Located at 247 North Breed Street in the Boyle Heights district on the Los Angeles River’s east bank, the Breed Street Shul served a once thriving Jewish neighborhood in Boyle Heights that has since become predominately a Latino community.
The property on Breed Street was purchased after 1910. In 1915, Beth Hamedrash was built on the back of the property. Construction on the shul itself began in 1920 and it was dedicated in 1923. The large building is constructed of brick and the interior fixtures are polished wood.
The Breed Street Shul served as the focal point of the neighborhood that was the heart and soul of the Los Angeles Jewish community. Even if you have never been to Los Angeles, you might very well have seen the shul. Both the 1927 original and the 1980 remake of “The Jazz Singer” featured the Breed Street Shul.
The Breed Street Shul was, at one time, one of the largest synagogues on the West Coast and home to the largest Orthodox congregation west of Chicago.
After World War II, The Jewish presence in Boyle Heights began to diminish as the area became more of an industrial area. An influx of other cultures resulted in young Jewish men returning from military duty during the war to use their VA loans to move to other areas. This resulted in the shrinkage of the congregation at the shul.
In addition to preserving the historical Jewish site it was also meant to serve the current community as a center. Several Latino organizations and the J. Paul Getty Museum worked with the Jewish Historical Society on the project. Young Latinos from the Imaginando Manana ("Imaging Tomorrow") worked on it, learning the Jewish history and tolerance and respect for other cultures.
Sunday clean up events became popular with the entire community, strengthened community bonds as well as with the area's Jewish heritage.
Involved were JHS President Stephen Sass and Robert Chattel Brent Riemer of Chattel Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Inc., who is quoted as saying, "This building should continue to be a place of congregation." One idea to serve the contemporary community and preserve its heritage is a computer lab with displays depicting the Jewish history of the site.
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The Breed Street Shul's website is here.To read more about the history of the Breed Street Shul, read through the National Register of Historic Places nomination (it was registered in 2001) for the site here. There is a wealth of detail about the building, the neighborhood, a bibliography and more for those interested in history and architecture.