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Exhibit Shows How Jews Helped Found Early San Diego

Josek Zajd lights a menorah with his family in a photograph that originally ran in the San Diego Union on Dec. 14, 1960. Josek and his wife, Sari, were Holocaust survivors and resettled in San Diego in 1954.
San Diego History Center
Josek Zajd lights a menorah with his family in a photograph that originally ran in the San Diego Union on Dec. 14, 1960. Josek and his wife, Sari, were Holocaust survivors and resettled in San Diego in 1954.
Exhibit Shows How Jews Helped Found Early San Diego
Exhibit Shows How Jews Helped Found Early San Diego GUEST: Joellyn Zollman, curator, "Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diego's Jewish Community"

Among the pioneers where the earliest Jewish families in the region. In addition to prominent assessment and philanthropist who helped set up some of the city major cultural institutions, several juice let the early Board of Trustees. That is the information that a new exhibit at the history center with highlights the Jewish community dating back to California's founding in 1850. Joining me is Joellyn Zollman, greater of the Celebrate San Diego! , the history and heritage of the Jewish community. Welcome to show. One of the centerpiece of the exhibit takes us all the way back to California statehood, the diary of Victoria take us. Who was sheet? What does her diary tell us about Jewish life in the 1850s Victorian -- Victoria Jacobs lived in San Diego in the 1850s. Her diary was a remarkable find because it gives us the voice of a young, Jewish woman in San Diego in the 19th century. That is extraordinary. What that Tory us -- Victoria tells us, she gives us a sense of every day life in old town as well as special events. From that, we learn a lot about what it was like to be part of a Jewish family. She had 11 brothers and sisters. She lived with her parents. They had quite a busy life in old town. They socialized equally with the other families who live there. They were Jewish and non-Jewish families. Her diary will say we had a picnic with the really family. We joined these people for lunch at the signs went with us to a theatrical entertainment at the mission. That tells us that being Jewish did not pose a barrier to entry in San Diego society. What of the early Jewish movers is a is and what they do for the city? Back there were Jewish pioneer families. The clobbers and awaken Himes and the rose family and the Schuller family. These were families who were very involved in Siena go early civic life. Lewis Rose was the postmaster in San Diego for quite some time, about a decade. This was a job that Jewish people held. They were literate. They also were often this is been. That meant that they had an address that you could send mail to. Lewis Rose was the postmaster. Schuller was involved in the founding of the park. He served on the city Board of Trustees when they set aside the land for that part of the city. These accomplishments of juice, the civic participation, it is notable because it is not happening in the same way in other parts of the country. If you look at Jews in Baltimore or ignore, they are not participating at a high level in the shaping of the city. What was different about San Diego that made that possible? I think San Diego was the edge of the world. It was not a city that had been built yet. It was a city that was waiting to be shaped. It did not have an established body of politics that had families who had been here for generations who could build the city. It was a place where everyone who came was a newcomer. That is not to say there wasn't anti-Semitism. I'm thinking of the restrictive covenants that blocked Jews from living in various areas of the city. There is anti-Semitic newspapers. When did that start to happen and what brought about the change? Back it is one of the interesting questions for me in working with this material and working with the history with the Jewish community. How's that possible to be an insider and outsider? How can Jews participate in shaping the city and being excluded from that city. There is no easy answer to that question. We see here for example in the 1920s and 30s, CNB ago mirrors the country. Them out -- the country as a whole was nativist, anti-Semitic, racist. You see those attitudes emerging here as well. That is when we see active chapters of the [ NULL ] and nasty group called the Silver shirts to emulate of the SS in Germany. There was housing restrictions all over the city at various times but also in other parts of San Diego. In the exhibit, we show a covenant from part those kinds of restrictions became illegal on the national level in the late 1940s. The story that we continue to tell is a story of what happens when neighborhoods resist the change in the law. That is what happened. We tell that story and exhibition expect one of the things in closing that I was surprised to find out is how diverse the Jewish population in San Diego is. One of the unique and defining characteristics of San Diego as a Jewish community, it continues to grow. Once the railroad connects to San Diego in 1885, the Jewish community grows. That is not true for every American Jewish community. One of the reasons that San Diego continues to grow is the influx of international Jewish communities here. Jews was born in Mexico or so the former Soviet Union or Israel, they live here in San Diego. We have a higher number of Jews born outside the country you -- than the typical American Jewish city. I am speaking with the curator of the exhibit, the history of the Jewish community. It runs through the end of this year. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Exhibit Shows How Jews Helped Found Early San Diego
Historian Joellyn Zollman said San Diego's early Jews were able to participate directly in the creation of their city, which wasn’t true in places like New York, Baltimore or Chicago.

San Diego was first incorporated in 1850, the same year California was granted statehood. That was also the year Louis Rose, the city’s first Jewish pioneer, moved to San Diego.

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Rose, a prominent early businessman, eventually became president of San Diego’s Board of Trustees and Old Town’s postmaster. Historian Joellyn Zollman said Rose and other early Jews were able to participate directly in the founding of their city, which was not true in places like New York, Baltimore or Chicago.

“They’re here with the beginning of an American city and can help shape it from the beginning,” Zollman said. “Jews were in New Amsterdam too, but they didn’t have the religious liberties America had promised them yet.”

Zollman has curated a new exhibit at the San Diego History Center on the region’s Jewish community, running through the end of the year. While San Diego’s early Jews were closely integrated into the city’s social world, San Diego began to mirror the nation’s rising nativism in the 1920s and ‘30s.

“It’s not a pleasant place for Jews really anywhere in the United States,” Zollman said. “Many of those ideas came here through actual people and tremendous population growth. In 1850, you’re living on the edge of the world and you have to all work together. That’s one kind of pioneering experience. But once the railroad connects us to the rest of the country, then you get a lot of people coming here with different attitudes.”

Zollman joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more details from the exhibit, including the diary of a young Jewish woman from the 1850s.