utmost importance to give back. The preservation of the Los Angeles Theater and our other theaters was one way in which he did.”

The Delijani family, which is private and typically avoids media attention, offered The Journal a rare and exclusive tour of the remarkable renovations they made to return the historic sites to their former glory.

“My dad knowingly and willingly made a great financial sacrifice purchasing, holding and preserving these theaters,” Shahram Delijani said. “He had the vision that these historic monuments would once again be used for something special, and we are seeing his vision coming to life with the transformation of Broadway.”

The Delijanis have also been actively involved in Los Angeles City Council member José Huizar’s Bringing Back Broadway, a public-private initiative focused on revitalizing the historic Broadway district, located between Second Street and Olympic Boulevard, by 2018. At the same time, Ezat Delijani’s eldest son, Michael Delijani, along with other local properties owners, helped found the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) to fund street cleaning and increase security patrols in the Broadway Theater District, which features 12 movie palaces.

Since the Delijanis’ acquisition of the four theaters, the family has used them sparingly in an effort to maintain their prestige and beauty. In addition to permitting major television or film productions, including “Chaplin,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “Cinderella Man” and “CSI: NY,” to use the sites, the family has also allowed select nonprofit organizations, such as the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, to host its events at the Los Angeles Theater.

Designed by Jewish architect S. Charles Lee (born Simeon Charles Levi) and built for independent theater operator H.L. Gumbiner in late 1930 and early 1931 at a cost of more than $1 million, the Los Angeles Theater was the most expensive and elaborate movie palace built at that time. When a lack of funds threatened construction, silent-film star Charlie Chaplin stepped in to provide the funding necessary to complete the theater in time for the January 1931 premiere of his film “City Lights.”

Three months after the theater’s opening Gumbiner declared bankruptcy, and the courts eventually transferred ownership of the theater to Fox Film Studios executive William Fox, who owned the land on which the Los Angeles Theater was built. After 50 years, the Fox family trust sold the historic building to Delijani’s Delson Investment Co.

The Palace Theater. Photo by Gary Leonard

The nearby 1,000-plus seat Palace Theater, also owned by the Delijanis, was built in 1911 as a vaudeville venue hosting famous performers, many of whom were Jewish, among them Harry Houdini and Sarah Bernhardt. Late last year, Delson Investment completed a $1 million renovation of the Palace Theater to bring the property back to its past glory. Restorations were made to the lighting fixtures, seating, massive wall murals, moldings, original tiles, carpets and wall coverings, Shahram Delijani said.

While final renovations to the Los Angeles and Palace theaters should be complete within the next six months, Shahram Delijani said more work is needed to properly restore the family’s Tower Theater, which is located two blocks north.

No major work is being done on the nearby State Theater, the fourth movie palace owned by the family. The property is currently occupied by the Iglesia Universal church under a lease signed by the building’s previous owners.

Prior to his death at age 83 last August, Ezat Delijani was able to see photos of the major renovations made to the historic theaters he had purchased during the last three decades, Shahram Delijani said.

Shahram Delijani said his family is proud to be involved in the preservation of the city’s historical landmarks and, more important, a part of the local Jewish community’s rich historical connection to downtown Los Angeles.

Local Iranian-Jewish businessmen first flocked to the downtown area in the late 1970s and early 1980s following their immigration to Los Angeles from Iran to work in the garment and jewelry districts. In addition to the Delijani family, nearly 40 Iranian-Jewish real estate developers have purchased or built buildings and other properties in downtown Los Angeles over the years, further solidifying the community’s influence in the area.

Many local Iranian Jews credit Ezat Delijani with not only transforming downtown Los Angeles’ different business districts but, more important, for his bringing a new sense of pride to Iranian-Americans of all faiths living in the city.

“Ezat Delijani defined what it meant to be a mensch and an honorable human being,” said David Rahimian, the Iranian-Jewish former special assistant to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “He tore down walls to give people a voice and gave many Iranian-Americans in our city the opportunity to earn a living through hard work and determination.”

Ezat Delijani was highly respected by the local Iranian-Jewish community for his philanthropy to Jewish causes and for helping to negotiate the purchase of Hollywood Temple Beth El in 1999 during his tenure as president of the Los Angeles-based Iranian American Jewish Federation. For his longstanding involvement in helping to transform the historic Broadway Theater District, Ezat Delijani was also honored in 2009 when the city named the intersection of Seventh Street and Broadway after him.

City officials have long praised the Iranian-Jewish community’s entrepreneurial efforts in the revitalization of various areas within downtown and, in particular, the Delijani family’s focus on saving the four theaters on Broadway.

The Los Angeles Theater’s lobby, as featured on the cover, includes a marble fountain, crystal chandeliers, fresco paintings and a grand staircase. Photos by Gary Leonard

“The Delijani family’s investment in preserving the historic downtown theaters demonstrates their clear sense of civic pride and responsibility,” Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel said. “Their acquisition and repair of the theaters not only contributes to the economic development in the downtown area, but also protects historic buildings which will be enjoyed and appreciated by visitors and residents for years to come.”

City officials also said an array of entertainment companies, high-end hotels and new restaurants are looking to join the Delijanis by setting up new businesses in the district’s properties.

For their part, the Delijani family has plans to offer their two newly renovated theaters in the Broadway Theater District for various live events, such as music concerts, plays and pared-down operas, as well as leasing some spaces within the theaters for high-end restaurants and bars. At the same time, the venues will also host live events produced by the Broadway Theatre Group, an entertainment company headed by Shahram Delijani.

