Friday, April 5, 2019

Behind the Scenes: Jeannette Lazard Lewin

Jeannette Lazard - one of Solomon Lazard and Caroline Newmark Lazard's six surviving children - was born in 1866.

Sixteen-year-old Jeannette graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1882, and was listed in the graduation program with a speech titled "Behind the Scenes". Her cousin Ella Newmark was also on the program. (Incidentally, the opening address was given by the President of the Board of Education - Judge Brousseau.)

Jeannette graduated from the Los Angeles campus of the State Normal School (now UCLA) in 1884, enabling her to work as a schoolteacher at the tender age of 18. The Jewish Museum of the American West has a surviving picture of Jeannette at the Laurel Canyon School, with some of her students.

Never one to rest on her laurels (ha), Jeannette was on the committee of Los Angeles' first Flower Festival in 1885. In December of that year, she married Louis Lewin, a printer/bookstore owner* and commission broker from Germany. Dr. Emmanuel Schreiber, Congregation B’nai B'rith's new rabbi, officiated. The couple lived at 618 W. 7th Street and had four children - Rosa, Laurence, Ross, and Howard. Tragically, Rosa lived for only 11 months.

In the nineteenth century, teachers were expected to resign if they married. This rule seems to have been regarded as impractical in Los Angeles, which had a chronic teacher shortage and several married teachers on record (the fact that Mary Marchesseault was on her third marriage and still could have landed a teaching job says enough). I have not been able to locate any conclusive proof of how long Jeannette's teaching career lasted.

When Louis died in 1905, Jeannette and her three surviving children went to live with her parents on West Lake Avenue. (Jeannette's brothers Mortimer and Edward also lived in the family home. Two grandparents, three adult children, one widowed with three sons ages 6, 12, and 15...that must have been one crowded house.)

Jeannette passed away in 1963. She is buried in the Lazard family plot at Home of Peace Memorial Park. Besides her name and the years her life spanned, the stone simply states "Wife-Mother."

Oh, by the way:

Some rotting pile of human debris had the brass neck to post anti-Semitic flyers outside THREE schools in the western Valley. This didn't happen in 1930, it happened two weeks ago.

I'll just put this out there:

Many of the original donors of Catholic-affiliated St. Vincent's College (now Loyola Marymount University) were Jewish. Ozro Childs stated that Jewish donors were the most generous of all.

Bishop Mora's records noted several Jewish donors to the Catholic church's projects - including renovation of the parish school. (Mora, incidentally, was friends with Rabbi Edelman.)

Several prominent Jewish families sent their children to the Episcopalian-affiliated Los Angeles Academy. The vast majority of Angelenos were Catholic, and there were only so many Protestant families who could afford private-school tuition at the time. Having Jewish students likely helped the Academy stay open for as long as it did.

The (Methodist-affiliated) University of Southern California was built on land donated by Ozro Childs (Episcopalian), John G. Downey (Catholic), and Isaias Hellman (Jewish). (USC has increasingly become a running joke over the past year - sorry, Dad - but that's a subject slightly beyond the scope of this blog.)

The Daughters of Charity (Catholic) ran an orphanage and school for girls, taking on tuition-paying students from wealthy families to help cover the cost of teaching the orphaned girls and the daughters of local Native American families. On at least one occasion, the Daughters thanked their many Jewish donors for their "encouraging words and open purses". Rabbi Edelman even made a bequest to the Daughters' orphanage in his will.

Los Angeles' public, private, and parochial schools owe a historic debt to the generosity of the city's Jewish community. There is really no place for bigots anywhere in Los Angeles - least of all in a school zone.

*Visitors to the rare books department at the Los Angeles Public Library may recall that Lewin was the publisher of Los Angeles County's first-ever published history, dated 1876.

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