Gained in TranslaTion

Jews, Germany, California circa 1849
With the establishment of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley in July 2010, unique materials documenting the Jewish experience in Northern California were gifted to The Bancroft Library by the former Judah L. Magnes Museum. The Magnes archives of Western Jewish Americana have served as an important source for several foundational studies of Jewish history in California. Researchers often relied on the combination of Magnes and Bancroft collections in their work. Now, the physically integrated collections of both institutions bring unparalleled resources under one roof, making them even more accessible for teaching and research. This inaugural exhibition draws on art, artifacts, books, and archival materials from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, The Bancroft Library, and the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives. The resulting synergy stretches the boundaries of California history, connecting German Jewish history before 1849 to the establishment of the Jewish community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
AllA EfimovA, Jacques and Esther Reutlinger Director frAncEsco spAgnolo, Curator of Collections

January 24, 1848
Gold is found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill, Coloma, California, a town in the Sierra Foothills.

February, 21, 1848
Karl Marx publishes the Manifesto of the Communist Party in London.

  February 24, 1848
The monarchy of King Louis-Philippe is overthrown in France, resulting in the proclamation of the Second Republic.

  February 27, 1848
The revolution reaches Germany, where an assembly in Mannheim adopts a resolution demanding a bill of rights. Demands for constitutional and civil reforms and the unification of Germany are made throughout the German-speaking lands.

  september 26, 1849
The first celebration of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) in San Francisco is held in a wood-framed tent. Today, this early Jewish presence in California is acknowledged by a bronze plaque on the 700 block of Montgomery Street in San Francisco.

The Magnes Collection

is a source of primary evidence about Jewish life in the global Diaspora. It documents personal and family rituals, synagogue and communal life, and the social interactions among Jewish and host communities. The lamps on view highlight aspects of religious observance and domestic life in Germany in the 17th–19th centuries. Their presence in The Magnes Collection is also a direct testimony of the immigration history of the German Jewish community to California. Hanging lamps, lit in the Jewish homes on the Eve of the Sabbath and Festivals, were also used before the advent of electric light to illuminate synagogue interiors. Special lamps for Hanukkah (“dedication”), which include eight receptacles for oil and wickers, or candles, and one or two elevated “servitor” (Hebrew: shamash) lights, are kindled during the eight days of the Winter Festival of Lights. German Hanukkah lamps often include engraved Hebrew texts relating to the festival, as well as the depiction of crowns and lions—references to the Hebrew Bible and to the Jewish people, and symbols of selfempowerment.
Synagogue interiors, Reckendorf, Germany, ca 1911

In 1856, Moritz Daniel Oppenheim,
an artist later labeled as the first modern Jewish painter, portrayed an imagined meeting among scholars Moses Mendelsohn (1729–1786), Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729– 1781) and theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801) in Mendelssohn’s Berlin home. The scene refers to two foundational moments in the history of German Jewish cultural interactions. The actual meetings between Mendelssohn and Lavater, which took place in 1763–64, were followed by the failed attempt on the part of the theologian to convince Mendelssohn to embrace Christianity. The muchcelebrated friendship between Mendelssohn and Lessing, one of the high points of the haskalah, or Jewish Enlightment, came to be considered a paradigm of the possibility of a harmonious cohabitation between Germans and Jews.
Moritz oppenheim (1800–1882) at his easel, ca. 1850.

By the mid-19th century, the philosophical debates of the haskalah spread throughout Europe, and were translated into the political and social realms by the Emancipation movement. Jewish contribution to society at large became the norm but did not go unchallenged. The decade in which the painting appeared was pivotal for German Jews: their hopes for emancipation were shattered by the failed revolutions of 1848–49. The revolutions also spurred emigration to the United States, including to San Francisco, where the Gold Rush opened unprecedented opportunities for social success and civic engagement.
From Mendelssohn on, the integration of Jews into the German public sphere has been closely associated with German-Jewish Bible translation, and GermanJewish integration can in turn be read as a kind of translation project. Translation from Hebrew could signal Jewish foreigness […], but it also had a range of other significations for translators and their audiences. Translation is thus both a lens for analyzing the character of German-Jewish identity and a privileged mode of its expression.
NaoMi SeidMaN, Koret Professor of Jewish Culture, Graduate Theological Union

as it gradually became possible during the later eighteenth century for Jews in Western europe to leave the walled-off life of the ghetto and enter into modern european society, some Jewish intellectuals, associated with the merchant and managerial classes, adopted Hebrew as the means of creating a new kind of Jewish culture that might take its place with the cultures of other peoples in a progressive international society of enlightened men.
RoBeRT alTeR, Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative literature, UC Berkeley