“Our primary goal is to reactivate these theaters so that people can experience them regularly and be proud that such monuments exist in our city,” Shahram Delijani said.

With their substantial real estate holdings in Los Angeles, Shahram Delijani said his family has a tremendous amount of reverence for the four historic theaters and will continue to maintain the buildings in the best possible condition for the benefit of the entire city.

“The interesting thing about owning a historic landmark is that you never quite feel like you own it; you are just a steward for the next generation,” he said. “It’s very humbling when you think of all the effort that went into developing these treasures, and because of my dad’s efforts, they will live on for future generations.”

For more information about the life of Ezat Delijani, visit Karmel Melamed’s blog, Iranian American Jews.

Remembering Ira Yellin

Tradition holds that the greatest gifts affect the most people, often with the least attribution.

Revelers who enjoy the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles, with its theaters and concert halls, bars, restaurants and thousands of new housing units, owe deep appreciation to Ira Yellin, even if they did not have the honor of knowing him.

Ira, who passed away 10 years ago this fall at 62, was the pioneering real estate developer who first saw the potential of downtown. He mustered the resources and talents to restore some of downtown’s most famous landmarks, including the Bradbury Building, the Million Dollar Theater and the Grand Central Square. In doing so, he established the foundations from which all subsequent improvements to the Historic Core of Los Angeles have grown. Ira was also an active civic leader and patron of the arts, serving on the boards of the J. Paul Getty Trust and California Institute of the Arts, and other civic and cultural institutions. And he was a committed Jew.

As one of Ira’s former partners, I like to think that he practiced his religion through the plans he drafted, the buildings he created and the literally thousands of people who benefit every day from the changes that he achieved in our community.

Ira Yellin was born in Springfield, Mass., and raised in Los Angeles, the son of the founding rabbi of Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice and part of an observant family. He attended public schools in Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley, and earned his way to Princeton, Harvard and University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. Along the way, Ira challenged himself physically and mentally, showing the breadth of his civic commitment by serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. This was certainly no small feat for the relatively diminutive, highly intellectual son of a rabbi. It was also the kind of challenge to conventional thinking that Ira liked to pursue.

Ira started his career in Los Angeles in the relatively predictable and comfortable role of a corporate attorney, serving the entertainment industry on the Westside. Somewhere in the course of this work, his attention was diverted to the plight of our deteriorating downtown, and especially to the Historic Core, where Los Angeles had its birth.

Raising funds from friends and entertainment clients, Ira committed himself to the endeavor of re-establishing the glory of downtown, starting with its surviving physical landmarks. Before historic preservation and the adaptive reuse of historic structures were well known, and before our city building codes were changed to assist with these difficult projects, Ira committed his life to the restoration and reuse of some of the city’s most significant structures. This work led him into leadership roles in urban planning, developing a strategic plan for downtown Los Angeles, and a broader vision for the entire region in which a constellation of pre-eminent cultural and historic landmarks glittered in restored glory at the center of a new transportation network in the heart of the city.

Grand Central Market, part of Grand Central Square. Photo by of Dan Kacvinski

Ira was recruited to assist with the restoration of historic Union Stations in Los Angeles and San Diego. In 2000, he started his own company, with Paul Keller and me, forming Urban Partners as a vehicle for expanding his ambitions to the development of transit-served villages on the emerging Metro Rail public transit network. In this role, Ira laid the groundwork for nationally recognized “transit-oriented developments,” such as Del Mar Station in Pasadena and Wilshire/Vermont Station in Koreatown. He also won assignments to design and develop downtown headquarters for The California Endowment and the Pritzker Prize-winning masterpiece that architect Thom Mayne produced for Caltrans on a prominent site at the corner of First and Main.

Throughout his career, it was widely recognized that Ira was doing this work a decade or two “ahead of his time.” As a result, he can legitimately be recognized as the true pioneer who enabled the renaissance of our downtown.

Ira remained committed to his traditional Jewish values, which led him to a range of civic and cultural causes, including a leadership role with the American Jewish Committee. Ira and his wife, Adele, who continues to oversee Grand Central Square, raised two outstanding children: Seth, who was a successful investment banker in New York City and now is director of strategic development for a health care firm, and Jessica, who is widely recognized as the prominent chief White House correspondent for CNN.

Tragically, Ira, who was a fitness fanatic throughout his life and a paragon of health, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001; he died on Sept. 10, 2002. Ira’s final struggle was covered extensively by the Los Angeles Times as a paradigm of dignity and optimism.

On this, the 10th anniversary of his death, thousands appreciate the culture and vitality of our rediscovered downtown. Social contact, after all, enables our social contract, and it was Ira Yellin who brought us all together — even if we never knew the man.

Dan Rosenfeld, a founding member of Urban Partners LLC with Ira Yellin, is a senior deputy for economic development, sustainability and mobility to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Downtown’s Jewish L.A.ndmarks

“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”

No matter how you get there—by car, bicycle, on foot or Metro (yes, we do have a subway)—downtown Los Angeles has some remarkable remnants of the “sleepy, ambitionless adobe village” that Jewish businessman, communal leader and historian Harris Newmark found when he arrived in 1853, as well as a rich array of architectural, cultural and historical treasures attesting to the role played by individual Jews and the Jewish community in the growth and development of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles, the Shtetl of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, into the world center Newmark prophesied.


