The Peoples Institution: The Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles

The People's Institution: The Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles

Why has Los Angeles in general--and the Beverly-Fairfax neighborhood in particular-- attracted various waves of Jewish immigrants and migrants? What exactly do these newcomers have in common with one another and the broader Jewish community? What institutions have been instrumental in helping these newcomers resettle? 

These are just some of the key questions that a group of undergraduate students at UCLA, enrolled in Max D. Baumgarten's Winter 2017 "Jews in Los Angeles: Representation, Memory, and History in the Digital Age" course were asked to address. The service learning course, designed to enhance and facilitate civic engagement, revolved around a partnership with the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles and received support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Half of the students worked on uncovering, transcribing, and researching of of the oral history interviews that are part of the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles Oral History Project Collection, found at Cal State Northridge's Urban Archives Collection. These rarely seen oral histories were conducted from 1979 through 1981 and feature in-depth interviews with Holocaust survivors, Russian immigrants, and other Jewish migrants that used and benefited from Jewish Family Service. The other half of the students conducted interview with current clients of the Jewish Family Service Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center on Fairfax Avenue. Whether working with CSUN's oral histories or conducting new interviews, students presented their their work at the History Fair, attended by about 100 of the Freda Mohr Centers' clients. 

Featured below are the five project that the students created in the form of interactive digital timelines. Whether examining how Singapore's independence spurred Louise Lelah and her family to move to Los Angeles or the ways in which the 2008 Presidential election politicized the formerly apolitical Flora Mizrahie, these project demonstrate the the ways in which specific life events chronologically and thematically coincide with broad-based historical trends. They also shed light upon topics such as the religious and cultural diversity within the Jewish community as well as the impact of geography and migration on Jewish identity. 

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