The haskalah, or Jewish enlightenment, which began in Berlin in the 1740s, is one of the most important developments in the entire history of european Jewry. Through the promotion of secular education to complement the traditional Jewish curriculum, the haskalah sought to reform Jews and Judaism by harmonizing religious and social life with the ideals of european bourgeois culture. [...] The haskalah was the first of many later secular ideologies and new forms of religious expression that captured the hearts and minds of modern Jews.
JoHN eFRoN, Koret Professor of Jewish History, UC Berkeley

The history of individuals and families from
their roots in Southern Germany to their settlement in California is broadly documented in the Magnes archives and museum holdings. The materials related to the Haas and Lilienthal families of San Francisco provide a particularly insightful illustration of the span of this immigration story, including family portraits, ritual objects, personal and professional papers, photographs, and business records. The Lilienthal family emigrated from Munich to the United States in the 1840’s. The California branch of the family descended from Rabbi Max and Dr. Samuel Lilienthal, who are depicted as young children in Germany in a family portrait. Max (Menachem) Lilienthal (1814– 1882), an educator and Rabbi active in Eastern Europe, became an American journalist and scholar, and a promoter of the Jewish Reform Movement in the American West. Samuel Lilienthal (1815–1891), a physician and a pioneer of homeopathy in America, joined his family in San Francisco in the late 1880’s.
[…] repression in much of central europe included increasingly restrictive laws that made it difficult for a Jew to acquire a residency permit to own a business, marry, and establish a family. […] a Jewish marriage was permitted only after one Jewish inhabitant had died and thus made room for another on the prescribed town list of Jewish families. Not surprisingly, many young men and women were eager to seek their spouses as well as their fortunes in the United States. in the 1840s, nearly as many Jewish women as Jewish men left Bavaria’s towns for america, with most women traveling to California with their husbands, brothers, friends, or other family members.
ava KaHN, co-editor of California Jews

Susie and elias Cohn, natives of Germany, buried in Colma, California

The families who immigrated from Germany
to the Bay Area following the Gold Rush maintained close ties to each other. Many came from Bavaria, particularly from Reckendorf, a village north of Bamberg. In San Francisco, they forged business partnerships and formed extended families, whose influence still impacts the texture of the city. The Haas family established itself as one of the leading Jewish families of the Pacific Coast. Koppel and Fanny Haas had seven children in Reckendorf. William Haas arrived in San Francisco in 1868 and joined the wholesale grocery firm of Loupe & Haas. In Los Angeles, Abraham Haas worked for Hellman, Haas & Company. In the early decades of the 20th century, these California families were involved in an early form of Jewish heritage travel, and visited their ancestral homes in Bavaria, documenting their trips with detailed photographic mementos.
There were other large Jewish clans in Reckendorf, and isaias and Herman [Hellman] played with boys from these families, forming relationships that would survive immigration and distance. one of these clans was the Haas family, who lived in a caramel-colored, low-slung house just a few steps from the synagogue. The family dealt in cotton and textiles.
FRaNCeS diNKelSPiel , author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California

Torah binders are ceremonial textiles used
to keep a Hebrew Bible scroll tightly closed when it is not being used for public reading in the synagogue. In some Jewish European communities, especially in Germany, Torah binders were made from the linen or cotton cloths used to cover newborn boys during ritual circumcision, decorated with celebratory texts and images with amuletic significance, and presented to the congregation when a child turned one. This kind of Torah binder, also known as wimpel, would be used to bind a Torah scroll once the child became bar mitzvah, and later again on the occasion of his wedding. The Hebrew texts and the images embroidered or painted with varying styles and materials on the binder typically include the boy’s full Hebrew name and date of birth, blessings and good wishes related to the life cycle, and references to astrology.

