Historical Tours and Lectures


Three Old Jewish Cemeteries of East Los Angeles
East Los Angeles
Sunday, August 5, 2018

In this months cemetery tour we will be returning to East Los Angeles to explore three charming and lesser known Jewish burial sites on Downey Road located just behind Home of Peace Cemetery. These cemeteries are connected to old orthodox synagogues which once flourished in downtown Los Angeles at the start of the 20th century.

We will be visiting the following burial grounds:

  • Beth Israel Cemetery – Founded by one of the most celebrated of the early orthodox synagogues of downtown Los Angeles, which once attracted visitors from all over to see it’s majestic onion domes. Here we will discuss the establishment of Orthodox Jewish institutions in Los Angeles with a mass influx of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. We will also see how this site became a favorite burial site for Jewish civic leaders; as well as a celebrated burial site for artists, musicians, and Yiddishits literati . It remains as an active and well-kept religious site.
  • Agudath Achim Cemetery – Founded by a congregation originally located in the historical South Central Los Angeles and which later relating to the West Adams District. This sacred burial site has become the resting place of several great orthodox Jewish rabbis and cantors; including the ohel of the Cleavlander Rebbe, making it the most important Chassidic pilgrimage site in Los Angeles. At this cemetery we will also get the thrilling chance to see an active genizah; a repository for ritual items and sacred books, for them to be kept and buried in respect.
  • Mount Zion Cemetery – At this cemetery we will talk about how these cemeteries were founded on land borrowed from the Masonic cemetery association. We will discuss how these cemeteries were founded, and then disturbingly abandoned. We will here discuss how this lovely cemetery has be vandalized and smashed up, and how it is being restored through community efforts. We will discuss the future for honoring the Jewish heritage of great Los Angeles, which is often forgotten here outside of the official city limits in unincorporated East Los Angeles.

These three old cemeteries are a wonder to behold. They even contain some of the most lovely tombstone portraits and artistic headstones to be found in any Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles; this site is absolutely picturesque.

This is going to be not just a look at old Jewish cemeteries, we will be honoring the congregations who founded them and their members who ultimately came to rest here. All the while discussing these burial sites and the institutions which founded them, as a means of understanding dynamic immigrant Jewish experience of Los Angeles during the booming years at the start of the 20th-century.

We will be meeting at the front gates of Beth Israel Cemetery at 10:15 a.m., in order to start out tour promptly at 10:30 a.m. There is plenty of street parking in their neighborhood.

For public transit riders: You can take the MTA bus 18 east from downtown and exit at Downey Road and head south. You can also take the MTA bus 62 exiting and Olympic and Downey Road north. For Metro rail, our location is also about a 1-mile away from the Maravilla Gold Line station, walking Third Street to Downey Road.

Tickets are $20 + Eventbrite fees. Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list. For current Boyle Heights residents, educators, and community activists, I will be offering a few spots on my guest list once again; please contact me at shmuel.gonzales@outlook.com, as spaces are limited.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants, and is expected to fill up quickly. So please sign up today!


Jewish Boyle Heights: Remembering Brooklyn Ave.
Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles
Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights has long been the crucible of the American immigrant, working-class experience. At one time people of dozens of nationalities and languages called this neighborhood home, and Boyle Heights was once the largest Jewish community west of Chicago. And Brooklyn Ave – today’s Avenida Cesar Chavez – was it’s main shopping corridor and thoroughfare.

We will visiting just a few vital sites that tell the story of the area’s Jewish history:

  • The Breed Street Shul – we will start our tour in front of the grand synagogue that was once the most respected Jewish house of worship on the west coast. It was one of more than 30 Jewish houses of worship in the neighborhood. We will also see the location of the first Jewish religious education institutions in Los Angeles.
  • The original location of Canter’s Deli, as well as the location of other local Jewish bakeries and delis; where pickle and herring barrels once tempted each passerby.
  • We will also see the original location various other Jewish business and institutions which are now located in other parts of Los Angeles.
  • The Old Mount Sinai Clinic – learn about the early history of the two hospitals on the eastside, that would one day become today’s Cedar-Sinai Medical Center.
  • The former site of the Russian Turkish Baths.
  • Jewish labor socialist organizing locations: Including the Jewish Labor Committee, Workmen’s Circle, International Ladies Garment Workers Union, as well as local anarchist and communist headquarters.

*Note: We will not be going inside of the Breed Street Shul, but instead focusing on the community surrounding this site.

In this tour we will be retelling the story of how such a diverse immigrant community came together here in the first half of the 20th century. We will also discuss the great social challenges this community historically faced, and the movements that established. We will also discuss the forces of displacement which have historically changed the landscape of the community around us. All in order to understand the heritage of the community, as well as appreciate the challenges which are again being faced by this changing community today.

This is my basic introduction to the history of history of Jewish Boyle Heights, with a special focus on the historic alliances and partnerships established here between the Jewish and Mexican American in this very community.

This is a wonderful event for the whole family to learn about the history of old Jewish Los Angeles!

We will be meeting in front of the Breed Street Shul – Congregation Talmud Torah, at 10:15 a.m. in order to start our talk and walking tour promptly at 10:30 a.m.

There is limited street parking in the neighborhood. I recommend the city parking lot just north of Avenida Cesar Chavez off of Breed Street, located on the east side of the street. I also highly recommend people taking Metro Gold Line to our event, exiting at Soto Station just one block east of our location.

Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list. For current Boyle Heights residents, educators, and community activists, I will be offering a few spots on my guest list once again; please contact me at shmuel.gonzales@outlook.com, as spaces are limited.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants, and will once again fill-up quickly. So please sign up today!

