Mapping Jewish L.A.

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The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies is working with the UCLA Library and the Department of Special Collections on Collecting Los Angeles, an innovative project to gather, preserve, interpret and make accessible library collections documenting the remarkable multiplicity of cultures and hidden histories of the Los Angeles region.

Mapping Jewish LA aims to make possible the study of Jewishness in the lives and careers of some of the most important cultural creators in America, and to provide a stimulus for ongoing and future creativity. The initiative will focus on products that are the works of Jewish creators and/or have an implicit or explicit Jewish theme. The Department of Special Collections already has impressive holdings documenting the lives of major Jewish figures. In 2007 UCLA received the library and papers of R. B. Kitaj, one of the most recognized, celebrated and controversial artists in recent history. An exhibit of Kitaj’s papers, Portrait of a Jewish Artist, was held at UCLA in 2008 in conjunction with R.B. Kitaj: Passion and Memory an exhibit of his paintings at the Skirball Cultural Center.

In addition to the papers of Kitaj, the Department of Special Collections also possesses the papers of Los Angeles native Susan Sontag, comedy writer Larry Gelbart, director Stanley Kramer, composer Ernst Toch, writer Franz Werfel, the LA-based bookseller Jake Zeitlin, composer Eric Zeisl, and Yiddishist Zalmen Zylbercweig. Moreover, UCLA has received recently the holdings of the Western States Jewish Archives. Primarily based on the archive of Rabbi William Kramer, the collection numbers some 200 cartons (and 1500 photographs) and is an unparalleled source on the history of Jewish life in Los Angeles and Southern California. Additionally, many photographs documenting Western Jewish Life are contained in the Archive of Harriet Rochlin.

Already these collections provide an excellent foundation for Mapping Jewish LA. Our desire moving forward is to locate, identify and describe the Jewish materials already in the library’s various collections, create a portal to these materials, seek new collections, sponsor scholarly symposia and workshops on Mapping Jewish LA, and encourage scholarly research that utilizes and interprets these materials.

We believe that Los Angeles, a vibrantly multicultural and global Jewish city that is constantly changing, is particularly in need of the careful documentation this initiative offers, and we welcome community sponsorship and participation in its development.