Institute News

First-Ever American IWalk Guides Students Through Boyle Heights, Los Angeles

With dozens of IWalks developed for locations throughout Central and Eastern Europe, an IWalk has finally come to the United States.

Pastrami, Tacos, Burgers: Continuity and Change in Boyle Heights” is now published on IWitness, incorporating Holocaust survivor testimony clips into a guided walk through the historic immigrant community of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

IWalks are USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive activity in which students and other participants walk through historic sites while watching testimony clips from the Visual History Archive on smartphones or tablet devices. These clips are of Holocaust survivors describing their experiences in these very places – including former camps, killing sites, ghettos, and Jewish quarters – during the Holocaust. The IWalk is supplemented with secondary source background material and response questions for students.

USC Shoah Foundation staff and teachers who have completed the Master Teacher professional development program have developed IWalks for locations throughout Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Ukraine.

Three Czech IWalks are available on the USC Shoah Foundation website.

This IWalk provides students with an opportunity to learn about one of Los Angeles’ oldest and historically diverse neighborhoods. A working-class immigrant community to Jews, Japanese and Mexican immigrants and others, Boyle Heights reflects a rich history of immigration and a place that has always welcomed people from diverse backgrounds.

Through careful analysis of audiovisual testimony of survivors of the Holocaust and other primary and secondary source material, students will reflect on the significance of time and place on notions of continuity and change – two central themes that cut across multiple disciplines, including history and social studies and English language arts.

Students need not live in Los Angeles to explore the Boyle Heights IWalk; interactive images from Google Street View allow anyone around the world to “visit” each stop on the IWalk from their computer screen.

The IWalk begins at East Cesar E Chavez Avenue and North Breed Street, Los Angeles, where students observe the sights around them. The second stop is the Breed Street Shul (Congregation Talmud Torah), which was the largest Orthodox synagogue in the Western United States from 1915-1951. Participants then walk to a mural on Folsom Street that depicts community, and conclude the IWalk at the former location of the original Canter’s Deli.

Along the way, students watch testimony clips of Holocaust survivors describing their experiences living in Boyle Heights, including the people, cultures, community and locations. They can also look at historical photos, learn Yiddish words in a glossary, and read more about the history of the neighborhood. Response questions encourage students to think about how neighborhood and a sense of community affected the survivor’s immigration experience.

At the end of the activity, students are asked to create their own Six-Word Stories inspired by the IWalk.