On the Other Side of the Bridge: Jews, Wine, and Wine Country

Leave a comment
German-Jewish Winemaker Hans Kornell  in Sonoma

German-Jewish Winemaker Hans Kornell (second from left) in Sonoma, 1956.

The Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley has graciously shared some personal and archival photos from their collection with us. What’s exciting about these photos are their ability to illuminate and bring to life a relatively-little known subject — Jewish involvement in the Napa and Sonoma wine industry.

As the story goes, Jews initially moved to Napa, when it was first settled, during the middle decades of the 19th Century. Life was rough for these early settlers. As Donna Mendelsohn of the Napa Valley Jewish Historical Society explained to the JWeekly in 2012, “There were no roads, no hospitals, no services, no schools for the most part. You had to be a pioneer to be in this area. It was bucolic and beautiful but in a primitive way.”

Within a few decades, Jews became involved with the local wine industry. Why the wine industry? Wine had been an important part of the Jewish experience for centuries and Jewish newcomers to the area, like Friedrich “Fritz” Rosenbaum and Abe Lochman, had a basic understanding of wine.  Continue reading

BarBatBay: A Bar and Bat Mitzvah Crowdsourcing Project

Leave a comment
S&R image 2

Photo attributions from left to right: “Carl Lender’s Bar Mitzvah” (Carl Lender, Flickr);”Bar Mitzvah Boy” (Coleman Family Collection); The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life); “Carl Lender’s Bar Mitzvah” (Carl Lender, Flickr); “Happy at the Bar Mitzvah” (A. Davey, Flickr);  ”Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy” (Saturday Night Live); (Julia’s Bat Mitzvah” (Rachel Zach, Flickr) “The assembled guests celebrate the bar mitzvah of Arthur Feldman” (Ira Nowinski; Stanford University Libraries); “The Bar Mitzvah Dinner” (A Davey, Flickr); “Arthur Feldman at his bar mitzvah” (Ira Nowinski; Stanford University Libraries)


From reading the Torah and dancing the Hora to uncomfortable slow dances and oversized suits, bar and bat mitzvahs are filled with an array of memories and a healthy dose nostalgia. Filled with pride, embarrassment, and excitement , these experiences help  to define what it means to “become an adult” in the Jewish tradition. Sourdough & Rye’s BarBatBay project seeks to collect and feature photos and stories from Bay Area bar and bat mitzvahs past.  Whether it was a spiritual, serious, comical, or absurd affair, Sourdough & Rye wants you to share your bar and bat mitzvah-related photos and stories with us here. And feel free to email Max with any questions.

Ngraming Bay Area Jewish History

Leave a comment

You  might be familiar with the Google Ngram Viewer – its an graphing tool that charts the popularity of words and phrases over time. The information/data for Ngram charts comes from the Google Books corpus and searches through over 5 million books.  For history aficionados, the Ngram Viewer is easy to use and a tremendous resource for intense historical research and a leisurely Sunday afternoon activity. 

Given our Bay Area Jewish history focus, we decided to use the Ngram Viewer to look up certain people, locations, and phrases related to Sourdough & Rye to  trace the frequency of these terms

Here are some of our favorites:


Continue reading

Hebrew Free Loan: The Original Microlender

Menachem Cohen, was one of the original founders of Hebrew Free Loan

Menachem Cohen was one of the original founders of Hebrew Free Loan back in 1897

A few months ago I was invited by the Hebrew Free Loan Association of San Francisco to visit their office near the San Francisco Ferry Building and check out some of their old photos.  What I found was a treasure trove of rich photographs, brochures, ledgers, bulletins, and other documents that help to shed light on the development of the San Francisco Jewish community.

The story of Hebrew Free Loan begins in 1897, when nine established Jewish San Francisco residents decided they wanted to provide recent Jewish immigrants with financial assistance and support by way of interest-free loans. Loans, they believed, would help individuals from the community become and remain self-sufficient.   Most of the early loans went to Jews living in the South of Market District who were trying to make a modest living as peddlers, tailors, and pushcarters.

What stands out about Hebrew Free Loan is its ability to address and meet and an evolving set of communal needs for over a century. Its accomplishments include extending aid to the victims of the 1906 earthquake, lending out loans during the height of the Great Depression,  providing loans for refugees from Nazi Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, and assisting Russian newcomers during the 1980s and 1990s.