The Federal Building, on the southeast corner of Aliso and Los Angeles streets, is the former site of Los Angeles’ first Jewish neighborhood. Shortly after California’s admission to the Union, a federal census taken of Los Angeles in 1851 indicated that of the town’s 1,610 inhabitants, eight were Jews. Six were German born, most were young (Jacob Frankfort, believed to be the first Jew in Los Angeles when he arrived in 1841 as a tailor-merchant with the Rowland-Workman expedition party, was the eldest at 41). All were bachelors, merchants and, like everyone else in the rough-and-tumble town, they were armed. They all had stores and lived next door to one another on the ground floor of the city’s leading commercial building, a two-story skyscraper called Bell’s Row. Merchandise was sold in the front of Bell’s Row and the men slept in back.

Olvera Street/El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, Los Angeles’ birthplace, just north of the 101 freeway, includes several sites of Jewish interest:

• At 1 W. Olvera St. are the Jones and Simpson/Jones buildings, a portion of the latter now housing the restaurant La Luz del Dia. The structures were built beginning in 1888 by Doria Deighton-Jones, the wealthy Scottish-born widow of John Jones, on the former site of the family’s large adobe home. Jones, his name notwithstanding, was a prominent local Jewish businessman, from Poland by way of England, and was one of eight Jews who served as members of the L.A. City Council during the period between 1850 and 1875. He became the first Jewish president of the City Council in 1870. Some historians posit that Mrs. Jones converted to Judaism prior to her marriage to Jones in 1858. She served as treasurer of the Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society, the city’s first women’s philanthropic organization, upon its founding in 1870.

• Hellman/Quon Building, on La Plaza de Los Angeles, was built in 1900 by Isaias W. Hellman on the site of the former one-story adobe residence of Pío de Jesús Pico, the last California governor under Mexican rule. Hellman, the pioneer Los Angeles and San Francisco Jewish merchant, banker, communal leader and “Renaissance man,” transformed Los Angeles into a modern metropolis. On Hellman’s death in 1920, the building was sold to real estate agent Moses Srere. The following year, Srere sold it to Quon How Shing, a Chinese businessman, and it remains today one of the few surviving buildings of Los Angeles’ Old Chinatown. During that era, the building had a hidden bell to warn of unwelcome guests who might object to the gambling and smoking of opium on the premises.

• Dedicated in 1858, Masonic Hall at 416 N. Main St. is the oldest building in Los Angeles south of the plaza and was the home, until 1868, of the city’s first fraternal organization, Los Angeles Lodge No. 42, Free and Accepted Masons, founded in 1854. It counted many Jews among its early leadership, including Jacob Elias, who in 1854 served as first president of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the original, all-purpose Jewish organization and first charitable group of any kind in the city; Abraham W. Edelman, Los Angeles’ first professional rabbi, who served several terms as Worshipful Master; and businessman Samuel Meyers, who was its treasurer for 50 years. A furniture and cabinet-making store, noted for its coffins, occupied the first floor and upstairs was the lodge room, used as meeting space by many groups, including the local Jewish community. Los Angeles Lodge No. 42 continues some 150 years later, now meeting at the Santa Monica Masonic Center.

Union Station

Known as the last of the great rail stations, Union Station, across from Olvera Street/El Pueblo at 800 N. Alameda St., resulted in the controversial demolition of Los Angeles’ original Chinatown. From its opening in 1939 until the advent of passenger air travel, Union Station conveyed to travelers their first romantic images of Los Angeles—Mexican tile roofs, mosaic floors, archways leading to palm-lined patios. In an earlier time, in 1872, Harris Newmark, Isaias W. Hellman and Solomon Lazard were instrumental in bringing the first railroad line, Southern Pacific, to Los Angeles.

The lobby of the Terminal Annex Post Office, 900 N. Alameda St., across Cesar Chavez Avenue from Union Station, is home to 11 murals by Latvian-born California Jewish artist Boris Deutsch (1892-1978). Titled, “Cultural Contributions of North, South and Central America,” they were commissioned by the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture and completed in 1944.


The area bordered by Main Street, Broadway, First Street and Temple Street, includes the former Temple Block—which Harris Newmark and partners bought in 1877 and sold 30 years later at a reduced price to the city in order to provide the nucleus of the Los Angeles Civic Center—and also encompasses the former site of the city’s first public drinking fountain, a gift from Newmark in 1882.

Civic Center includes three works by public artist Joseph Young (1919-2007), whose mosaics and stained glass are featured in many local synagogues and churches and who designed the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument in Pan Pacific Park. The works include: “Triforium,” a six-story-high, 60-ton, three-pronged “poly-phonoptic kinetic tower” in the courtyard of the Los Angeles Mall, which he said was designed to reflect the unfinished, kaleidoscopic nature of the city, but which critics derided as “the Million Dollar Jukebox” and “Three Wishbones in Search of a Turkey”; “Topographical Map,” on the exterior of the Richard Neutra/Robert Alexander-designed Los Angeles County Hall of Records (320 W. Temple St.), a mosaic and granite mural and fountain depicting a bird’s eye view of the County’s water and geological resources; and Architectural History of Los Angeles, a mosaic in the lobby of Parker Center (150 N. Los Angeles St.) slated to be preserved when the former LAPD headquarters building is demolished.

Los Angeles City Hall

Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., the city’s most iconic building, reminds us of the proud tradition of Jewish leadership in city and county government, beginning with Morris L. Goodman, one of the aforementioned first eight Jewish residents of the pueblo, who was elected to the very first City Council in 1850. Of the seven council members, Goodman was the only American: “All of these except Goodman, who was an Israelite, had been citizens of Mexico,” wrote J.M. Guinn, a pioneer historian. The minutes of the meetings are in Spanish. Goodman and Julius L. Morris were the first Jews to serve as Los Angeles County supervisors, elected in 1860.

