FairfaxTower1 2016-04-02T15:17:02-07:00 Max Baumgarten 3ce5635a69ccb5339e9481dc4536fc0caff14cd2 220 4 Sketch of the future Fairfax Tower, early 1980s. Image from “Celebrate Fairfax!,” Beverly Hills, CA: Hal Sloane Associates, 1980. plain 2016-07-26T12:38:23-07:00 Max Baumgarten 3ce5635a69ccb5339e9481dc4536fc0caff14cd2
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Young Israel Development Corporation (YICDC), the local arm of a national social service program affiliated with an Orthodox movement, was founded in 1973 as an employment training non-profit that aimed to serve low- and moderate-income Angelenos. Although officially a non-sectarian organization, YICDC tended to pursue projects that “directly benefit the Jewish people.” Thus, the organization, under the leadership of longtime Fairfax resident Stanley Treitel, steered the bulk of their programs and operations towards underprivileged Jews residing within the Fairfax neighborhood.
In the midst of the 1980 presidential election, the Carter administration was looking for ways to strengthen its popularity among potential Jewish voters. Taking advantage of these fortuitous circumstances, YICDC secured an eight million dollar federal grant for a senior housing unit known as the Fairfax Tower, located at 1222 N. Fairfax Avenue. The announcement of the grant was heralded with much pomp and circumstance: the ceremony featured Vice President Walter Mondale, sporting a yarmulke for the occasion, touting the federally-funded housing project as a way to “fulfill that basic Biblical requirement that we honor our fathers and mothers.”
The Tower was more than a political symbol; it also fulfilled a concrete communal need for many of the area's residents. The 150-unit apartment complex--equipped with kosher dining facilities, a landscaped garden, and an indoor/outdoor activity space-- was intended to provide local seniors with affordable, subsidized housing adjacent to commercial Fairfax Avenue’s shopping facilities, public transportation, and social service centers. As the Los Angeles Times reported, many local seniors who were “caught in the all-too-familiar vise that squeezes the elderly--rising rents and fixed incomes” saw the eight-story tower as an opportunity to live in an affordable and comfortable Jewish setting among peers. At the Tower's groundbreaking in 1981, 80-year-old Rose Winer explained to journalist John Mitchell, “Here is a real Jewish place....They are going to have Kosher meals here. I am a Jewish woman. I’m older. I need a place like this, for older people. You know, it’s very lonely. I’m by myself.”
Sources: David Bubis, Maxine Epstein, and Laurie Strom, “Room for One More: A Study of Three Alternative Jewish Organizations” (M.S.W., University of Southern California, 1982); Celebrate Fairfax! (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Hal Sloane Associates, 1980); John L. Mitchell, “Fairfax Seniors to Get $8-Million, 150-Unit Tower: Vice President Mondale, in Yamalke, Announces Federal Grant to Young Israel Group,” Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1980; John L. Mitchell, “Seniors Anxiously Await New Housing: Seniors Anxiously Await Housing,” Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1981.