Continue reading

Why Is This Campsite Different from All Other Campsites?: A Yosemite Passover Story

Leave a comment


The Harris Family in Yosemite

The Harris Family in Yosemite

Prepared or not, Passover is only two weeks away. And so, we have taken this opportunity to tell you a bit about 19th Century Passover celebrations in the Yosemite Valley. This story was told to us a few months ago by Sue Morris of Tiburon and is about her husband’s great-grandparents, Aaron and Lena Harris.

Like many other Jews in 19th Century San Francisco, Lena and Aaron Harris were born in Germany and moved to San Francisco during the middle of the century.  They married in San Francisco and eventually made their way to the gold country, where Aaron worked as shopkeeper.

Continue reading

San Francisco Purim Costumes of Yesteryears

Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 1.10.47 PM


Need an idea for a Purim costume? Check out Sourdough & Rye’s Purim-related slideshow.

With the holiday of Purim right around the corner, we figured this would be the opportune time to highlight and showcase some Purim photos and costumes we have collected these past few months.  These vintage photos come from San Francisco’s Congregation Beth Sholom during the late 1950s and early 1960s. We should give credit to Beth Sholom’s congregants for their imaginative and well-designed costumes though our favorite is probably the classic Esther and Mordecai duo.

Please let us know if you have any additional information about these select photos; we would love to put a name to a face and a costume.   And feel free to share your own Purim related photos with us on Sourdough & Rye.

Celebrate the Sourdough & Rye Launch

Leave a comment

S&R Invite copy

We are excited to announce the Sourdough & Rye launch party on February 20th from 7:00-9:00 pm at the Haas-Lilienthal House in Pacific Heights. Please join us for what is sure to be a memorable evening. The event will include local storytellers, Cyrus Noble cocktails, Local Mission Market bites, and tours of the Victorian-era house.

Tickets, which are available on Eventbrite, are $10.00. And please check out our photos related to the history of Haas-Lilienthal House on Historypin.

The Life and Times of Seymour Fromer

Seymour Fromer and an Admirer

Seymour Fromer (left) and an admirer

Sourdough & Rye is teaming up with filmmaker Bill Chayes and historian Ava F. Kahn in an effort to collect photos, stories, and videos related to Seymour Fromer, the founder and former director of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley.

This content will be used for Chayes and Kahn’s upcoming film, The New Jewish: The Fromers, ’60s Berkeley and Beyond, which looks to document the life of Seymour Fromer and Jewish Berkeley in the wake of the 1960s. The film will tell of Fromer’s dreams, accomplishments, and the people he motivated; it will also explore how Fromer helped to reinvigorated Jewish identity in modern America.

Berkeley was a hotbed of reinvention and innovation during the 1960s with an emerging freethinking culture that stimulated new ways of understanding politics, social relationships, and the arts. According to Chayes and Kahn, “this environment gave voice to new ways of expressing Jewish identity and creativity. It was Seymour Fromer’s vision and leadership that helped drive these momentous changes in Jewish life in the 1960’s through the 1990′s.” Continue reading

Lenny Bruce’s San Francisco

Leave a comment
Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 1.40.04 PM

Lenny Bruce (right) in court with his attorney Albert Bendich (left)

Lenny Bruce might be considered there premiere New York Jewish comedian and social critic of the late 1950s and 1960s but the story of Lenny Bruce is intimately tied up with San Francisco. and the beatnik heyday of North Beach. As the Northside San Francisco Magazine explains, “Back then, North Beach had a loopy, funky edge to it. The night people were really night people, not visitors looking for a San Francisco thrill. Bruce was a genuine night person. He played Anne’s 440 Club on Broadway and later Enrico Banducci’s hungry i, where he had great success. ”

Indeed, its in North Beach that Bruce and his volatile and controversial comedic act first ran into legal trouble. On October 4, 1961, Bruce was arrested for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop. Continue reading

Remembering Moishe’s Pippic

Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 10.08.47 AM


The latest issue of Jweekly carried some sad news: Moishe’s Pippic, Chicago-style Jewish deli in the heart of Hayes Valley, closed down on November 30th. After 26 years in business, the owner of Moishe’s Pippic, Joe Sattler, decided it was time to shut down the doors to his restaurant and retire.

Originally opened in 1987, this neighborhood staple was known for its traditional deli fare: chopped liver, matzah ball soup, hotdogs, as well as pastrami and corn beef sandwiches.  But  it wasn’t just a place for food. As Sattler told the Jweekly, “the people, they made this a homey place… it was not just a deli, but more of a gathering place.

We are hoping to capture what this delicious delicatessen meant to San Francisco. If you have any stories, photos, videos, or audio clips about Moishe’s Pippic, please share them on Sourdough & Rye.