As part of the SCJS conference held in San Diego last August we conducted a walking tour of Jewish Old Town San Diego The tour which included both Ohr Shalom Synagogue members and conference attendees started at Old Temple Beth Israel Completed in 1889 it is one of the oldest existing synagogue structures in the American West and one of the two oldest in California Jews have been in San Diego since the early 1850’s and we talked about their social habits business ventures and involvement in the community The talk walk and lunch afterwards were well received More information about San Diego’s pioneer Jews can be found in our book “Old Town New Town An Enjoyment of San Diego Jewish History” which is available through our website wwwschwartzjudaicacom All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the Jewish Historical Society of San Diego

We really can’t say for sure if there were any CryptoJews or even Sephardic Jews in early San Diego However there is a good possibility that some of the soldiers or even priests who came with Father Junipero Serra in 1769 when he founded the first California mission here might have been CryptoJews As far as we know no research has been done on this topic

Occasionally at various local history events we meet people with “suspect” names and backgrounds such as Carvajal Orozco Diaz When they hear that we’re from the Jewish Historical Society they often ask us how they can research their family history since they had heard there might have been Jews in the family tree There is also a society here called Los Californios all of whom trace their heritage back to colonial times One of the members told us that a few of them have Jewish roots as well Yes there is much work to be done here in San Diego

We are members of the Jewish Historical Society of San Diego Besides our avocation as historians our vocation is selling Jewish books and we sometimes get similar inquiries about crypto Judaism from our customers We are often the first contact for people seeking to enter the Jewish community In searching for information about their possible heritage they look for books on genealogy basic Judaism the history of the countries of their ancestors’ origin and on the Inquisition

Though our personal family trees go straight back to Russia and Poland we feel a kinship to the Sephardim and we are happy to share in their rich heritage

Schwartz Judaica specializes in outofprint and used Jewish books and antiquarian Judaica Its website can be seen at: http://wwwschwartzjudaicacom