With a Yiddish Accent: East European Jewish Neighborhoods

Fred Rosenbaum

in Cosmopolitans

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780520259133
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945029 | DOI:
With a Yiddish Accent: East European Jewish Neighborhoods

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Visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area often note the lack of a Jewish neighborhood similar to Los Angeles's Fairfax District or Chicago's Devon Avenue. But in earlier days there were four traditional Jewish areas: South of Market, the San Bruno Avenue area, Fillmore-McAllister, and West Oakland. There was also a rural Jewish colony composed of chicken farmers in Petaluma. These communities were filled with East European Jews—not the half Germans from Prussian Poland who had arrived in the decades after the Gold Rush, but Yiddish-speaking immigrants mostly from Russia, Austria-Hungary, or Rumania. In addition to housing a high concentration of Jews, the urban enclaves were home to synagogues and minyanim (worship groups that met in private homes), kosher butchers and bakeries, mutual aid societies, and Hebrew schools. Orthodox abounded, but there were also socialists, communists, Yiddishists, and Zionists. These Jewish neighborhoods added up to something greater than the sum of their parts, and children in these areas—whether they felt nurtured or smothered—grew up with a keen sense of Jewish identity.

Keywords: San Francisco Bay Area; East European Jews; immigrants; synagogues; minyanim; Yiddishists; Jewish neighborhoods; Jewish identity; South of Market; Fillmore-McAllister

Chapter.  14933 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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