San Francisco Exhibition Hall

San Francisco Exhibit Halls

1. Early Pioneer Jews of San Francisco/Bay Area

2. Early Jewish Organizations of San Francisco/Bay Area

3. Special San Francisco Exhibits

Jews in Yerba Buena

The first Jews arrived in San Francisco, then known as Yerba Buena, in the mid-1840’s.

By the end of the decade of the 1840’s, Jewish Pioneers were making large contributions to the growth of the community.

In 1847, the settlement’s name was officially changed to San Franciscoand became part of the United States the following year.

Artist's View of San Francisco Bay, 1949 Postcard

Artist’s view of San Francisco Bay, 1849, vintage postcard

Gold Rush

In 1849, the California Gold Rush began 140 miles to the East in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A quarter of million or more 49ers poured through San Francisco and headed for the gold fields. They all had to be supplied with food and living essentials. Jewish Pioneers were in the forefront of solving the problem of supplying the 49ers.

1849 recorded the first “Jewish” meeting of roughly 30 Jews for a Rosh Hashanah service in a tent – followed by an even larger group on Yom Kippur.

Groundwork for a synagogue began in 1851. Being “typically Jewish,” they soon split and two synagogues began, which are still operating today: Congregation Emanu-El and Congregation Sherith Israel.

Golden Gate at Sunset in 1860's Postcard

Golden Gate at Sunset in 1860’s, vintage postcard

Roughly 3,000 Jews resided in the San Francisco area by the mid-1850’s.

In the next decades, Jews were estimated to be 7% of San Francisco’s population. By the 1870 Census, the Jewish population in San Francisco was over 10% — at a time when Jews comprised less than 1% of the country’s population.

The busy peirs of San Francisco, circa 1899, #WSPostacrd Collection

The busy piers of San Francisco, c. 1899, WSJH Postcard Collection