Read All About It in the B’nai B’rith Messenger, Los Angeles, 27 September 1929

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, ended yesterday with this marking Hebrew Year 5783, and tonight’s post takes us back to the year 5690 (1929) and features the 27 September 1929 edition of the B’nai B’rith Messenger newspaper, published in Los Angeles and recently merged with the California Jewish Review, as noted in previous posts highlighting issues of the journal.

One of the major items in the paper concerned riots in Jerusalem at the end of August that led to the deaths of large numbers of Jews and Arabs over a conflict basically centered on access to the holy Western Wall. The violence began with attacks by Arabs on Jews in Hebron with swift retaliation following and Los Angeles educator Jacob M. Alkow wrote of witnessing some of the horrors in Palestine and he noted “the Jewish population of Palestine . . . ca hardly endure any longer the vicious actions of the British officials, who like the Romans of old . . . are bent on crushing that Jewish pride and the Jewish accomplishments by inciting directly or indirectly” the Arabs.

There was also a statement on “Palestine and the Zionists” by Winston Churchill, who later became world renowned for his leadership in Great Britain during World War II, and who noted that relative peace lasting since an accord reached at Cairo in 1921 was shattered “by a fierce explosion of racial and religious passion” involving “nearly two hundred [later statistics counted more] cruel murders, for the most part of defenseless people.” Churchill pointed out his role in the conference in Egypt and stated that it “still is imperative that fair and equal treatment should be extended both to the Jew and Arab in the Middle East.”

Obviously, the question of the two groups living in an area contested from time immemorial is as fraught now with the same fundamental and seemingly irreconcilable issues as in 1929 and it is fascinating to read. An editorial minced no words in condemning “the brutal atrocities, the horrible massacres in Palestine . . . in the sudden, bloody flare up of the Arabian masses against the Jews,” while noting that British policies against the Arabs could in no way justify the latter “striking at their friends, the Jews . . . a friendship that has been invaluable to them.” Yet, castigating the Arabs was not part of a solution, which could only be realized if “every Palestine Jew should try to get into human friendly relations with the Arabs.”

It is notable in this context that Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, in his regular “Getting Acquainted With Judaism” column stressed that Judaism was not a religion but “more of a culture and a way of living” dealing with the practicalities of life on Earth rather than of the next world, while morals were more important than theology. In this way, Magnin argued, the world was gradually coming around to the Jewish way of thinking and he claimed, “in this respect Judaism has always been far ahead of the times.”

Other articles concerned a mass meeting in New York City calling for Great Britain to do more to develop peace in Palestine while another article from Jerusalem reported on efforts by Zionists to get the British to deal more effectively with a range of issues beyond access to the Western Wall. The Hadassah, or Women’s Zionist Organization of America, postponed its national conference, scheduled for 22-25 September in Atlantic City, until November because of the need to focus on efforts to help Jews in Palestine.

Elsewhere, it was reported that a benefit concert was to be held on 20 October at Trinity Auditorium to raise funds for Declassed Jews in Russia whose already tenuous rights were further denigrated. Additionally, efforts were moving rapidly for a holiday appeal in Los Angeles on behalf of the Palestine Emergency Fund to help “the homeless and suffering Jews of Palestine.” Fund officers included honorary chair Irving H. Hellman, vice-chair (one of several) Louis B. Mayer of the MGM film studio, honorary treasurer Ben R. Meyer and executive committee members, such as Goldsmith, Lillian Gould, Pearl Rosenson, Judge Elias Rosenkranz, and Louis Hamburger, among others.

For the local lodge of the International Order of B’nai B’rith fraternal society, Rabbi Mayer Winkler of Temple Sinai spoke “in forceful fashion, [and] painted a picture of conditions in Jewish centers [in Europe] as he saw them, using both dark and bright colors to portray his reactions” to what he saw in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. It is chilling to read that he told the assembled that, “in Vienna . . . there is a great unrest and lack of stability. There anti-semitism is prevalent and the Jew lives from and to mouth.” He added that Zionism was dependent of American action, not European as “Jewish spirit and feeling is finer here.”

As for local news, it was observed that the Council of Jewish Women was having its first meeting of the club year early in October, with Nahum Zemach, director of the famous Dybbuk and his wife, Miriam Goldini performing a one-act play by Guy de Maupassant and violinist Beulah Ladon, a new resident of the Angel City, performing three pieces. Lastly, Lillian Burkhart Goldsmith, author of “The Nativity” and a pageant celebrating the 150th anniversary of Mission San Gabriel, read poems by 18-year old Lelia Kauffman (nee Fligelman.) She also addressed the B’nai B’rith order gathering about the idea of forming a “habima” or a Hebrew language theater in Los Angeles under the leadership of Zemach, who established one two in Russia during the Teens.

In the health care sector, a dinner meeting as held regarding the Mt. Sinai Home for Chronic Invalids, located in Boyle Heights, and 300 persons attended as part of a series of events to raise $50,000 for a maintenance fund. It was stated that about 40% of the goal was reached and the chair of the board of directors, Peter M. Kahn, read a letter from Louis M. Cole, a prominent philanthropist, who praised the board for its work with “the poor unfortunates who knock at the door of the institution and can see some ray of hope in being cared for when suffering from some chronic, incurable malady.”

