2011 Local Hero: Stephen Sass

Stephen Sass

"Living in LA, we have these amazing opportunities right in our own backyard to participate with and learn about one another in our communities."

Stephen J. Sass has served as an assiduous volunteer and lay historian of the Jewish community of Southern California for over two decades. Since 1989, he has served as president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California. The JHS documents the history of the local Jewish community, which dates back to 1841. Its members collect archives, photographs and oral histories for exhibition, and they also sponsor exhibits, publications and guided tours of Jewish Los Angeles. Mr. Sass and the JHL also take considerable pride in preserving historically significant properties through specific community efforts, such as the Breed Street Shul Project.

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The Breed Street Shul Project is dedicated to the rehabilitation and transformation of the last remaining synagogue in Boyle Heights, a site recognized as a National Register of Historic Places architectural treasure and cornerstone of Los Angeles Jewish history dating back to 1915. After it is fully renovated, the Breed Street Shul will represent a signature space for nonprofit organizations, offering a cutting-edge mix of educational, social service and cultural arts programs to meet the needs of the neighborhood's Latino population. It will also serve as a multicultural meeting place, a figurative bridge between the region's Jewish and Latino communities.

Mr. Sass's philanthropic efforts in the Jewish community extend beyond his work at JHS. He was executive producer and co-writer of "Meet Me at Brooklyn & Soto," JHS' award-winning documentary on East L.A.'s Jewish heritage. He also chaired the Fairfax Community Mural Project, which resulted in a photo mural in the heart of the Beverly-Fairfax neighborhood highlighting L.A.'s Jewish history.

In his capacity as an amateur historian, Mr. Sass is Vice Chair of the Los Angeles County Historic Landmarks and Records Commission; he was appointed by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. He is also the author of several articles on neighborhood preservation issues, having presented at annual conferences of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Planning Association, Grantsmakers in the Arts and the American Jewish Historical Society.

Steve was editor of Jewish Los Angeles - A Guide, which was recognized by the Council of Jewish Federations as "Best Publication". He personally received the Jeremiah Award, the top volunteer honor conferred by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He has served on the boards of the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Federation-Valley Alliance and the Jewish Community Relations Committee. He also served on the founding board of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

Professionally, Mr. Sass is the Vice President of Legal Affairs, Original Programming for Home Box Office, Inc. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from USC, where he majored in journalism and religion. He is also a graduate of Loyola Law School. He and his husband, Dr. Steven Hochstadt, a clinical psychologist, reside in Studio City and are active members of Beth Chayim Chadashim and Valley Beth Shalom congregations.

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