Stanley Mosk Courthouse, 111 N. Hill St., the main civil branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, is named for Mosk (1912-2001), associate justice of the California Supreme Court for 37 years (1964-2001), who holds the record for the court’s longest-serving justice. Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, he was California attorney general from 1958 to 1964, the first Jew to be elected to statewide executive branch office since Washington Bartlett served as governor in 1887. He previously served as a Superior Court judge and as president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles. Mosk was described as “an institution, an icon, a trailblazer, a legal scholar, a constitutional guardian, a veritable living legend of the American judiciary … one of the most influential members in the history of one of the most influential tribunals in the Western world” in 1999 by Albany Law School professor Vincent Martin Bonventre.

Mark Taper Forum

The Music Center—Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, 135 N. Grand Ave., represents the vision of Dorothy Buffum Chandler, who, as the Music Center’s Web site notes, “relentlessly and almost single-handedly persuaded political and business leaders that Los Angeles needed a major performing arts facility.” She soon realized the Music Center complex would never be built unless she could enlist the generosity of the Jewish community toward the $20 million required from individual contributors. In a brilliant fundraising strategy, Chandler is said to have capitalized on the rivalry between Howard Ahmanson of Home Savings and S. Mark Taper of American Savings, a Polish Jew who, with his wife, rescued hundreds of Jewish and Catholic children from Nazi Germany.

Gordon Davidson, founding artistic director of the Center Theatre Group, served as artistic director from 1967 to 2004. Under his leadership the Taper received virtually every theatrical award including the 1977 special Tony for theatrical excellence and was distinguished with winning the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for consecutive years for two of its original plays, “The Kentucky Cycle” and “Angels in America.”

“Peace on Earth,” the centerpiece of the Music Center plaza, is a monumental sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz (born Chaim Jacob Lipchitz, 1891-1973) and the gift of the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation. Lipchitz, one of the most acclaimed and innovative sculptors of the 20th century, was born in Lithuania, moved to Paris in 1909 to study art and then to the United States in 1941. “Peace on Earth” was dedicated in 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, with the inscription “Given as a Symbol of Peace to the Peoples of the World.” Lipchitz described his sculpture as “a prayer for peace,” adding that “if peace does not come, it is bad sculpture.”


A small plaque in the sidewalk near 214 S. Broadway, between Second and Third streets, placed by the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California, commemorates the 1873 former site of the first synagogue building of Congregation B’nai B’rith, Los Angeles’ first permanent Jewish congregation, known to us today as Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Organized in 1862 with the arrival of Rabbi Abraham W. Edelman, religious services were held in various rented and borrowed spaces, including the Masonic Hall, Judge Sepulveda’s courtroom and John Temple’s saloon until Congregation B’nai B’rith was built. The synagogue was the work of the city’s leading architect, Ezra F. Kysor, who also designed Pico House, the Merced Theatre and St. Vibiana’s Cathedral. A report on the building’s dedication in the Los Angeles Star described it as “the most superior church edifice in Southern California.”

Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market, 315 S. Broadway, a block-long collection of food stalls and shops with offices above that runs from Broadway to Hill Street, opened in 1917 and has been in operation ever since. It was rejuvenated in the 1990s due to the efforts of urban developer Ira Yellin (1940-2002), a champion of the downtown core for whom Grand Central Square is named. Yellin also led the restoration of the Bradbury Building and Million Dollar Theatre and renovation of Union Station and the former Metropolitan Water District building. Of Grand Central Market, Yellin said: “I’m always totally energized here. It just feels and smells and is utterly special.” Yellin’s father was Rabbi Isaac Yellin, who served as rabbi of Venice’s Congregation Mishkon Tephilo in the 1940s.

The Broadway Theater District, between Third and Ninth streets, is the first and largest historic theater district to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Showman Sid Grauman’s 1917 opening of the opulent Million Dollar Theater (which he bragged cost a million dollars to build) led to the world’s greatest collection of movie palaces on Broadway, with 15,000 seats by 1931. Today, 12 of the theaters on Broadway survive, largely due to the support of the Latino community. These palaces reflected the business and marketing acumen of entrepreneurs and the vision and skill of architects and artists, Jews among them:

Herman W. Hellman Building

• Cameo Theater, 528 S. Broadway (1910), designed by Alfred F. Rosenheim (1859-1943), a leading architect in Southern California whose work included Hamburger’s Department Store at Broadway and Eighth Street (1908; later the downtown May Co. and now the Broadway Trade Center) and the Herman W. Hellman Building at Fourth and Spring streets (1903; now Banco Popular). Rosenheim was the first president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

• Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway (1931), the last movie palace built on Broadway, designed by S. Charles Lee (born Simeon Charles Levi, 1899-1990), one of Los Angeles’ most prolific and gifted theater architects, and S. Tilden Norton, whose work includes Sinai Temple’s first (1909) and second (1926) synagogue buildings.

Los Angeles Theatre

It was built in less than six months for film exhibitor H.L. Gumbiner, in time for the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s silent classic “City Lights.” The Los Angeles Theatre is considered by architectural historians to be the finest theater building in the city. Lee also designed the Tower, 802 S. Broadway (1927), completed when he was only 27 years old, also for H.L. Gumbiner. Some claim (unconfirmed) that plans for the Tower were changed during construction to accommodate the newfangled “talkies,” and that “The Jazz Singer” had its Los Angeles premiere there.

• G. Albert Lansburgh (1876-1969), one of the country’s most successful theater architects, whose other Los Angeles work includes the Wiltern, the El Capitan and Shrine Auditorium, was commissioned by the Orpheum Circuit to design the Palace Theatre, 630 S. Broadway (1911), and the Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway (1926), both vaudeville houses. Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker and the Marx Brothers were among the performers who appeared on the Orpheum’s stage.

Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum became a movie theater in 1932, and the Corwin family’s Metropolitan Theatres operated it from 1933 until 2000, when it closed. The Orpheum’s miraculous “second act” began in 2007, after Steve Needleman of the Anjac Group invested six years of effort and $3.5 million to renovate the theater, following $4 million to develop the floors above as 35 live-work lofts. The marquee is not the original but dates from approximately 1936 and was possibly designed by B. (Benjamin) Marcus Priteca (1889-1971), a renowned theater architect of Sephardi background.

Other landmarks in downtown reflecting our rich local Jewish heritage include:

• Eastern Columbia Building (1930), 849 S. Broadway, an Art Deco-Zigzag Moderne gem built and owned for many years by the Sieroty family, is now a condominium building.

• Fashion (“schmatta business”) District, the location of manufacturers and distributors of apparel and accessories and also a reminder of Jewish involvement in the labor movement and union organizing; the Morse family’s California Market Center, Ninth and Main; the Hirsh family’s Cooper Design Space, 860 S. Los Angeles St.; the Harris Newmark Building, named in his memory by his sons in 1926, now owned by the Ben and Joyce Eisenberg Foundation and called the New Mart (including Tiara Café), 127 E. Ninth St., all housing showrooms and offices for apparel manufacturers and other creative businesses; and the Cohn-Goldwater Building, 12th and San Julian streets, the city’s first modern clothing factory, built in 1909 and later home to Cole of California, birthplace of California’s sportswear industry and the “California look,” influencing international fashion. 

• Flower District, Wall Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, and Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, Central Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, important contributors to the local economy and built by entrepreneurs from many ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, including families from Sephardi and Ashkenazi backgrounds.

Stephen J. Sass is president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California and the Breed Street Shul Project. For information on tours of Jewish Los Angeles, including downtown, call (323) 761-8950 or visit jewishhistoricalsociety.org.

Artifact-rich Sports Museum opens downtown

A T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, one of the rarest in the world. Barry Bonds’ 755th home run ball. A handful of infield dirt, the broken champagne bottle used to christen the stadium and the first ball thrown out at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1913.

These are some of the gems at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, which opened on Nov. 28. Not surprisingly, the collection, owned by Gary Cypres and housed downtown in a 32,000-square-foot warehouse, has already generated the kind of breathless blurbs usually uttered by radio personalities for movie openings.

“Awesome! Fantastic! Unbelievable! That one person could collect all this memorabilia is incomprehensible,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said of the museum, located a few blocks south of Staples Center.

“The best sports museum in the world!” former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley added.

This is one case where everything that has been said is true. Cypres’ vast sports collection, which fills 30 well-lighted galleries, is extraordinary and reflects its owner’s deep love of sports history.

It is not simply that he knows Yale, not USC, was the school that pioneered football; Cypres also owns a rare Edison film of the 1903 Yale vs. Princeton football game, which runs on a small screen above an exhibit on college football.

And it’s not simply that he knows that the L.A. Times got it wrong when it reported that, after Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak ended, he hit in another 12 games (Joltin’ Joe actually hit in another 16 consecutive games); Cypres also owns the ball that was speared by Cleveland’s Ken Keltner to end DiMaggio’s 56-game skein.

Still, one has to ask, where are the Jewish sports artifacts?

Mark Spitz’ gold medals? Barney Ross’ lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight belts? Hank Greenberg’s 58th home run ball from 1938?

None of these are to be found at the museum, but there is a jersey worn in 1957 by Dodger Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest Jewish athletes of the past century and arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.

Cypres, who slumps over but who once stood about 6-foot-3 1/2-inches when he played forward at Hofstra, says, “You want Jewish?”

He points out a photograph of the Cleveland Rosenblums, a championship basketball squad from the late 1920s and early 1930s. What is striking is how much shorter the players were then. The tallest player, Joe Lapchick, was 6-foot-5, tiny by today’s standards. Dressed in knee pads and tank-tops, sticking out their chests, with their bodies turned to the side, not straight-on, the Rosenblums look more like a college wrestling team than a pro basketball squad.

In one of the basketball rooms, there are also jackets worn by members of the House of David, a barnstorming outfit that played basketball and baseball, and the Philadelphia Sphas, a legendary Jewish hoops team during the early days of basketball. There are also photos and a plaque of Abe Saperstein, founder of the Harlem Globetrotters.

A modest, unassuming man who has made his money in investment banking and the travel business, Cypres, 65, grew up in the Bronx at a time when Jews were still dominant in basketball, when CCNY, a team coached by Nat Holman and comprised of many Jews, became the only school to win the NIT and NCAA titles in the same year. Cypres played ball on the playgrounds and at summer camp with Larry Brown, the current Charlotte Bobcats coach, who was himself a great player in the ABA.

Yet when asked what it meant to be a Jewish kid back then, when there were many star Jewish athletes, Cypres says that didn’t influence him to play basketball.

His favorite athlete was Mickey Mantle.

Although he roots for the Dodgers now, Cypres still has a love for his boyhood Yankees and has a whole room devoted to Mantle as well as rooms filled with DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth memorabilia.

Unfortunately, despite the wealth and beauty of the resources in this museum, it has attracted few visitors so far. Part of that is due to the economy, which is harming attendance at many museums such as MOCA, on whose board Cypres’ wife, Kathi, sits. Part of it is due to its location, downtown, as opposed to the Westside. And part of it is due to the time of year. Cypres expects greater turnout in the summer when kids are out of school.