Meanwhile, the new Cedars of Lebanon Hospital project received a major boost when Finance Committee chair Joseph Y. Baruh of the Zellerbach Paper Company received a short but vital letter of support from film studio owner Jack Warner, who wrote “I talked to my brothers [Albert and Harry] regarding the donation to the new hospital, and we will be very happy to donate $25,000.” Warner added that he would be pleased to help out in any way that he could with the project, with the facility in construction in Hollywood, where it remained until 1976 with the hospital building now owned by the Church of Scientology. Today, the two health organizations operate as the renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Another major item concerned George Mosbacher, a native of Bavaria who ran a clothing store in Oakland before retiring and moving to Los Angeles in 1909 and devoting much of his time to being a major figure in the Temple B’nai B’rith, the Jewish Orphans Home of Southern California, and for about fifteen years until he stepped down in late 1929, president of the Los Angeles Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations. Messenger publisher Joseph Jonah Cummings lauded Mosbacher for his work over the years in building the Federation to its current status and asked him to summarize his tenure, with was capped with the success of the Cedars of Lebanon project.

In his ninth entry in a series on “Jewish Agencies in the Community Chest,” this being a large consortium of philanthropic organizations in the Angel City, David N. Grokowsky wrote of the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations. He observed that most of the Jewish entities in the Chest were constituents of the Federation, which existed “to operate towards securing the greatest economy and to promote the creation of such additional agencies as are necessary to a complete program of social work for the Jewish community.”

Noting that the philosophy of the Chest was well-known to Jews who’d practiced such ideas “as a means to solving their philanthropic problems,” Grokowsky added that the Federation was critical in getting Jewish organizations “into the larger organism” of the Chest. It provided those leaders who were involved in the Chest council and in its formulation of activities and was the liaison between the Jewish population of the Angel City and the community at large. Federation groups made sure that “every type of relief is extended to indignant [he meant, of course, indigent] Jewish men, women and children” and that the organization of the Chest meant growth for these entities.

There were a baker’s dozen of groups under the auspices of the Federation, including employment, legal aid, medical, and children’s entities, including the Hebrew Consumptive Relief Association, which became the City of Hope; Kaspare Cohn Hospital (predecessor to Cedars of Lebanon); the orphans’ home; Jewish Big Brothers’ Association; League for the Assistance of Jewish Students and the Modern Social Center. Aside from Mosbacher, other community leaders in the Federation were Louis Nordlinger; Joseph Y. Baruh; Cole’s wife; Magnin; Ben Meyer; and Ben Platt of the well-known music company.

Grokowsky noted that “the Federation is steadily growing in service, and today many of the community’s problems are first brought to the Federation to be solved, regardless of the nature of the problem.” With I. Irving Lipsitch as executive secretary, “the Jewish community is being welded into a more coherent body, functioning scientifically in social service matters,” while board members were heavily involved with the Chest, including Meyer as treasurer; Magnin, a former vice-president, heading the speakers’ bureau; and Baruh, Magnin, Meyer, Nordlinger and Mrs. E.M. Lazard on its board.

Also of interest is an article discussing Rabbi Herman Lissauer, who resigned his position at Temple Emanu-El “because of his advanced religious views” and who was asked by “a large group of prominent men, sympathetic of his views” to lead “High Holyday”, or Yom Kippur, services at the First Unitarian Church, which is still at the same location west of MacArthur (then Westlake) Park. Isaac Pacht, who headed this group, told the Messenger that Lissauer’s departure “has made very clear the need for a genuinely liberal Jewish religious movement.” As for the rabbi, he said the request was a command and “the intellectuals of our people reject the synagogue because they associate it with reaction and obscurantism,” so he sought a refreshed synagogue in which “it is possible to bring its theology and ritual into line with the most valid thought of today and to render Judaism thereby a living, growing faith.

An athletics column noted that halfback Benny Lom of the University of California was a candidate for All-American honors for the 1929 season, though he was not named to the first team (he was selected for the second and third teams by different groups). Lom, however, was best known for one of the most (in)famous plays in college gridiron history, in that he forced a fumble in the 1929 Rose Bowl game the prior January in which a Georgia Tech player lost the ball and Roy Riegels picked it up and accidentally scampered towards his own goal line before Lom stopped him just short of it.

Also mentioned was USC’s Harry Edelson, a native of Jaffa (Tel-Aviv) in Palestine and who migrated to Los Angeles in 1920. A three-year halfback, he caught two touchdown passes in the 1930 Rose Bowl (following the 1929 campaign) and then returned to his alma mater Jefferson High to coach track and field, including seven city titles and a state crown by 1941. Edelson then coached football at Fremont High, winning five city titles out of six seasons from 1945 to 1950 before moving to Los Angeles High, where his teams reached the title game three times through 1960.

Finally, there is a very interesting cartoon commemorating the death of Louis Marshall, a prominent lawyer who worked for forest conservation; better conditions for immigrants; voting rights for Blacks; was a delegate to the Paris peace conference following World War I, where he helped draft policies for the assistance of Eastern Europeans; and was enormously influential in Jewish causes, including serving as the long-time president of the American Jewish Committee and fighting Henry Ford’s notorious anti-Semitic newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which was finally shuttered by the automobile tycoon. The drawing, titled “Who Will Take His Place?” shows Marshall prostrate on the “Ship of Fate” as the “Stormy Sea of Jewish Life” threatens to overwhelm the craft.

This issue of the B’nai B’rith Messenger is filled with remarkable material about Jewish Los Angeles and beyond in the late 1920s and we’ll look to feature other editions of the paper in future posts, so be sure to keep an eye out for those.

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