San Diego History Center salutes Jewish Community via gala, exhibit, film

San Diego’s Jewish heritage — beginning with its pioneers who arrived in 1850 to the present day community that numbers 90,000 — was celebrated at the San Diego History Center’s (SDHC) annual Makers of San Diego History Gala, June 10 at the Hyatt Aventine in La Jolla. Debby Cushman Parrish chaired the event.

Dignitaries and guests gathered for cocktails and dinner, and were treated to a preview of the 60-minute documentary “To the Ends of the Earth: The Jews of San Diego” (from director Isaac Artenstein), and a behind-the-scenes look at the related exhibit “Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community,” by its curator Joellyn Zollman. Both are on view through May 20, 2018 at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park.

The evening included music by local klezmer band, Hot Pstromi, and a “Raise the Paddle” to benefit the History Center’s education programs and help fund the documentary’s production costs.

La Jollan Thompson Fetter, president of the History Center board of trustees, has said that the Makers of San Diego History Gala honors those individuals, businesses and institutions that have “made history in their own time.” Among the previous honorees are the San Diego Zoo & Zoological Society, Walter Zable, Sol Price, San Diego’s Craft Beer Industry, San Diego Tuna Industry, Liberty Station, Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation, Las Patronas and The Hom Family.

Highlights of the History Center exhibit, according to Zollman, include photographs, documents and artifacts that reveal the struggles and triumphs of Jewish families across 167 years in San Diego. In a press release describing the exhibit, she writes, “These early Jewish pioneers were not only pioneers in San Diego, but pioneers in a new country as well. As the 19th century drew to a close, more and more Jews were arriving on American shores seeking a better life for themselves and in doing so, made life better for the communities they settled in.

“In the early 20th century, San Diego’s Jewish community faced obstacles to greater community involvement as restrictive covenants (race restrictions) were attached to particular neighborhood subdivisions like La Jolla, pushing those who helped to fund and build San Diego out of particular locations.

“But by 1963, Jonas Salk, a Jewish medical researcher and virologist, established the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla (designed by Jewish architect, Louis Kahn), and with the completion of UC San Diego — a school intending to specialize in the intersection between biology and technology — the restrictions were ended as Jewish scientists were some of the top in their fields.”

IF YOU GO: The San Diego History Center museum is at 1649 El Prado in Balboa Park. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is donation based. (619) 232-6203. sandiegohistory.org

Did you know?

Louis Rose was San Diego’s first Jewish settler, arriving in 1850. With some cash in his pocket, he rented a building for a hotel and saloon, and later opened a general store. Rose later bought La Canada de las Lleguas (Canyon of the Mares), which came to be known as Rose Canyon, where he opened the area’s first tannery. “And being a thrifty man, he also opened a butcher shop in Old Town. Why waste the meat of the cattle whose leather he tanned?” —Excerpted from an article by Don Harrison in L’Chaim magazine.

Other early Jewish settlers included Joseph and Hyman Mannasse, Lewis Franklin, Charles Fletcher, Marks Jacobs, Marcus Schiller, Louis Wolf, Simon Levi and Sig Steiner.

Today’s San Diego Jewish community is different than Jewish populations in other parts of California and the United States, in that 19 percent were born outside the country, mainly in Mexico.

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