But Cypres has gotten many calls from corporations, asking to hold events in his museum. He sees it as a perfect spot to host dinners, seminars and parties.

Meanwhile, his sports memorabilia collection, which he values at roughly $30 million, keeps gaining in value. As he says, “better than the stock market, Imight add.”

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Top: Uniform jerseys that are part of the Los Angeles Dodgers gallery. Bottom: Evolution of the football uniform in one of the football galleries at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles. Photos courtesy of the Sports Museum of Los Angeles

Sukkot on the streets — finding community amid temporary shelter

When he woke up from a six-month coma, Al Sabo (photo) found his life unraveled. His wife had attempted suicide, and his three children were in foster care. He had lost his job as the managing editor of a trade publication. He couldn’t walk.

After several months of rehabilitation, Sabo ended up on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. He was almost 60 years old, white, and had spent his life avoiding places like Skid Row.

On his first night without shelter, he lay on the cold concrete in the dark, terrified of what a group of young, predominantly black drug addicts might do to him if he fell asleep. As it turned out, what they did was help him survive.

“They watched over me. It was totally amazing,” he said. “They went out and hustled up food for me. They took care of me. It gave me a whole different perspective of who people here really are, and a new understanding of the problems they’re facing.”

Sabo slept on the street for two months. He learned how to create a makeshift shelter with cardboard and tarp. He learned that, in the most precarious of situations, people with very little are willing to give a lot.

Every night on Skid Row, 5,000 people pile onto shelter cots or erect their flimsy huts in the concrete desert of the city. Another 9,000 go to bed in the area’s residency hotels, hoping to still have a roof over their heads the next day. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, year-round they share their sukkot with each other and remind us that we have failed to do the same for them.

When Sabo’s disability check came, he was able to afford a room at the Frontier Hotel. The Frontier is less than one block away from where I live, in a loft on Main Street. But Sabo and I are separated by much more than the physical space between us.

I am part of the new downtown, a much-touted “revitalization” of L.A.’s urban core. When I tell people in other parts of the city where I live, they say things like, “I hear they’re really cleaning up the area.”

Sabo is part of the old downtown. He’s poor, disabled and doesn’t have anywhere else to go. When others talk about “cleaning up the area,” they are talking about getting rid of people like him.

ALTTEXTIn the last few years, gentrification has swept downtown Los Angeles. Developers set their sights on the area’s residency hotels, and city officials, eager to preside over the rejuvenation of a long-neglected city center, failed to protect those who for decades have called these hotels home. Countless residents have already been displaced. Thousands more, like Sabo, are trying to hang on.

Just three months after Sabo moved into the Frontier — a slum property by city standards — the building’s owner began converting the hotel’s 450 rooms into market-rate apartments.

Sabo, like most of his neighbors, had been paying $400 a month for a 150-square-foot room at the Frontier. He said he had problems with roaches and rats and didn’t have any heat in the winter. It was no bargain, but it was the cheapest rent in town.

Now the owner was ridding the hotel of tenants like Sabo, one floor at a time.

“They were not only converting the top floors into lofts, they built a separate entrance on Main Street because they didn’t want these people associating with the residents that were already there,” Sabo said. “They certainly didn’t want people that had been there for years to mix with the young yuppies that were coming into the lofts and paying a lot more money.”

The newer, wealthier residents entered the building through a grand, recently refurbished lobby with its own set of elevators. The old residents, most of them black and many disabled, entered from another side of the building, through a bleak, concrete chamber.

The Frontier was a microcosm of what was happening downtown. Block after city block featured advertisements for the new urban life. Old buildings were festooned with images of young white couples in modern interiors, a reminder to longtime residents that the new downtown would not include them.

These low-income residents felt they had been doubly neglected by the city: Before gentrification turned these blighted properties into valuable real estate, they said, the city departments in charge of enforcing fire codes and habitability laws turned a blind eye. When the evictions began, they said city officials failed to enforce state and local rent- control laws that would keep them from joining the ranks of the homeless.

Housing rights advocates and community members used to fight the city and downtown landlords to improve slum conditions. Now they were fighting just to keep people inside.

The Bristol Hotel, just a few blocks away from the Frontier and a stone’s throw from City Hall, was emptied in three days. Many of the tenants said they were evicted at gunpoint.

The Alexandria Hotel was purchased, with substantial help from the city, by a developer who evicted 100 tenants in the first year. Activists said some mentally disabled residents were simply locked out, and remaining tenants, many of them elderly, were stranded on top floors for days without working elevators or running water. The city officials who subsidized the renovation ignored countless pleas from tenants complaining of rampant abuses.

JDub throws off the label and opts for change

Golem live (‘Romania, Romania!’) at the Knitting Factory in NYC June 2007

JDub was never supposed to be just a record label, and as JDub records celebrates its fifth anniversary with a free concert on July 27 downtown at California Plaza, it is more clear than ever that the organization’s founders have greater ambitions than merely putting out good Jewish CDs.

Aaron Bisman, who co-founded the label with Jacob Harris when the duo were finishing college in New York, readily admits those ambitions.

“We believed there were legs for the idea behind the label,” Bisman says, his eyes alight with the passion of someone who after a half-decade is still excited by what he is doing. “We wanted to change attitudes about Jewish music and culture. We wanted to create something for young Jews, our contemporaries, to create spaces and music that would make them want to be there.”

