Daniel Levy: Pioneer French Jewish Teacher & Intellectual of Early San Francisco

Daniel Levy

Daniel Levy French Jewish Intellectual WS 14/2020

Daniel Levy
French Jewish Intellectual
WS 14/2020

Values Codes   I-H-E-L-P

Daniel Levy was born in Lixheim, France, in the Prov­ince of Lorraine in 1826.

Along the way . . . .

Educated at Paris University, Daniel Levy became a schoolteacher and taught for a time in Alsace, then received a gov­ernment appointment as a Principal of a public school in Oran, Algeria.

Daniel Levy became the Editor of a newspaper called “La Lune,” which was confiscated by the government and he was placed in prison for a few day because he had published a cartoon of Napoleon the Third.

In 1855, he came to America with his 3 brothers and 3 sisters.



Daniel Levy was one of numerous French Jews who came to Gold Rush California.

For a short time he worked in El Dorado County, but soon settled in San Francisco.



In 1856, Daniel Levy became a teacher of languages at the religious school of Congregation Emanu-El.

Levy also established a Jewish day school, which met in the base­ment rooms of the synagogue, called Levy’s Institute and included both elementary and high school grades.

In 1857, Congregation Emanu-El was without a Rabbi and Daniel Levy was appointed as Reader and Teacher of the Congregation until 1864.

He conducted services and officiated at weddings and funerals until Rabbi Elkan Cohn’s arrival in 1860.

In the 1870s Daniel Levy taught French and German at Boys High School in San Francisco.

Daniel Levy and his 6 Brothers & Sisters, San Francisco, #WS2109.

Daniel Levy and his 6 Brothers & Sisters, San Francisco, #WS2109.

The French Colony

Daniel Levy was one of the founders of the French Hospital in San Francisco, often serving as its President.

Daniel Levy was also one of the founders of the Alliance Francaise and  benefited the community by starting a French Library.

He became known as the Dean of the French Colony.

During the Franco-Prussian War, Daniel Levy returned to France where he rendered such distinguished service that the French Government conferred on him the Cross of the Legion of Honor, in 1909.

His description of life in San Francisco in the 1850s is of great importance.

He wrote two books, one on politics in Austria, the other one on the French in California. This latter book,  “Les Francais en California.” was published in 1884 in San Francisco. It is in French, and is still one of the prime sources of the history of Frenchmen in early California.

Daniel Levy was one of the few Jews of early California who could be termed an intellectual.

In his later years, Daniel Levy devoted himself entirely helping charitable organizations.



Daniel Levy was a Master Mason

He was also a member of the Cercle Francais and President of the Ligne Nationale for many years.



Daniel Levy never married.

His brothers and sisters were; Michael, Baruch, Fanny, Henriette, Jeanette, and Isaac.

“He was a handsome man – very distinguished in appearance and above all – a Jew and a Frenchman.” –Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916.

Daniel Levy died in 1910, and was interred at Home of Peace, in Colma. south of San Francisco..


More information can be found in the following issue of Western States Jewish History:

  • Daniel Levy: French Jewish Intellectual, San Francisco, California, 1826 – 1910, Vol 41/1

Additional Source:

  • The Jews of San Francisco, by Martin A. Meyer, Ph.D., Emanu-El, San Francisco, June 1916.


David Epstein is the Curator for this Daniel Levy exhibit

Other family information and pictures would be greatly appreciated.


Jews in the News

    About This Time

Benevolence for Palestine — 1865

Aid for Palestine — A committee has been appointed by the Congregation Emanu-El to make collections for our distressed brethren in Palestine. Famine, pestilence and distress are now ravaging the entire country, and it becomes the solemn duty of each and every Israelite to contribute his mite in behalf of so noble and holy a cause.

Do not refuse the committee, and say we have enough poor here requiring relief. Our poor are not as needy and in such distress as our impoverished brethren in the Holy Land.

Do not let us lose the honor and fair name which the Israelites of San Francisco have always had for their charities; but let us willingly, cheerfully and bountifully assist the committee as far as lies in our power, so that a large amount may be quickly raised and forwarded without delay to our suffering brethren.

We would suggest that our co-religionists in the country districts should also make up subscriptions, and proceed at once about the matter in an earnest spirit.

—The Hebrew, San Francisco, Nov. 17, 1865, WSJH, Vol. 3, #2.