The Formative Years 1904 – 1919

Tradition Unity Long

The Formative Years 1904 – 1919

As a precursor to the history of the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles, it should be noted that Sephardic Jews were in the city as early as 1853 albeit for a short time. Two of importance were Solomon Nunes Carvalho, a photographer and artist who previously was a member of the Fremont Expedition to California in 1853 and Samuel K. Labatt a retailer in dry goods. In 1876 David d’Ancona made a brief trip to Los Angeles. He wrote in his diary, “Los Angeles is the Damascus of America.”

The real emphasis of the Sephardic community wasn’t felt until the beginning of the 20th century, the predominant influx coming from the Ottoman Empire. They came from Salonica, Egypt, Turkey , Rhodes and other points of the middle east. Not only did these Sephardim have a different culture from their Ashkenazi brethren but this remained(to an extent) the same within their own culture , primarily because of the distance that separated them from one area to the next. This also caused them to be disorganized which in turn resulted in the lack of proper religious and educational facilities.

The first Sephardic Jew to arrive in 20th century Los Angeles was Mordecai Zeitoun, a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, a native of Algeria. He was an entrepreneur in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. “Papa” as he was affectionately known, along with his daughter Rose arrived in Los Angeles during the closing months of 1904, probably in October or early November. They were followed by brothers Louis and David Bramy. Davidmarried Rose Zeitoun on March 6, 1906 and their son, Roger was the first known Sephardi to be born in Los Angeles on February 14, 1907.

Another early Sephardic arrival was Jacob(Jack) Caraco. Names like Baruch, Cohen and Levy plus a listing of a Portuguese Jewish Colony (probably the Avat ShalomCongregation founded in 1912) was included in the honor roll of the first Jewish Federation dated 1912.

Following the arrival of the Zeitouns, Bramys and Caracos, other families, future members of the Los Angeles Sephardic Community began arriving from all points east. Young immigrants such as Marco Tarica, Morris Soriano, Joseph M. Mayo, Jack Notrica, Isador M. Hattem, Isaac Raphael, Ovadiah Haim, Mandolino Levy and others. By 1912 the Avat Shalom Society was founded.

In the beginning, for a few years the fledgling congregation flourished, but soon with additional arrivals from various parts of the Levant, ethnic differences and parochial arguments ensued and it was just a matter of time before the Avat Shalom Society was dissolved.

In 1917 the Peace and Progress Society was formed with members mostly from the Island of Rhodes, at the time still under the aegis of Turkey. In 1935 the name was changed to the Sephardic Hebrew Center and still later to Sephardic Beth Shalom. Others of the dissenters organized the Haim VaHessed Society or the Sephardic Brotherhood of Los Angeles.

By M. I. Bob Hattem Archivist / Historian

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