California Jews

Edited by Ava F. Kahn and Marc Dollinger

The nation’s thirty-first state emerged early as one of its most diverse as people immigrated to the west. California’s indigenous tribes were forced off their lands first by Spanish settlers, then by the arrival of gold miners from every corner of the world. Because of its Catholic missionary history, Gold Rush California did not experience a more exclusive eastern-style Protestantism. This permitted more rapid and inclusive acculturation. California Jews, unlike their eastern counterparts whose arrival often followed that of European Protestants, were often among the first settlers to establish a west coast community. Jewish immigrants to California took advantage of its physical environment, ethnic diversity, and cultural distinctiveness to fashion a form of Judaism unique in the American experience. California Jews enjoyed unprecedented access to political power a generation earlier than their New York counterparts. They thrived in the multicultural mix, redefining the classic black-white racial binary by forging relations with a variety of religious and ethnic groups in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Paper: $35
ISBN-13: 9781611682199
Pages: 232 | Size: 8.5 in. x 11 in.
Date Published: August 1, 2003

“California Judaism is as sound as it is spirited. California Jews is the book to convince you; try it!”

Jewish Book World


  • All in all, this excellent book helps us achieve a broader perspective on Jews in California. The black-and-white and color photographs help make the book even better. It is highly recommended, even for those not specifically concerned about California.

    MultiCultural Review
  • The book covers Jews in the Gold Rush, behind-the-scenes Jewish influence on Hollywood during the 1930s, and the success of Jewish women in politics, among other issues that add considerably to our understanding of the complex history of ethnic California.

    California History
  • The color illustrations are glorious; the large photos and reprints of documents are clear and engrossing . . . Each chapter is a self contained topic, chapters advancing chronologically from the 1848 Gold Rush to the 1990's. Readers can pick and choose subjects and be assured when they do that they will be well informed by digestible facts, insightful analysis, sources and footnotes . . . California Judaism is as sound as it is spirited. California Jews is the book to convince you; try it!

    Jewish Book World
  • California Jews offers a window into one of the most intriguing communities in American Jewish history.

    Jewish Telegraphic Agency
  • California Jews is a presentation of Jewish life, history, and culture in California that explores relations with other ethnic groups, social change, innovations, demography, and community history.


About the Author

Ava F. Kahn

Ava F. Kahn holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She moved to the Bay Area to accept an appointment as Research Associate at the Western Jewish History Center of the Judah L. Magnes Museum. At the Magnes she edited, Birth of a Community: Jews and the Gold Rush—A Teacher’s Resource Guide, and authored the accompanying video (with the same title). Since leaving the Magnes, Kahn has continued to teach and publish as well as serve as a …

Marc Dollinger

Marc Dollinger teaches at San Francisco State University and is the author of Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America.

Table Of Contents