What is the difference between a “Holiday Parade” and a “Christmas Parade?” Not much, actually. But the fact that La Jolla continues to call their December parade a “Christmas Parade” bothers some residents of this snobby, exclusive city.
Many years ago – 1965 – to be exact, my husband and I decided to take a trip to La Jolla. We knew we would be moving to the San Diego area shortly, because my father-in-law was quite ill and lived in Chula Vista. We decided to make a vacation of it, and driving down from Berkeley where we were going to school we stopped off at a hotel in La Jolla. I was wearing a beautiful Star of David given to me on my 18th birthday by my ex-husband. My current husband – Bob – was not Jewish, but the star was so pretty that I wore it frequently.
As was usually the case, I got out of the car and went to the registration desk. The clerk looked at me and said, “I’m sorry. We do not cater to your kind.” What in the hell was he talking about? He didn’t cater to “my kind?” What kind was I? I said, “I beg your pardon. I don’t understand.” He said, under his breath, “you Jews just don’t want to understand.” And that was my first introduction to anti-Semitism – in a nice hotel in the middle of La Jolla.
When Bob and I moved to San Diego County we settled in Pt. Loma/Ocean Beach. We did not encounter any problems, and everyone was willing to take our money despite any taint of Jewishness that may have been attached to it. Being the bitch that I can be, however, I made sure every time I went into La Jolla I wore my Star of David. (And let me point out that I taught at UCSD Extension from 1972-1978 so I was in La Jolla often.)
As ironic as things can be, there was a period of time that I even worked in La Jolla, and to make it even funnier, I worked for the Copley Press in their Art studio on Herschel Street. (Funny because growing up in the Borsch Belt in Los Angeles, “Herschel” was a definite Hebrew name.) Although there was no more out-right snobbery, I was not welcomed into the restaurants I frequented with open arms. I was usually seated in the worst place – next to the bathroom or the kitchen; I was always greeted with a “hello”; but not with a friendly smile. It only took me a few weeks to discover what was wrong but I thrive on controversy so I continued wearing my star and patronized those establishments that wished I wasn’t a customer.
After I went back into the field of education, I became the chorus director for the several schools that I taught in. We began practicing singing Christmas carols in early October, and sang them daily until our Christmas pageant. Sometimes I would throw in a Hebrew song – “Dreidel”; or an other such song. Until one day a parent protested that she was not Christian; she was not Jewish; and, in fact, celebrated Kwanzaa and her children were asking why we were singing Christmas carols. It was causing a problem at home and although she did not want to have her child drop out of chorus, the conflicts were not worth the effort of keeping the child in a class that was in direct opposition with the families beliefs.
After discussion with the PTA; the principal and other staff members, we decided that we wanted to reach ALL people in the community and would change the name of our annual “Christmas” show to our “Holiday Show.” It was no big deal; we still sang Christmas carols, but now we incorporated many non-denominational songs for everyone. Santa still came to hand out gifts; the menorah was displayed when Jewish songs were sung, and everyone looked upon the changes as a positive experience as well as a learning experience.
As time passed, it was apparent that the parent who came to see me was not unlike many other people in communities throughout the United States. Many, many “Christmas Parades” were changed to “Holiday Parades” and no one thought anything about it. Everyone was included; no one felt excluded because they did not hold the Christian beliefs. And since there were so many other religions that had their holidays during the month of December it was a fairer way of including the entire community. And, interestingly enough, more volunteering happened; more donations were given; and the name change has been a positive factor every year.
Except in La Jolla. They have steadfastly refused to change the name of the “La Jolla Christmas Parade” to anything more acceptable to members of the community. In looking at Wikipedia for reference I was astonished to see the following:
From its beginnings through the early 1960s, La Jolla was marketed by developers as a bastion of isolation and exclusivity. Antisemitic housing practices began in 1926 with the development of La Jolla Shores. In La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Hermosa, only people with “pure” European ancestry could own property (this excluded Jews, who were not considered white), and housing advertisements included prohibitions against Jews and other minority groups. Such “restrictive covenants” were once fairly common throughout the United States, although the 1948 Supreme Court case Shelley v. Kraemer ruled them to be unenforceable, and Congress outlawed them twenty years later. After the Supreme Court ruling, real estate companies used less obvious tactics to keep Jewish people out of La Jolla. Real estate agents would be fired if they sold a house to Jewish clients. There were no for-sale signs put up on properties, requiring the prospective buyer to go to a real estate office to find out what was available. If an agent suspected that a potential home buyer was a Jew, they would demand higher down payments and display green cards on their dashboards marked with the Star of David to warn the seller. The sellers would also send codes to their real estate agents; if their porch lights were on during the day, they did not want Jewish buyers.
In 2003 a writer for the San Diego Jewish Journal reported, “When world-renowned British mathematician/philosopher Jacob Bronowski was brought to the Salk Institute by Jonas Salk in 1963, he wanted to buy a piece of land on La Jolla Farms Road for the purpose of building a house for his family. But the land was part of William Black’s Beach and Bridle Club, and the Bronowskis were required to produce three written character references.” The family produced letters from members of Parliament.
By 1962, La Jolla, and the non-restrictive La Jolla Scenic Heights in particular, had a substantial Jewish population due to talk of establishing UCSD in the area. The university would bring many Jewish professors, who would need to live in nearby areas such as La Jolla. In the words of UCSD patriarch Roger Revelle, “You can’t have a university without having Jewish professors. The Real Estate Broker’s Association and their supporters in La Jolla had to make up their minds whether they wanted a university or an anti-Semitic covenant. You couldn’t have both.” La Jolla now boasts a large and thriving Jewish population, and there are three large synagogues in La Jolla.
I realize that I am writing this article in March. The Holiday season is still 9 months away. It takes time to make changes – publicity, posters, banners, etc. But it is not too soon to start thinking about making a change. In fact, NOW IS the time to make the change.
I also want to point out that I am not doing this because I was born to two Jewish parents; I was married to a Catholic for 44 years. We celebrated all holidays – our children celebrated all holidays – their children – my grandchildren – celebrate all holidays. Rather, it is a way of involving the entire community; a way of welcoming everyone to the shores of La Jolla. A way of showing respect for everyone – no matter where they live, how they were raised, and what their beliefs might be. La Jolla is a thriving, wealthy community because they are now a “salad bowl” of residents. It is time that the beautiful parade that highlights La Jolla in December include everyone. That’s what makes San Diego so wonderful. Wouldn’t it be nice if La Jolla could be part of the entire community?