Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Pastrami of Boyle Heights

I just came back from spending nearly three months on the West Coast and though I had vowed that I wouldn't do any journalism (my goals for the trip had little to do with narrative nonfiction), I stumbled into a story that was too interesting to pass up. My friend Saul had told me about something I thought of as odd; little diners sprinkled all over the Mexican-American neighborhood of Boyle Heights that sold expected fare such as tacos and burritos, but also pastrami sandwiches.

A taco, pastrami sandwich, and pastrami burger at Jim's
(Photo by Saul Herckis)

I decided to look a bit further into it and learned a lot about Jewish history in LA in the early 20th Century for Tablet:


Back in the 1920s and ’30s, Boyle Heights was a diverse, working-class enclave. There were Mexicans and Japanese Americans, Molokan Russians, Jews, and to a lesser extent Italians and African-Americans. At no point were Jews a majority of the population; they constituted about 40 percent of the residents, largely concentrated around Brooklyn Avenue near Soto, at their absolute peak. Nonetheless, this area was Jewish enough to be referred to as “Los Angeles’ Lower East Side.”


A bus stop on Cesar Chavez Avenue, formerly Brooklyn Avenue. 
(Photo by Saul Herckis)


The original location of Canter's Deli on Cesar Chavez Avenue
(Photo by Saul Herckis)

The interior of the Breed Street Shul's large sanctuary. 
(Photo by Saul Herckis)

You can read the rest of the account over at Tablet's site

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