Lost Cemeteries of Los Angeles
Pueblo of Los Angeles
Sunday, August 19, 2018

Los Angeles has a terrible history of willfully forgetting the past, and this is most ghastly demonstrated in the way the dead of early Los Angeles history have been displaced in the name of progress as the city expanded.

We will be exploring the sites and stories of the four original cemeteries of Los Angeles which were in some cases relocated, in other cases just built right over.

  • The Campo Santo at the Placita Church; the once forgotten Catholic burial site of many indigenous people and early immigrants
  • Fort Moore Hill; the forgotten original Protestant burial site, the first non-Catholic cemeteries
  • Old Jewish Cemetery; the lost original Jewish cemetery near Chavez Ravine, near the site of Dodger Stadium
  • Old Calvary Cemetery; the old Catholic cemetery, and its former chapel site that has also become important to the historic community of Little Italy

We will be exploring these sites with a special emphasis of the often untold multi-cultural history of early Los Angeles.

This is an entirely walking tour, the entire circuit is about 3 miles that will take us from the Los Angeles Plaza up to the old Cemetery Ravine – near Chavez Ravine, just down the hill from Dodger Stadium – and back.

We will be meeting next to the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes gift shop called“La Tienda,” located at 501 N. Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, as our first site to explore is located just steps away next to the Placita church. We will start checking in people and giving out name-tags to participants at 9:45am, to start our walking tour promptly at 10:00am.

The total walking distance is just shy of 3 miles round trip, walking at an easy pace, though we do have a significant incline at one location to get near the base of Dodger Stadium. An average tour tends to go about 2.5 hours. We encourage everyone to bring refreshments and snacks; though everyone must bring water, as its important to stay hydrated.

Tickets are $20 + Eventbrite fees. Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list.

Cancellations must be made at least seven (7) days before the event for a refund. In the unlikely event of rain, we will reschedule this event to another weekend date within the next six weeks.

Your contributions through ticket sales are greatly appreciated, as they enable my activities in community activism.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants. Once again, I expect this to sell out right away; so please sign up today!


Jewish LA: From Brooklyn Ave. to Fairfax Ave.
The Migration from Boyle Heights to the Mid-City
Fairfax District, Mid-City Los Angeles
Sunday, August 26, 2018

On this special tour we are going to focus on the migration of Jewish families from the barrio of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles to the mid-city district off Fairfax Ave starting in the late-1940s. By the 1950s the Fairfax district was considered the beating heart of the greater Los Angeles Jewish community, and its a community which still has a unique Jewish heritage to share with us.

We are going to go on a nostalgic walk through the history of this famous Jewish community, with a special focus on the restaurants, shops, and institution which relocated from Boyle Height to this neighborhood. And we will revisit the history of some of our favorite spots:

  • Canter’s Deli – founded in Boyle Heights in 1931, they opened their second location of Fairfax Ave. in the 1940s as the Jewish community starting migrating to this area. We will discuss how they grew to be the infamous institution they are today, and how they have managed to keep this family-owned operation going for all these years. We will also discuss it became a chill hangout for celebrities and rockers, and how it remains a favorite nighttime meeting spot; don’t forget to ask about the Kibitz Room!

  • Schwartz Bakery – we will swing by a taste of the bakery counter at the most-loved kosher bakery in town. We will discuss the amazing growth and expanse of the Jewish kosher food market in Los Angeles in the past generation.

  • Solomon’s Bookstore – we will discuss how this bookstore and ritual Judaica shop became the first of its kind in Los Angeles in 1930s, founded by Elimelech and Chaya who had immigrated from Palestine, and who sold items they imported from relatives in Jerusalem.

  • Jewish Murals – we will be taking a look at a couple interesting murals; the Fairfax Community Mural near Canter’s, which in several panels depicts the long Jewish history of Los Angeles, including life in old Boyle Heights; and “Breaking Bread/ Not Somewhere Else, But Here,” which honors a culturally diverse view of empower women, created for National Council of Jewish Women. We will talk about the unique history of muralism in Los Angeles, and how it reaches and inspires beyond the walls of the barrios and ghettos.

We will recall the various shops and bookstores which have changed hands and merged, though have maintain their same dedicated customers for generations. We will reminisce about some of my favorite spots when this was the stomping grounds of my youth, such as the old Simon Rutberg’s Hatikva Music and the original Atara’s Bookstore location run by Mr. Moskowitz… and much more!

On this tour we will also be discussing how the neighborhood is rapidly changing, with a new influx of gentrification and the hip-hop street-wear scene that is competing with many of these beloved old Jewish businesses and long time residents; we will discuss the social dynamics and how they are trying to make it work. We will even explore a few new ones Jewish spots which have opening in recent years.

You don’t want to miss the special tour. This is excellent follow-up tour for anyone who has been on my “Boyle Heights: Memories of Brooklyn Ave.” walking-tour.

Come on this fun tour with me. Then stick around and maybe grab a corned beef sandwich for lunch after the tour? You’ll be glad you came!

We will be meeting outside of Canter’s Deli, in front of the Kibbutz Room sign, starting at around 10:15am in order to start out tour promptly at 10:30am. There is both metered and paid parking in the area.

Public transit rider: From the MTA Red Line, take the 217 South towards Howard Hughes Way via Fairfax Ave. You can also connect to the 217 from any one the buses which travel down Santa Monica Blvd. or Sunset Blvd. Exit the bus at Oakwood Ave., just before Beverly Blvd.

Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list. Please contact me at shmuel.gonzales@outlook.com, as spaces are limited.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants, and will fill-up quickly. So please sign up today!