Rabbi Messing and the Hebrew Association of San Ber­nardino – 1879

The Hebrew Association of 

San Ber­nardino – 1879

Rabbi Aron Messing WS 14/2072

Rabbi Aron Messing, #WS 14/2072


In 1879, the Los Angeles Herald reported that Rabbi Aron J. Messing of Congregation Beth Israel, San Francisco, had arrived in town en route to a “missionary visit” to 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, for instance, 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 also officiated at a variety of rites in com­munities from Santa Barbara to San Diego in the decades of the 1860’s to 1890’s.

Arriving in Los Angeles in 1879, Rabbi Aron J. Messing and Samuel Zemansky, the president of his Congregation Beth Israel, departed by stagecoach for San Bernar­dino.

Rabbi Messing and Zemansky arrived in 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 attended to by the Jewish Benevolent Society.

The Society had been founded in 1861, and had conducted High Holy Day services, cared for the local Jewish cemetery, and, in 1868, created the San Bernardino Hebrew and English Academy, a Jewish day school which operated until 1872.

Being well aware of the value of newspaper publicity, Rabbi Messing visited the San Bernardino Times, which wrote:


Marcus Katz #JMAW-CIE

Marcus Katz, #JMAW-CIE

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 that Rabbi Messing organized in San Ber­nardino continued for a number of years, but then faded away.

A successor religious school was established by the Henrietta Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Jewish ladies charitable organization of San Bernardino.


  • Norton B. Stern, “Mission to San Bernardino in 1879,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 10/3.