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Beverly Hills Mayor Julian Gold grew up eating his mother’s rugelach, which she made special with cinnamon and raisins. While he won’t be entering the rugelach baking contest during Beverly Hills’ celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, he knows what good rugelach tastes like, and he considers himself a qualified judge.
“I’m beyond a critic – I’m an aficionado of good rugelach,” Gold said.
Throughout May, the city of Beverly Hills and organizations across Los Angeles will host a variety of events to celebrate Jews’ contributions to the culture and society of America. Coming weeks after Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Jewish American Heritage Month is a reminder that despite a history of oppression, Jewish Americans have much to celebrate and look forward to, said Joanna Mendelson, senior vice president of community engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
“It’s always a good reminder to be rooted in our past … but to look towards a brighter future, one in which we can celebrate our history, our culture our religion and our community,” Mendelson said. “We believe that the antidote to addressing the world around us – specifically in fighting antisemitism – is through living our best Jewish lives.”
In Beverly Hills, city staff have planned activities for all ages and interests. Every Thursday of the month, Roxbury Reels will play movies from the Jewish canon – from the classic “Fiddler on the Roof” to the more recent “An American Pickle,” by Seth Rogen – at the Roxbury Park Community Center, 471 S. Roxbury Drive.
Also, at the Roxbury Park Community Center, singer, dancer and actor Joy Weiser will lead the Beverly Hills Active Adult Club in an interactive performance of “Song and Dance With a Tribute to Jewish Heritage,” incorporating classic dances beloved by many club members, Gold said. The performance is on May 8 at 1 p.m.
In addition to watching the rugelach baking contest at the May 14 Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market, attendees can also catch a performance by Zetz Klezmer Ensemble. The klezmer band Mostly Kosher will perform at 11 a.m. on May 14 at The Wallis, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
On May 28 at 1 p.m., actress and writer Jessica Honor Carleton is hosting “Shalom Stories” at the Beverly Hills Public Library, 444 N. Rexford Drive, where she will read stories to children in the library’s reading room.
“We’ve tried to tailor it so that there’s something for everybody,” Gold said.
For information and a complete list of activities and to sign up for the rugelach baking contest, visit beverlyhills.org/departments/communityservices/artsculturedivision/jewishamericanheritagemonth.
Building coalitions with other marginalized groups is an important part of the Jewish Federation’s mission, Mendelson said.
May also marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and to promote unity, the federation is hosting a screening of “The Race Epidemic,” an award-winning documentary, with the Asian Pacific American Leadership Foundation at Holocaust Museum L.A, 100 S. The Grove Drive. The screening, which will be followed by a panel discussion with Jewish American and Asian American leaders, begins at 4 p.m. on May 12.
The Jewish Federation also invites community members to participate in workshops throughout the month on a mural in Pico-Robertson aimed at fighting hatred, Mendelson said.
Working with muralist Chloe Shadee Hakaian, community members will share family artifacts, stories and photos to illuminate the diversity of the Jewish story, which Hakakian will incorporate into the mural, to be unveiled on June 4, she added.
“It will really be a staple … to highlight the values within the Jewish community,” Mendelson said.
For information on Jewish Federation events, visit jewishla.org.
Holocaust Museum L.A. is hosting other events to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, including a May 11 conversation about “The American Way.” Written by Bonnie Siegler and Helene Stapinski, publisher of DC Comics, the book recounts the story of Siegler’s grandfather’s escape from Nazi Germany.
“The book follows him as he becomes an American, welcoming other refugees and becoming an integral part of the community. Through one family’s story, we hope people will learn about the Jewish experience, the tragedies and the joys, and how immigrants coming here made – and still make – America a better place,” Siegler said.
For information, visit holocaustmuseumla.org/upcoming.
There is no one way to celebrate Jewish American heritage, and for those who can’t make it to a scheduled event, Mendelson had a simple piece of advice.
“Live your best Jewish life,” Mendelson said. “However that resonates with you, whether or not it’s social action, whether or not it’s storytelling, whether or not it’s learning more about your history or family background or participating in some Jewish cultural event, this is an opportunity for each of us to gather in the appreciation of more than 350 years of Jewish culture in America.”
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