The history of commerce in California
is extensively documented at The Bancroft Library. The papers of individuals and families from The Magnes Collection add to this wealth of research material on the pioneer businesses of the West Coast.
By 1880 San Francisco had become the ninth-ranking city in the country and the Pacific Rim’s uncontested metropolitan hub. With 233,000 residents, the great majority of them foreign born or of foreign-language parentage, the city accounted for well over a quarter of the state’s population, with 16,000 Jews, who were exceeded in number only by the Jewish inhabitants of New York City.
MoSeS RiSCHiN, Professor emeritus of History, San Francisco State University

But the story of the Jews of California is different. Many of them fled the discrimination of the homelands in Germany, France, and Poland, and headed in the 1850s to California and its promise of gold. While a few became miners, most became merchants who catered to the miners’ needs. and from the start, these Jews were accepted and integrated into society. They were elected to public office, built their homes alongside their Christian neighbors, and became the established mercantile elite. in both San Francisco and los angeles, Jews were community leaders. it was not until the 1890s that intransigent anti-Semitism gripped California. and while barriers were erected after then, the Jews had already indelibly shaped the state.
FRaNCeS diNKelSPiel , author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California

Perhaps the most famous Jewish immigrant of this period was levi Strauss, world-renowned for his sturdy workpants made out of heavy denim (a French material for tents), reinforced with rivets, would become an international icon, and his company the world’s largest maker of apparel including jeans. other men also saw great opportunity and put down roots in Gold Rush days, or soon thereafter in early San Francisco. Pioneer families included Bissinger, Brandenstein, dinkelspiel, Fleishhacker, Gerstle, Greenebaum, Haas, Helbing, Hellman, Kohl, Koshland, levison, levy, liebes, lilienthal, Magnin, Meyer, Schwabacher, Seligman, Sloss, Stern, Sutro, Weill, and Zellerbach.

lewis Gerstle, louis Sloss, and Gustave Niebaum in the San Francisco offices of the alaska Commercial Company, late 19th century

STePHeN MaRK doBBS, contributor, Encyclopedia of San Francisco

In San Francisco, German Jewish
immigrants laid the foundation for Jewish community life in the city, creating benevolent societies, synagogues, and schools. At the same time they influenced the making of the new metropolitan area, supporting education, the arts, and social causes, thus translating German Jewish ideals shaped by the haskalah to the realm of civic engagement in the new world. The holdings of the Western Jewish Americana archives in The Magnes Collection enrich the history of the San Francisco Bay Area cultural and philanthropic institutions preserved at The Bancroft Library.

What, then, has been the essence of a Jewish community that is more universalist than particularist, artistically creative and economically powerful, philanthropic and civic-minded, borrowing freely from other traditions and interacting fully with nonJews? […] local Jews felt themselves the product of an age-old history and tied to a fate of their people throughout the globe. But they focused even more on their teeming port city, an instant metropolis, which brought the world to them.
FRed RoSeNBaUM, author of Cosmopolitans. A Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area

as a San Franciscan, i like to see Sutro [...] in terms of the european-Jewish civilization he absorbed and acquired as a young man and brought to his adopted city. adolph Sutro and the other Jewish founders of San Francisco knew what a city was all about: knew what a city was in terms of culture and cultural institutions, but also knew what a city was about in terms of responsibility to the community.
KeviN STaRR, University Professor and Professor of History, University of Southern California

over the years, the family has given to Jewish causes. But, the commitment to giving goes beyond religious tradition. it’s clear that the Jewish tradition has a strong element of giving back. i think that may have been a driving force for our earlier generations, but it’s more how we’re raised. it is not a Jewish idea. it is a civic responsibility.
BeTSY HaaS eiSeNHaRdT, board member of Walter and elise Haas Fund and evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund

Certainly, the focus on philanthropy came from my grandfather. But it goes back five generations. levi Strauss gave to a local Protestant orphanage. He endowed scholarships at UC Berkeley, many of them held by women. Rosalie Myer Stern is our great-grandmother.
RoBeRT d. HaaS, former chairman of levi Strauss & Co.

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
is supported by Koret Foundation, Taube Foundation, Hellman Family Foundation, Magnes Museum Foundation, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, Jim Joseph Foundation, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and Lumina Foundation. This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the generous support of the founding Friends of the Magnes: Barry and Debbie Cohn, Frances Dinkelspiel, Rosalie Eisen, Robert D. Haas, Adele Hayutin, Dana Shapiro, Janet Traub, Marjorie and Barry Traub, and Chen C. Wang.

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