The Hebrew Association of San Bernardino – 1879
In 1879 the Los Angeles Herald reported that Rabbi Aron J. Messing of San Francisco had arrived in town en route to a “missionary visit” to San Bernardino.
The special nature of his “mission” was explained, as well as his accomplishments in San Bernardino.
It was not unusual for pioneer California Rabbis to travel to distant communities in order to perform a variety of religious functions.
Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger of San Francisco journeyed over a hundred miles south to Soledad, California, to officiate at a wedding in 1887.
Rabbis Abraham W. Edelman and Abraham Blum of Los Angeles officiated at a variety of rites in communities from Santa Barbara to San Diego in the decades of the 1860s to 1890s.
Arriving in Los Angeles in 1879, Rabbi Aron J. Messing and the president of his Congregation Beth Israel, Samuel Zemansky, departed by stagecoach for San Bernardino immediately.
Rabbi Messing and Zemansky got to San Bernardino on Tuesday evening and took rooms at the Southern Hotel.
Plans were completed for the Rabbi to address the Jewish Community the following evening at the Masonic Hall.
At that meeting Rabbi Messing organized a religious association which took over some of the functions which had previously been cared for by the Jewish Benevolent Society.
This group had been founded back in 1861, and had conducted High Holy Day services, cared for the local Jewish cemetery and in 1868 created a Jewish day school for the youngsters of the community which flourished for four years.
The Sabbath School organized by Rabbi Messing was not the first such institution in San Bernardino.
There had also been a Hebrew school in the mid-1860s as well as Jewish religious and Hebrew instruction provided by the San Bernardino Hebrew and English Academy from 1868 to 1872.
The morning following the meeting of the Jewish community at Masonic Hall, Rabbi Messing paid a visit to the San Bernardino Times.
He was well aware of the value of newspaper publicity.
“We received a very interesting visit this morning from Rev. Aron Messing of San Francisco, the first Hebrew missionary ever appointed in California.
“His mission, however, is not to make converts to Judaism but to promote unity and good feeling among his co-religionists.
“He addressed a full house at the Masonic Hall last evening and organized the “Hebrew Association of San Bernardino,” with Mr. Katz as president, A. Horowitz as secretary, and Julius Meyerstein as treasurer.
“The aims of the association are to promote the spiritual welfare of its members, take cognizance of all matters pertaining to Judaism, to keep up the Hebrew burying ground, etc.
“A Sabbath school was also organized with Miss Fannie Benjamin as superintendent, and Misses Jacobs, Caro, Jackson and Mr. Isaac Benjamin as assistants.
“After the business of the meeting was over a portion of the company was invited to adjourn to the residence of Mr. L. Jacobs, where a princely repast was spread and the guests participated in the good cheer and did not adjourn until the greater part of the night had fled.” –San Bernardino Times.
The Sabbath school which Rabbi Messing organized in San Bernardino lasted for a number of years, but then faded away.
The successor religious school was established by the Henrietta Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Jewish ladies charitable organization of San Bernardino.
More information can be found in the following issue of Western States Jewish History:
- Mission to San Bernardino in 1879, by Norton B. Stern, 10/3
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