Bernard Weil: Pioneer Jewish Merchant of Modesto, California

Bernard Weil

Values Codes I – E – L


“Among the German Jews who contributed so much to the moral and material strength of California, Bernard Weil occupies an important position.  Especially in Modesto and throughout the San Joaquin Valley was he known as a high-minded business man and a citizen of sterling worth.”

– Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916


Bernard Weil of Stockton & Modesto

Bernard Weil of Stockton & Modesto

Bernard Weil was born in Buckau, Germany.

He was educated in Frankfort and Paris.


Along the way

In 1866, Bernard Weil came to America, settling in Cairo, Illinois and, later, Chicago.

In 1870, after the Great Chicago Fire, Weil helped with the reconstruction of the city.



In 1878, Bernard Weil headed west to Stockton.

In 1880, he established a general merchandise firm in Modesto known as B. Weil & Sons.

He retired from his business in 1900, turning his business over to his sons.

Modesto Main Street, 1890's, Vintage Postcard

Modesto Main Street, 1890’s, vintage postcard


Bernard Weil was an active and lifelong Democrat.



Weil was a member of Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco.

He was a generous giver to Jewish charities.



Bernard Weil was a member of the International Order of B’nai B’rith and the Knights of Phythias.



Bernard Weil married Fanny Pareira in 1871.

Together they had 3 sons: Charles, Jack, and Julius.

Because of his personal experience with the Great Chicago Fire, Weil was deeply affected by the devastation of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake-Fire.

He died in 1908.


  •  Martin A. Meyer, The Jews of San Francisco (San Francisco: Emanu-El, 1916).

Samantha Silver is curator of this Bernard Weil exhibit.


Jews in the News

   About this Time

Merced, California and the San Joaquin Valley — 1895

For a town the size of Merced, considering the yet limited number of Jews scattered in the country towns of this Coast, our coreligionists are fairly well represented. Among our inhabitants of about three thousand are included fourteen or fifteen Jewish families, representing between fifty and sixty souls.

While our co-religionists in this country in general, and on this Coast in particular, are rather indifferent about Judaism, Unsere Leut in Merced are by no means an exception to this rule; yet to their credit I must say they are perhaps a little better than the rest.

For instance: although there are many larger towns between Stockton and Los Angeles in the San Joaquin Valley, and some containing double and perhaps a quadruple number of Jewish inhabitants, yet Merced is the only town that has a Jewish cemetery within that long stretch of country. The Order of B’nai B’rith is also represented by a lodge here for years already, and I have often wondered why it is that Yosemite Lodge, No. 231, I.O.B.B., of Merced, remains so long without a companion in the interior of the San Joaquin Valley.

We have no organized Jewish congregation here, but as a nucleus for one in the near future we own a Sepher Torah, a Shofar, and also a Megillah. These religious paraphernalia, I am proud to say, were sent out here from Germany by my late venerable father several years ago.

Every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we have religious services according to a somewhat modified orthodox minhag, Mr, S. Silver, an old resident here, who has always taken a lively interest in the cause of Judaism, officiates very ably as reader, assisted by some of the equally competent members, and our services are generally very decorous and impressive, as well as edifying to both young and old.

            — Emanu-El, San Francisco, November 22, 1895 (WSJH 5/1).