Sign in or register
for additional privileges

Recovering Yiddish Culture in Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

A. Babitz: The Jewish National Workers Alliance

Der Yidish natsyonaler arbeter farband [The Jewish National Workers Alliance]” by A. Babitsh [Avrom Babitsh / Abraham Babitz]
As appears in Kheshbn (The Reckoning), vol. 1 (1946): 107-110.
Translated by Mark L. Smith.
[Translator’s note: words underlined were written in English, but with Yiddish letters; names of well-known persons are spelled as they usually appear in English.]

The author of this article arrived in Los Angeles in 1927. Therefore, I will need to limit myself to the period of those 18 years. Although the Farband [Alliance] and the Poele-tsien [Labor Zionist Party] conducted, as everywhere, varied activities, the fact is we found here at that time a Farband branch, Borochov Branch 122, with a membership of about 40-50, a Poele-tsien union with about 25 members, and a folk-shul [elementary-level supplementary school], which was in name a Farband shule.
Since that year, Jewish immigration to California from other states has taken on an intensive character, and workers and common people have begun coming here not only because they had a strong faith in the California climate — believing that the Los Angeles air is the true cure for sick hearts or lungs, but coming simply in order to settle and make their homes here.
With this immigration, an entirely different Los Angeles phenomenon appeared — the rise of a special sort of landsmanshaft [countrymen’s] organization, not the well-known countrymen’s organization from the old country, like those for people from Warsaw or Minsk, but American countrymen’s unions — people from Chicago, Detroit, and Montreal. And just as countrymen from the homey old-country shtetl [small town] once clung to each other in their loneliness in their new home, those from Detroit or Winnipeg did the same in Los Angeles.
These new arrivals were good material for the Jewish orders. Many of the new arrivals were already full members of the Jewish orders — Arbeter ring [Workmen’s Circle], and Yidish natsyonaler arbeter farband. They just had to transfer into a local tsvayg, or “branch.” Among these transferring members, there were often self-conscious and active leaders of their “branches” in the East, and they transferred their enthusiasm and energy here, and very quickly came to feel at home here socially.
In just that period, one could say in the last 18-20 years, certainly since the L.A. Yiddish Culture Club came to life — which is also a special Los Angeles phenomenon, where cultural Jews sought for themselves a corner where they could meet with people of the same inclinations and attitudes to things — at just that time the organizational growth and ascent of the Yidish natsyonaler arbeter farband began to take off.
We find at that time a tiny school at 420 North Soto Street. It was one of the old single-family houses, in which the “front room” and “living room” were made into a meeting hall, where one could squeeze in 75 people — cheek by jowl. It was a hazard to let in such an audience, and it was no smaller hazard to hold children there.
The new arrivals, like Razumovsky and Rozenfeld from Detroit, and the established residents, like Dr. Zaltsman, Y. Fridland, Pete Kahn, the Shapiros, Sh. Miller, the author of these lines and a few others, began seriously to discuss reconstructing the old house and putting up a proper building with a hall for 400-500 people; a dining room for a few hundred people; proper classrooms, and so on. At first, people thought we were crazy. How could such a small circle of paupers undertake such a giant undertaking of $15,000-20,000? But the more people talked about it, the more people began to believe in the realization of the project. And, when at the first planning meeting, we counted the sum of $4,000 in cash and pledges, the activists’ hands were strengthened, people went to work, and in a short time the people’s house at 420 North Soto Street was finished.
This was the first push toward greater deeds. All of the activities of the Zionist Labor movement, and of the city in general, gathered at the house. All of the important undertakings, all of the guest lecturers, theater performances, bazaars, and so on, were concentrated at the people’s house. The activists at the folk-shul even had the courage to open a second shule in City Terrace, which at that time became very successful. About that time the second Farband branch in the city was organized, the Sholem Aleichem Branch. At first, it was planned for City Terrace, but later it was transferred to West Adams, a newly emerging Jewish neighborhood. The newly organized Sholem Aleichem Branch opened a third Farband shule, at their branch in West Adams. The indicated organization also attempted to build a people’s house, for which it now owns a paid-for “lot,” and is waiting for more normal times to be able to build.
With the growth of the city and with the emergence of new Jewish neighborhoods, we built our organization and our institutions there, and thus, a few years later we again opened the City Terrace folk-shul, organized the Albert Einstein branch of the Farband, and slowly, with the help of Mr. [Louis] Upright also created the beautiful people’s house. In the last 5-6 years, the Farband has advanced here with quicker steps. And, in addition to the indicated three branches, six entirely new branches have already been organized: the Weitzmann Branch, the Zaltsman Branch, the Hirschbein Branch, Dr. Herzl Branch, L.D. Brandeis Branch — and English-speaking branch — and the branch in the Bay Cities (by the Pacific Coast). The Farband membership currently approaches nearly 1,500. It is truly a huge leap from the indicated 50 members in 1928 to 1,500 today. And this is accomplished in a year of Depression and war, while two other larger workers’ orders are competing against it.
The increasing closeness of the broader Jewish masses to the Jewish organizational system is an overall gain and an accomplishment for Jewish communal life. This is especially true regarding the Farband, as the leading comrades of the Farband consider it their obligation to acquaint all of these new arrivals with the ideas and aspirations of the organization, and seek them out to make of them self-conscious Jews, both in regard to our communal life and in regard to our larger public interests in the national social and cultural areas.
Recently, here in Los Angeles we created a separate cultural department which will dedicate itself especially to the cultural activities in our branches, and it gives us pleasure to present here our beloved poet and cultural activist, H. Royzenblat, as the director of that department.
With particular pleasure we want to report on the purchase that a group of our comrades recently made — buying the well-known Kamsak School on Third Street near Highland Avenue, right in the middle of the West Side, where most of our members are located. This is an undertaking that approaches the hundreds of thousands, and the plans for this institution are so grand that we cannot attempt to touch upon the matter here in passing, as it demands a whole separate article.
Thus, looking back at what fear we had 18 years ago about rebuilding the peoples’ house, an undertaking of $15,000, and with what assurance our comrades approach a project of double a hundred thousand dollars now, gives us a picture of our growth and our scope, and we are sure that this report will surely create great joy among the members of the Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club because — let us keep it just to ourselves — 90 percent of the club members are also members of the Yidish natsyonaler arbeter farband.
This year, our branches in Los Angeles raised more than $50,000.00 for the Land of Israel, and $7,000-8,000 for aid in Europe. The branches participate in the “Welfare Fund Drive,” “War Chest,” and war bonds, and they support local institutions, and conduct various separate cultural activities, nationally and locally.
Comment on this page

Discussion of "A. Babitz: The Jewish National Workers Alliance"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Khesbn (Reckoning), page 30 of 31 Next page on path