Jacob Elias: Early Los Angeles Jewish Pioneer Merchant & Leader

Jacob Elias

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Jacob Elias arrived in Los Angeles with his two brothers, Raphael and Israel, in 1851 or 1852.

They opened a dry goods store, naming it Elias Bros.

Elias Bros. was located in the Temple Block and is now the site of Los Angeles City Hall.

Early Temple Block, eventually the site of City Hall.

Jacob Elias believed in the value of Los Angeles real estate.

He owned thirty-five plots in today’s Hollywood.

In 1860, Elias purchased Rancho San Rafael, which is now the City of Glendale.



In 1854, at the founding of the city’s first charitable organization, the Hebrew Benevolent Society, Jacob Elias was selected as Secretary and Treasurer.

In 1857 he was elected its President.

The Hebrew Benevolent Society survives today as the Los Angeles Jewish Family Service.

In 1854, Jacob Elias wrote a petition presented to the Los Angeles City Council requesting land for a Jewish cemetery. The request was granted.

The plaque, dedicated in 1968, reads:

Dedication of the First Jewish Site in Los Angeles: Victor Carter, Norton Stern (Founder of Western States Jewish History Association), Justin Turner, and William Blumenthal


The Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles (1854) First Charitable Organization in the City, Acquired This Site by Deed on April 9, 1855 from the City Council for a Sacred Burial Ground.  This Property Represented the First Organized Community Effort by the Pioneer Jewish Settlers.

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 822.

Plaque Placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, September 29, 1968.


Jacob Elias was a Charter Member of Los Angeles Masonic Lodge #42, which still functions today. Elias was elected as the first Senior Warden.

Later he was elected as Master of the lodge.


In 1859 Jacob Elias traveled to New York City to marry Cecelia Simpson, who was from a colonial Sephardic family.


  • “Jacob Elias: Early Los Angeles Pioneer, Merchant & Jewish Leader,” Western States Jewish History 38/3&4.
  • Norton B. Stern, “Jacob Elias: Merchant, Land Holder, and Early Pioneer Community Leader,” Western States Jewish History 41/3.