Seniors Reminisce at LA Jewish History Fair
On Sunday, February 21, more than 100 seniors of the Los Angeles Jewish Home joined UCLA students to participate in a history fair on the Home’s Eisenberg Village. Designed to capture memories of Jewish Los Angeles, the seniors were given many opportunities throughout the warm, sunny afternoon to share their stories and preserve artifacts commemorating significant events in their lives.
The campus was festively decorated and information-gathering booths were spread throughout. The Zuckerman Board Room was the designated location for seniors to share their oral histories. Residents were directed to tables according to geographic area – Eastside, including Boyle Heights, the Valley and mid-City. Students interviewed seniors with questions to elicit memories of Los Angeles by specific geographic area.
Once the seniors were paired with a student, they were peppered with questions: What has changed the most in Los Angeles? What was your favorite kosher restaurant? What academic institutions and synagogues do you remember? What places in Los Angeles are most meaningful to you?
Joe Levoff, interviewed by UCLA student Shahriar Mangoli noted: “Talking about the past brings back so many memories you don’t always think about.” In addition to family photos, Joe also brought a collage of photos of his life which was created for his 80th birthday.
Max Steinberg, a Bronx native who has been a resident of Los Angeles since 1955, was happy to share his recollections of life in Los Angeles. “History should be documented and preserved for young people to understand what Jews went through during that time,” he said.
Another booth was set up for students to digitize the seniors’ memorabilia. Bubbles Singer arrived at the scanning station with several reunion books from her class of 1942, in addition to family reunion albums, photos and other memorabilia. “This is very interesting,” she said. “I like to be able to tell how long I’ve been here (in Los Angeles) – I was two years old when I arrived and now I’m 92.”
UCLA student Aviv Kleinman enthusiastically spoke about participating in the history fair, “I love it! I am enjoying learning about the Jewish history of Los Angeles to understand what was in the 20’s and 30s and to see it from the perspective of those who lived it,” he explained
“These kids are wonderful! It is important be able to know the history of our time, to have it kept and recorded, to know how we behaved, so that it is unquestionable for future generations,” said Jewish Home resident Paulette Pistol.
UCLA student Menachem Kashanian was impressed with the seniors’ recall of the past. “How well the seniors are able to go back and tell exactly what happened. It’s so specific; it’s incredible,” he noted.
The day was capped with the UCLA band entertaining attendees in an outdoor concert featuring music through the decades. Fountainview resident Cantor Nathan Solomon, whose family owned the renowned Solomon’s Book and Judaica Store, spontaneously joined the band singing a number of cantorial melodies.
“How energetic, sharp and humorous the seniors are,” said Shahriar Mangoli. “This was truly inspiring!”