Sunday, May 17, 2009

Latino and Jewish communities celebrate

L.A. Jewish, Latino communities to celebrate, May 11, 2009

LOS ANGELES (JTA) -- The Jewish and Latino communities will join in a “Fiesta Shalom” at the spot where the Israeli flag was raised for the first time in Los Angeles.

The site is in front of the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights, once the city’s largest Jewish enclave but now predominantly Latino. The flag was raised there on May 15, 1948.

Thousands of people from the two communities, joined by Boyle Heights’ African Americans and Asians, are expected at the May 17 event. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other dignitaries are scheduled to address the crowd.

Breaking new bilingual ground, the weekly Jewish Journal and the Hispanic daily La Opinion will jointly publish an English-Spanish insert in their May 15 editions, with both publications looking toward future collaborations.

Israeli Consul General Yaakov Dayan conceived the novel celebration and enlisted City Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Boyle Heights, the Jewish federation, organizations and business enterprises.

Boyle Heights evolved into Los Angeles’ largest shtetl in the five years following World War I, when the city’s Jewish population rose from 19,000 to 45,000, and remained predominant until the late 1940s. As a growing number of Latinos, as well as African Americans and Asians, moved in, Boyle Heights became a vibrantly diverse community.

Fiesta Shalom has historical antecedents in the 1894 multiethnic Fiesta de Los Angeles and the Friendship Festival of the 1940s, which pioneered the Jewish community’s outreach to other ethnic groups.

In its modern incarnation, “Fiesta Shalom will, we hope, send the message of unity and mutual support between American communities and Israel from Los Angeles to the entire United States,” Dayan said.

Huizar said that “as a Latino growing up in Boyle Heights, I know very well about the community’s storied Jewish and Latino histories. Fiesta Shalom gives us the unique opportunity to come together to celebrate these two cultures that have been so influential in making Boyle Heights and Los Angeles the vibrant communities they are today.”

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