In 2007, the Magnes and the Labyrinth Project jointly received a generous grant from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund in support of Jews in the Golden State, a project aiming at the creation of an online digital portal providing an unprecedented view on the history of the Jews in California since the Gold Rush.
The Labyrinth Project, a unit of the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, offered its exceptional expertise in creating stunning visual installations blending historical narratives and interactive experience. The Magnes gave full access to the resources its unique Western Jewish Americana archives, viewed through a four-decade-old expertise in the preservation and interpretation of California's Jewish history. The Magnes and the Labyrinth Project had already collaborated in the past, when the exhibition Danube Exodus was installed in Berkeley.
The grant enabled the Magnes to create and implement the architecture of its digital programs, which resulted in the digitization of thousands of archival documents, photographs and objects from its collections, and in their online distribution across a network of social media, thanks to a dedicated platform.
The grant also enabled Labyrinth Project to create the prototype of a new portal, Jewish Homegrown History, which incorporates assets and knowledge from the Magnes archives.
Homegrown History, directed by Professor Marsha Kinder (USC), Executive Director of the Labyrinth Project, and co-directed by Rosemary Comella (USC), Creative Director of the Labyrinth Project, Professor William Deverell (USC), Director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, and Dr. Francesco Spagnolo, Director of Research and Collections at the Magnes, is still being developed, and The Magnes continues to add its resources.
The digital programs created by the Magnes for Jewish Homegrown History are listed below.
Cantor Reuben H. Rinder (1887-1966) was one of the most influential figures in 20th-century Jewish musical culture.
During his 50-year tenure as cantor of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, California, Reuben Rinder commissioned works from world-renown composers, including Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud, Paul Ben-Haim and Marc Lavry, and helped launching the career of violinists Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern.
Bassya (Maltzer) Bibel (1908-1980) was a poet, author, secretary, and an actress. She arrived to San Francisco in 1921 from Kopaygorod, Podolia (Kopayhorod in modern Ukraine). After settling in the city, she became very involved with a San Francisco Yiddish dramatic group. Bassya Bibel authored several volumes of poetry, including In Hours of Silence (1969), Fleeting Moments (1970), Passing Shadows (1974), and A Net of Black Clouds (1977).
Elizabeth Lilienthal Gerstley's Christmas Parties album contains 201 photographs taken inside the Haas Lilienthal House at 2007 Franklin Street, San Francisco, between 1954 and 1971. These images portray members of the Haas, Lilienthal, Bransten and Gerstley families and their guests during their annual Christmas celebrations, and depict their gatherings and the interiors of the Haas Lilienthal House in vivid detail.
San Francisco's Congregation Sherith Israel was founded in 1851, the same year as the city's other leading Jewish congregation, Emanu-El. Its first buildings were on Stockton Street and then Post and Taylor Streets. The congregation finally settled on Webster St., where the synagogue was used as a courthouse after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. During that time, Abe Ruef's corruption trial took place in the building, as it was one of the few buildings of its size that survived the calamity with very little damage.
Jewish roots in China can be traced from the 9th century when Jewish merchants thought to be from Persia reached China by way of the Silk Road, and settled in Kaifeng. These Jews remained secluded for hundreds of years, eventually integrating into Chinese society.
For some 40 years Professor Gerald (Gerry) Berreman of UC Berkeley pursued a longitudinal study of social inequality (caste, gender, class) and environment in their historical context in a Garhwal village (Sirkanda) and its region.
The Jewish Music Festival started in Berkeley, California, in 1986 as a one-day event produced and hosted by the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay (formerly the Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center). Its programs have included performances, lectures and workshops devoted to instrumental music, song and dance inspired by the musical traditions of the global Jewish Diaspora.
Founded in 1853, the Sonora Hebrew Cemetery was the first cemetery in the Gold Rush Region. The first burial dates from 1853, and the last was in 1977. On January 13, 1974, it was rededicated as a historic site.
On February 22, 1956, the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California, was filled by a crowd of opera-goers, rushing to attend the American premiere of Darius Milhaud's opera, David.
Raphael Weill was a pioneer San Francisco merchant who emigrated from France and arrived in San Francisco in 1855. Within three years, he had become a partner of the J. W. Davidson Dry Goods Store. By 1885, the Davidson Dry Goods Store became Raphael Weill and Company, and the store became known as the White House.
Rosalie Meyer Stern was a civic and social leader of San Francisco.
Darius Milhaud was born in France and immigrated to the U.S. in 1940. He was then a professor at Mills College, in Oakland, Calif., from 1940 to 1971. His opera, David, premiered at La Scala in Milan in 1955. In 1956, Jack Amidor and Seymour Fromer produced the American premiere at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, thanks to the fundraising efforts of The Festival of Faith and Freedom Committee of the American Association for Jewish Education.
The Development Corporation for Israel (Israel Bonds) was founded in 1951 to raise money from the American public for the fledgling Israeli state, which, at the time, was struggling to build an infrastructure and economy to support its growing population. The first Israel Bonds sales drive was launched in New York by David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister. Ben-Gurion's coast to coast tour of the United States would raise 52.6 million dollars by the end of 1951.
Prepared by Risa Elkind Nye from family documents.