And it wasn’t about making money. What sets JDub apart from other Jewish music purveyors is their not-for-profit status, which allows them to seek grants and work closely with other Jewish nonprofits. The Six Points Fellowship program, a partnership among the label, Avoda Arts and the Foundation for Jewish Culture, substantially funded by UJA-Federation of New York, is a good example.

“We wanted to bring together artists who had never done a specifically Jewish project before,” Bisman says.

The two-year fellowship program provides 12 artists with a living stipend, financial project support, professional development workshops and ongoing peer- and professional-led learning opportunities.

The vision has already begun to bear fruit. Having built a strong foundation in New York, Bisman and Harris have begun the slow, hard work of expanding their outreach to Los Angeles and other cities with a substantial Jewish presence. They have already cleared a major hurdle, receiving a “Cutting Edge” grant of $250,000 from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. In the long run, the idea is to create spaces and events for young Jews, whether affiliated or not, with the goal of making Jewish culture cool.

“They have figured out a way to allow their contemporaries to find a way to comfortably express themselves,” says Marvin Schotland, CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation. “It’s another way in a complex environment to test what will attract other people to get comfortable with their identity and to take some step beyond showing up at a concert. JDub has the capacity to get them to show up at a concert, but they’re interested in doing more than that, and they are interested in connecting with other participants in the Jewish community. We believe this initiative will have a major impact on the Jewish community in Los Angeles.”

Of course, no one is expecting an overnight transformation of Los Angeles’ diverse, diffuse Jewish community. JDub’s program is designed to build gradually, creating links between self-identified Jews in the arts communities, the Jewish communal world and audiences. And somewhere along the road, JDub also hopes to nurture new bands and performers to sign to their label.

In the very short term, the July 27 concert is a useful launching pad for JDub in Los Angeles, highlighting two of their bands — Golem, a hard-driving klezmer-punk-gypsy fusion, and Soulico, a powerful crew of Israeli DJs whose guests for this performance will include the Ethiopian-Israeli MCs of Axum and Sagol 59, the grand old man of Israeli hip-hop. In its sheer atypicality, the double-bill is typical of JDub, Bisman says.

“Both [bands] help us fill in the picture of the diversity of the world of Jewish music we’ve always been striving for,” he says. “Eastern European Jewish — and non-Jewish — folk tunes played as rock and punk, led by an amateur female ethnomusicologist, and an Israeli DJ crew building original hip-hop out of Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms.”

Not coincidentally, both groups have new CDs scheduled for release in early 2009. (Hey, we said they weren’t just a record label.)

“New York has been our base of support and our home,” Bisman says. “But our plan is to grow as a national organization, to find artists and funding outside New York City.”

Schotland is optimistic.

“For us, while the art is significant, it’s the vision they have for the utilization of the art to provide a way for young Jewish adults to identify with their Jewish identity [that] was most impressive about their proposal,” he says. “The proof of the pudding will be five years from now.”

Golem, Soulico, with Sagol 59 and Axum as guest artists, and Slivovitz and Soul will be performing free at Grand Performances (California Plaza, Waterfront Stage) on Sunday, July 27 at 7 p.m.

Eating and Praying Near Downtown

Where to Pray

There are no established synagogues serving the immediate downtown area, but among the major movements, the shuls closest to Staples Center are:

ReformWilshire Boulevard Temple 3663 Wilshire Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90010Phone: (213) 388-2401(Large and grand, built during and for the era of movie palaces)

Beth Chayim Chadashim6000 W. Pico Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90035Phone: (323) 931-7023(Small and haimish, with an outreach to the gay and lesbian community)

ConservativeTemple Beth Am1039 S. La Cienega Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90035Phone: (310) 652-7353(Offers daily morning and evening minyans, plus multiple Shabbat services)

OrthodoxA large concentration of Orthodox shuls not far from downtown Los Angeles is in an area radiating from the intersection of La Brea Avenue and Beverly Boulevard. To find a congenial Orthodox worship service, start with these organizations:

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations: (310) 777-0225Chabad Lubavitch West Coast headquarters: (310) 208-7511

Where to Eat

Kosher Restaurants

The Persian, Moroccan and Tunisian Jewish influx into the garment industry has given rise to a crop of good kosher meat restaurants in the downtown area. Most of these places close on weekends, so call ahead for precise hours. There are numerous kosher restaurants about 15-20 minutes west of downtown on Pico Blvd. between La Cienega and Doheny and on Fairfax between Beverly Blvd. and Melrose Avenue. Check www.jewishjournal.com for listings.

Afshan Restaurant306 E. 9th St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 622-1010

Classic Restaurant108 E. 8th St.Los Angeles, CA 90014(213) 623-6234

Cohen Restaurant316 E. Pico Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 742-8888

Pasha Café112 W. 9th St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 622-7578

Sharon’s II306 E. 9th St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 622-1010

Solomon’s Place934 S. Los Angeles St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 623-0094

And while downtown, don’t neglect Langer’s Deli at Alvarado and 7th, home to what many consider the best (non-kosher) pastrami sandwich in America, or Brooklyn Bagel at 2217 W. Beverly Blvd. near Alvarado for some of LA’s best bagels.

A Delegate’s Guide to Jewish Downtown

When not busy on the convention floor or at parties, delegates and media representatives can take a quick tour of the sites of Jewish interest near downtown. The Journal asked Jerry Friedman-Habush, who runs regular tours of Jewish Los Angeles, to compile a self-guided one. For more information on Habush’s guided tours, contact him at (818) 994-0213.

