1. in Spanish, it means a neighborhood.
  2. (in the US) the Spanish-speaking quarter of a town or city, especially one with a high poverty level.

From boy + Yiddish טשיק (chik, “endearing suffix” of Slavic origins)

  1. (chiefly Jewish) Term of endearment for a young boy, or a young man.
  2. (chiefly Jewish) Term of endearment for any special male with whom you are familiar.

Welcome to “Barrio Boychik,” my name is Shmuel Gonzales. This newest blog of mine is an open slate for various topics of interest I encounter as a community organizer, activist historian and Jewish spiritual leader in the Los Angeles eastside. To share the unique cultural experiences I encounter daily.

I also proudly serve as a contact person between the Jewish and Latino communities in the eastside, with our various historic and current allies throughout Southern California.

I work as a historian for The Studio for Southern California History. I serve on the Board of Directors of the Boyle Heights Historical Society. 

I also serve as lay leader in Jewish education and sacred Hebrew ritual, serving our diverse local community at congregation Beth Shalom of Whittier. I also lead Jewish programming for the Boyle Heights Chavurah, a small and close-knit Jewish community in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles.

I am also the founder of Boyle Heights History Studios; a grassroots co-op community center, museum, audio and video recording studios; which most a various array of historical, cultural heritage and faith-culture affirming programming. We are the first first community center to run entire off of no grant money or big donations; we are entirely funded by storytelling events such as tours which we offer on the weekend, which allows us to operate our museum for free, as well as offer pro-bono services and resources throughout the community all week long.

I also volunteer as the in-house community organizer and historian for the Pico Union Project.

flametorchThe story of my life has been one of exploring my roots as a Latino; revisiting and living out the human experience of both Mexico and the barrio of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles.

Along the way I have also come to recognize and embrace my own cultural roots in Judaism, my family being of Spanish-Portuguese “converso” origins (Sephardic Bnei Anusim). Since my youth I have been dedicated to the Jewish faith and way of life. I have come to be lovingly embraced by the Jewish community, as a religious convert. I today serve as a religious teacher and lay leader on my native eastside.

One of the amazing things about exploring the history of Boyle Heights is that this neighborhood is adorned in remnants of the old days, which reveal this community to have been a most important microcosm of both the Jewish and Mexican-American experience of the early 20th century. This community has a rich heritage, for which we can use to vividly illustrate the experiences of our working-class, immigrant forebears.

My family has roots and a connection to the community of Boyle Heights dating back since 1896.

Among the few older Jews which still haunt the barrio with me to engage these topics, they on account of my comparable youth often cutely referred as a “boychik.” Thus the working name for this project.

This project is going to be less formal than my more scholarly blog, Hardcore Mesorah – dedicated to Torah and Jewish prayer. This new blog will insure I keep that project dedicated to that purpose. This new blog providing committed space for inter-community exchange and social activism.

As part of a working project site, we will explore various things of interest to me, my friends and my religious followers as well. As we will also be exploring everyday Jewish experiences in action, in order to encourage people to venture out to experience Judaism in their real world and reclaim their spirituality from the isolation of the Internet.

I also wish to open up and share personal life reflections, after much demand for me to share memoirs of some of my most dynamic life experiences.

Thank you for coming along with me on this cross-cultural journey!

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3 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: The Third Time You Die | “Remembering Boyle Heights” @ Casa 0101 – Observations Along the Road

  2. Pingback: Boyle Heights Heritage Walking Tour of East LA History - Booming in LA

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