Last week Jennifer Bernstein, Ron Stern and Jared Rivera (LA Voice) attended the LA Jewish Foundation Cutting Edge Grants Workshop. We went to explore the possibilities to apply for grant money to fund our work. As we listened to the presentation the wheels started spinning and we came up with the following idea still in development.
Could we create a partnership between Stephen S. Wise Temple membership and Latino residents in Boyle Heights where LA Voice has a strong presence?
A decade or two ago a program called Project Renewal linked communities in the U.S. with neighborhoods in Israel in serious need of rehabilitation. By engaging residents of the neighborhood with American Jews significant programs were developed that transformed both communities. Could we repeat that here in Los Angeles?
Now, Boyle Heights is one of the most gang infested, distressed neighborhoods in L.A. Once it was the hub of Jewish life. We spoke to a member of the Los Angeles Jewish Historical Society who was also at the grant workshop. They are the owners of the historic Breed Street Shul (see the link to the right). The synagogue and community center was built in the 1920s for the original Jewish population center in L.A. Currently it is in a serious state of disrepair. Their vision of renewal is to establish the schul as a community center for the Latino community and offer essential services to the area both originating in LA Jewish Federation agencies as well as other social support programs. At the same time, the rejuvenated synagouge could be come a living museum of the history of Boyle Heights recording both Jewish and Latino experiences in the neighborhood.
What if. . . .
*we brought our skilled and motivated membership to serve Boyle Heights?
*our college counselors, our therapists, our health professionals volunteered their time in the community?
*what if our real estate investors and builders helped to restore the Shul?
*we were able to secure funding for our first few years (LA Jewish Foundation grant)?
*we could obtain sources of funding for subsequent years?
*we created a model of urban renewal never before attempted in Los Angeles -- could Stephen S. Wise Temple establish itself as a synagogue on the cutting edge of the Jewish future?
*we could motivate our young people to volunteer their time giving purpose, hope and direction to the families in Boyle Heights?
*our grant application was approved and we received the first $250,000 towards establishing our project?
This is our vision. I am looking for your thoughts and reaction to this idea. Please feel free to write your responses below.