Western Jewish Americana

In 1967, the Judah L. Magnes Museum established its Western Jewish History Center, which was the first regional Jewish history center in the U.S., and remains the largest archive of this kind in the Western United States. The holdings of the Western Jewish History Center evolved into the Western Jewish Americana Archives, which center on the history of Jewish immigration and community engagement in the San Francisco Bay Area and the thirteen Western states since the Gold Rush. 

The holdings of the Western Jewish Americana Archives are unique, as they combine two fields of research that have often been investigated in separate ways: the history of the American Jewish experience and the history of California and the American West. 

Descriptions and finding aids for the collections of the Western Jewish Americana Archives are available in this website, as highlighted by the entries that appear in this page. These collection descriptions may be browsed by Creator name. Individuals and family creators are listed by last name (for example: Kahn, Julius or Lilienthal family).  Institutional creators are listed by full name (for example: Eureka Benevolent Society or Jewish Council of 1933).  Congregational records are listed under the proper name of the Congregation (for example: Emanu-El or Beth Israel).  

The archival collections are also integrated with the Museum and Library holdings, and the broader cultural context resulting from this integration can be reconstructed by searching our online database

To go directly to a specific entry, click on the "show more" button at the bottom of this page. To search for a name or term that may not be included in a collection's title, use the search box at the top of this page, or go to the advanced search page. 

UPDATE: Western Jewish Americana Collections Available to the Public at The Bancroft Library

The collections from the Western Jewish Americana archives of The Magnes are now available to researchers, and can be accessed in the reading room of the Bancroft Library. 

Collections listed below are (or will soon be) open to researchers. Check the record for each collection for availability status.

Many of these collections are stored off-site and must be requested a few days ahead of your visit to the Bancroft Library. Please check UC Berkeley's Library Catalog, OskiCat, for each collection for locations and details on access. 

You can request information about these materials by contacting The Bancroft Library

To go directly to a specific entry, begin typing a name (e.g. "Haas," "Jewish Community Center," or "Emanu-El") in the filter box below. To search for a name or term that may not be included in a collection's title, use the search box at the top of this page, or go to the advanced search page.

Aaron (Bella H.) papers, ca. 1890s-1996

Bella Hurst (Herscovich) Aaron was born in Canada and immigrated to Utah via Montana as a young child. She grew up in Ogden, Utah, the eldest daughter of eight children. Her elder brother, Morris, died at the age of ten. Her parents Clara and David Herscovich emigrated from Romania to Canada. Bella received a teaching credential from Weber College in Ogden, Utah in 1929 and a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah. In 1934 she moved to San Francisco, Calif., and entered San Francisco Law School in 1939. She received her degree and was admitted to the state bar in 1942.

Abals (Rahle) letter, 1858.

Rahle Abals settled in California shortly after the Gold Rush.

Collection consists of a letter that Rahle [Pahle?] Abals sent to his brother-in-law, Isidore, from Stockton, California in 1858. Rahle congratulates Isidore on his recent marriage and provides news about businesses in San Francisco, Mokelumne Hill, and Stockton. The original letter is in Yiddish. An English translation is included.

Altman (Hal) papers, 1958-1961

Hal Altman was active in public relations in Sacramento and interested in promoting awareness of California Jewish history; served on the board of the Northern California Region of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; played a leading role in the founding of the Judah L. Magnes Museum's Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks of the Magnes Museum; and was a member of both the Sacramento Historic Landmarks Commission and the California History Foundation.

Annual Report of Israel's Missionary Society of San Francisco, California, 1912

Israel's Missionary Society of San Francisco, founded circa 1910, was a women' s organization consisting of local Christian women interested in performing missionary work in the local Jewish population. The organization was founded by Jeanette Gedalius, who is described in the 1910 Annual Report of the American Bible Society as a "converted, consecrated Jewish worker" (175). Gedalius was born in Prussia, converted to Christianity at an early age, and immigrated to the United States.

Baumann-Muhlfelder family papers, 1858-1935

Julius Baumann was born in Germany and arrived in the U.S. in time to volunteer for service in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. He enlisted under the name of John Bowman and served in the West Gulf Squadron. He received his American citizenship papers in 1868, married Henriette Ballin, who had emigrated from Germany with members of her family, and settld in the American Midwest and East. He owned and operated a highly successful women's shirtwaist factory and died in 1916. Julius's daughter Doretta was a debutante who attended secretarial school and married milliner Samuel Muhlfelder.

Bazaar (Mona) papers, undated.

Mona Bazaar (May 22, 1904 - March 7, 1992) was the author of several self-published books: Exotic Recipes for a World Without War (1963); Free Huey: Or the Sky's the Limit (1968); The Trial of Huey Newton; Selected Articles and Statements (1968); Black Fury: Police Brutality, White Racism (1968); The End of Silence (editor) (1970); and Cookbook in Solidarity with the Symbionese Liberation Army (date unknown).

Behrend (Julius) family papers and photographs, 1884-2006

Julius Francis Behrend (b. in Hamburg, Germany, 2 Aug. 1863; d. in San Francisco, June 1954) immigrated to New York in 1879 and moved to Arkansas City, Kansas in 1884, where he operated a clothing store. While in Kansas, Behrend became a Freemason and joined the Order of the Eastern Star, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and the Grand Commandery (i.e., Knights Templar), as well as the Knights of Pythias. On 3 Nov. 1884, he became an American citizen. In 1884, Behrend apparently met Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce on the Ponca reservation in what would become Oklahoma.

Bibel (Bassya and Philip) papers, 1813-1999

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).

Boris David Bogen family papers and photographs, 1895-1940

Boris Bogen was a social and Jewish communal worker as well as an editor and author. He was born in Moscow and immigrated to the U.S. in 1888. For a time, he worked as an instructor at the Baron de Hirsch Trade School and at the Hebrew Technical Institute. Eventually, he became a superintendent of the Baron de Hirsch Agricultural School, in Woodbine, N.J. He was also an international secretary of B'nai B'rith and a director of the United Jewish Charities in Cincinnati.