Earlier this week, Janice Steinberg wrote about “Djewess Unchained,” the Song of the Sea, and Yiddish inflected English and the audiobook version of her novel “The Tin Horse.” Her blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about the death of Eddie Goldstein, “the last Jewish man of Boyle Heights.” Goldstein, who died on January 5 at age 79, was born in Boyle Heights and stayed there all his life, becoming a sort of final link with Boyle Heights of the 1920s and ’30s, when it was the Jewish neighborhood in L.A.
During those years, Boyle Heights was home to some 50,000 Jews. The neighborhood, directly east of downtown, had kosher butchers and delis, including the original Canter’s, an L.A. institution. There were synagogues for the religious, workers and Yiddish societies for the secular, movie theaters, bookie joints, a pool hall, and the Ebony Room bar, a haunt of the community’s most infamous son, Mickey Cohen.
By the time I lived in L.A. in the mid-1970s, Boyle Heights was already heavily Latino. I’d never heard of it until I set out to write a novel about a Jewish woman growing up in L.A. in the ’20s and ’30s. I started doing research, and it was clear that my character could live in only one place: Boyle Heights.