1. Start at the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel (506 S. Grand Ave.), travel south to Sixth Street and then east two blocks to Broadway. Broadway, from Third Street to Olympic Boulevard, was once the foremost row of movie palaces in the West and all were designed by Jewish theater architects, Arthur Landsbergh or S. Charles Lee, and were “saved” by Bruce Corwin – whose family still owns most of them – and Ira Yellin.

2. Travel north on Broadway and slow at Third Street. The Grand Central Market is on the site of the Jewish-owned City of Paris, L.A.’s first department store in 1880. Beside it are Sid Grauman’s “Million $ Theater,” built in 1918, before he built the Egyptian and the Chinese theaters in Hollywood, and the Victor Clothing Company on the northeast corner, where you’ll see huge, incredible murals. The Victor family is Jewish.

3. The next structure north of Victor’s is the L.A. Times employee parking structure, where walkers can locate a sidewalk plaque marking L.A.’s first synagogue – the first site of Congregation B’nai B’rith (now Wilshire Boulevard Temple), where is stood from 1872-1895, until it moved to Ninth and Hope (1895-1928).

4. From there, drive north to Cesar Chavez Avenue (formerly Brooklyn Avenue), then turn right (east) and drive across the river into Boyle Heights. At Breed Street, one block before Soto Street, turn right. The Breed Street Shul (419 Breed St.) was once the biggest Orthodox congregation west of Chicago. Completed in 1923, the huge brick structure, closed since 1992, is now, finally, under the administration of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California. It’s hoping to raise $5 million to renovate the shul into reuse. Boyle Heights had 70,000-80,000 Jews from the 1910s through the 1950s.

5. Take Soto Street south to Olympic Boulevard and turn right (west). Turn left at Valencia Street and drive two blocks south to 12th Street. On the northwest corner is the first site of Sinai Temple (1909-1925). Since 1925 it has been the Welsh Presbyterian Church. There are still huge Stars of David still in the windows and above the interior ceiling chandelier. Organized in 1906, this was first Conservative congregation in Los Angeles and the first Conservative synagogue built west of Chicago.

6. Drive back to the Harbor Freeway (110), which runs next to Staples Center, and take the freeway northbound to the southbound Hollywood Freeway (101). Take the first exit, Temple Street. Turn right (west) on Temple Street and then right (north) on Beaudry Avenue. Turn left (west) on Sunset Boulevard, which will take you to the entrance for Chavez Ravine and Dodger Stadium. Once inside , turn right on Stadium Way and up the steep hill on Lilac Place (the first street on the left next to the Dodger ticket office parking). Continue up the hill and around to a prominent, tall cypress tree, where a four-foot high vertical plaque can be found marking the first Jewish site in Los Angeles, the Hebrew Benevolent Society Cemetery (1855-1910), from which all bodies were disinterred and moved to Home of Peace in East Los Angeles.

7. Return to the Sunset Boulevard entrance, turn right (west) on Sunset and then left (south) on Douglas Street. Further up the hill, at East Edgeware, turn left. The second street after the curve is Carroll Avenue. Welcome to Angelino Heights. The two blocks of beautiful Victorian homes are well worth the trip up the hill alone, but at 1335 Carroll stands a two-story home with red-and-yellow “fish scale” walls and a turret on top. This was the one-time home of Kaspare Cohn Hospital (1902-1910) – the first site of what is now Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. From 1902-1905 it was a home for tuberculosis sufferers from Eastern sweat shops, until rich neighbors forced them out.

8. Go the to end of the block and turn left on West Edgeware. Drive down the hill to Bellevue Avenue and turn left (east). Turn right on East Edgeware, go over the Hollywood Freeway back to Temple Street, and turn right. The West Temple Street area (1910s-1920s) was once heavily populated by immigrant Jews (and called “the Westside” to Boyle Heights’ “Eastside”), but there are no buildings or markers to indicate this.

9. Continue west on Temple and turn left on Alvarado Street (south) to get to Langers Deli – considered by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Jewish Journal to offer the best pastrami sandwich in America – across from MacArthur Park at 704 S. Alvarado St. If you want bagels right out of the oven, drive north on Alvarado Street and turn left (west) on Beverly Boulevard to visit the Brooklyn Bagel Company at 2217 W. Beverly Blvd.

10. Continue west down Beverly Boulevard to New Hampshire Avenue – one block past Vermont Avenue – and turn left (south). The intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Fourth Street is where the huge second site of Sinai Temple (1925-1961) still stands as the Korean Phila-delphia Presbyterian Church. Huge menorahs, Ten Commandment tablets and the cornerstone make it obvious that a major synagogue once occupied this site.

11. Continue south on New Hampshire Avenue to Wilshire Boulevard. Turn right (west) to Wilshire Boulevard Temple (3663 Wilshire Boulevard), the third site of what was once Congregation B’nai B’rith. If you’re there on a weekday or for services, go inside to see the sanctuary and the terrific exhibit on Jewish L.A. history in the hallway. Built to emulate a Florence synagogue, it was the central address of L.A. Jewry from the time it opened in 1928 to the 1970s, when it was eclipsed by Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air.

12. Continue west on Wilshire to La Brea Avenue. Turn right (north; you’ll pass a plethora of Orthodox shuls and schools), at Melrose Avenue turn left (west), and turn left on Fairfax Avenue. Between Melrose and Beverly you’ll find kosher butchers, groceries, bakeries, Hebrew book and record stores, the fabled Canter’s Deli and other signs of a vital, ever-changing Jewish LA. Take Fairfax south to Wilshire and turn left (east) to see the new Jewish Heritage Center at Ogden Avenue, across from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The old and soon-to-be-new-again headquarters of the Jewish Federation can be found a little to the west at 6505 Wilshire Blvd.