Temple Beth Isreal, Synagogue


Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community

Exhibition chronicling the history of the Jewish community in San Diego

March 2017 – January 2018


San Diego’s Jewish pioneers arrived with statehood in 1850 looking for adventure, good weather, better health, and, above all, the opportunity to make the American dream their own. Many who arrived in San Diego were responsible for shaping the early town, building theaters, owning vast tracts of land, engaging in civic service, and participating in politics.

These early Jewish pioneers were not only pioneers in San Diego, but pioneers in a new country as well. As the 19th century drew to a close, more and more Jews were arriving on American shores seeking a better life for themselves and in doing so, made life better for the communities they settled in.

In the early 20th century, San Diego’s Jewish community faced obstacles to greater community involvement as restrictive covenants (race restrictions) were attached to particular neighborhood subdivisions like La Jolla, pushing those who helped to fund and build San Diego out of particular locations. But by 1963, Jonas Salk, a Jewish medical researcher and virologist, established the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, (designed by Jewish architect, Louis I. Kahn) and with the completion of UCSD—a school intending to specialize in the intersection between biology and technology—the restrictions were ended as Jewish scientists were some of the top in their fields.

Today, San Diego’s Jewish community thrives and is different than other Jewish populations in other parts of the state and country given that 19% of San Diego County’s Jewish population was born outside the United States, mainly Mexico.

Be sure to visit Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community and understand the struggles, triumphs, contributions, and legacy of San Diego’s Jewish community.


Thank you To Our Sponsors

Cushman Foundation

Carleton Management

Foster Family Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation


Details emerge on upcoming San Diego Jewish exhibition by Donald H. Harrison, San Diego Jewish World 

Ways You Can Get Involved

Help us tell the story of the vivid history of San Diego’s Jewish community!

The San Diego History Center relies on support from the community to tell the diverse story of our region, educate and enrich our community, and preserve our history for generations to come. If you would like to donate to the San Diego History Center in support of the exhibition Celebrate San Diego: History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community (which cumulatively includes: Makers of San Diego History Gala, the Jewish San Diego documentary), or additional information on support, please contact Chief Development Officer Lisa Culver (619) 232-6203 x148.

SHOW US YOUR SHAYNE PUNIM! We are collecting….photos of YOUR JEWISH FAMILY. We are recreating a typical family room setting in this exhibition and would like to fill the walls with photographs and images that depict Jewish San Diegans. images of local Jewish life like:

  1. Family occasions: graduations, holiday celebrations, life-cycle events
  2. Day-to-day life (playing at the beach or hiking)
  3. Family portraits
  4. Jewish landmarks in San Diego

If you would like to participate and submit your photograph(s) for consideration in the upcoming exhibition, please submit a photo here.


Volunteers play an integral role in fulfilling the San Diego History Center’s mission. Through their contributions of time, talents, and energy, volunteers provide support to all aspects of the organization’s operations and bring to life the history of San Diego for thousands of visitors each year.

We are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join our team! Connect with like-minded individuals and meet new people, gain knowledge, and help tell the story of our community.

The History is always in need of volunteers to work as Gallery Guides, Docents, Public Program Assistants, and Community Historians interpreting the history of San Diego for our visitors. To find out more about the opportunities available during the run of Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community, visit our Volunteer webpage.

If you are interested in volunteering, please complete a Volunteer Application or contact Alison Hendrickson, Visitor & Volunteer Engagement Manager – ahendrickson@sandiegohistory.org, 619-232-6203 x163.

1. Are you an adult group interested in a tour? Submit a tour reservation request and write “Jewish exhibition” in the comments.

2. Do you have a group students interested in one of our K-12 programs? Check out 2016-2017 Education Programs Brochure and submit an education program request.

JEWISH CULTURE, THEN AND NOW This program uses the artifacts, photos, and other primary sources found in our Jewish history exhibit to guide young learners through an exploration of Jewish culture here in San Diego. Students will discover answers to questions about Jewish life. How did the life of Jews in San Diego differ from the life of Jews in other parts of the country? What aspects of Jewish culture were the hardest to maintain here in San Diego? (Grade Level: K-2)
SHALOM, SAN DIEGO! What kinds of unique challenges did Jewish settlers face in California? How did they make their mark? Discover the answers to these questions and more as you experience a guided exploration of the artifacts, photographs, and other primary sources found in our Jewish history exhibit. (Grade Level: Upper Elementary, Middle, High)

3. Can’t visit the History Center? Schedule a Community Historian to visit and speak to your group!

Check back on this site regularly to see the slate of wonderful programs we are developing for Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of the Jewish Community.

Makers of San Diego History is our annual gala honoring the people, businesses, communities, that have made history in their own time in San Diego. This year we honor San Diego’s Jewish community. Be a part of this epic celebration in a number of ways:

  1. DONATE – Make a financial contribution to this event and sponsor part of the evening!
  2. JOIN A COMMITTEE – We have several areas where we would appreciate some assistance. Please contact Lisa Culver, Chief Development Office for more information: (619) 232-6203 x 148 or lculver@sandiegohistory.org