Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic, edited by Karen S. Wilson, reflects on the mutual influence of Los Angeles and its Jewish population since the 1800s. Each of the six chapters has an essay topic relating to LA Jewish life: the evolution of Jews in LA, the history of LA Jews, as well as the Jewish influence on labor unions, movies, music, and women in politics. Unfortunately, the essays read more like a textbook, with in-depth detail and too many statistics. However, what enriches the book are the extensive illustrations, over fifty in total.
The question that must be asked is, would this book appeal to anyone not connected to Los Angeles? Indeed, there is something here for all interests. The first essay delves into how the Los Angeles Jews significantly impacted the transformation of Los Angeles from a ranching town to an economically and religiously diverse urban city. The next essay examines the “Yiddish culture,” and the intense personal and ideological tensions that divided the Jewish community, from Communists to Zionists. The essay on films looks at how the filmmakers would steer away from or include their Jewish culture, and “let Jews be Jews on the screen.” The piece on Jewish women in LA politics was the most interesting essay, as the author compared Rosalind Wiener Wyman, a liberal Democrat who was influential in bringing the Dodgers to LA; Bobbi Fiedler, a Reagan Republican, who was a leader in the anti-busing movement; and Jackie Goldberg, a Sixties leftist who was involved in shaping LA’s public education. The last essay examines how the multicultural aspect of Los Angeles influenced Jewish musicians. It draws upon the example of Herb Albert for orchestrating Latin music into his brass playing and song writing.
Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic summarizes the impact of the Jewish community on the evolution of Los Angeles and shows how the city, with its multi-ethic population, molded its Jewish residents. Index, notes, suggested readings.