This Jewish American Heritage Month, we invite you to join us in celebrating the Jewish community in the San Diego region, and especially, the significance of Louis Rose to Old Town San Diego.

One of San Diego’s earliest Jewish settlers included German-born immigrant, Louis Rose. After a long trip across the Atlantic to the United States, Rose found himself in New Orleans, then San Antonio. After the thrilling news came of California’s Gold Rush, Rose decided to end his fruitless business ventures in Texas and move to California. Rose soon found himself in San Diego by 1850, as it reminded him of his hometown in Neuhaus-an-der-Oste, Germany—a water port city. Not only did San Diego bear a resemblance to his hometown in Germany, but Rose was also aware that being so close to the ocean would encourage commercial and domestic trade.

Once settled in the area now known as “Old Town” San Diego, Louis Rose became a very successful businessman and investor. Little did he know that within three years, the State Legislature would elect him and his close friend, James Robinson, to the Board of Trustees after the city accrued exorbitant amounts of debt. (The park’s visitor center is housed in a reconstruction of their building: the Robinson-Rose Visitor Center.) Louis Rose was also the first Jewish settler to become a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. As historian Donald H. Harrison explains, “It is fair to say that right from the beginning of the American period in San Diego [in 1853], Jews were active in its civic life.”

Although Louis Rose was perhaps one of the most prominent Jewish settlers in Old Town, he certainly wasn’t the only one. Another successful Jewish businessman and German immigrant named Joseph Mannasse was serving as a station master for Wells Fargo. Mannasse also held a position on the city Board of Trustees just as Rose had, and his cousin, Moses Mannasse, even introduced the first Torah to the town. Another Jewish man, Lewis Franklin (an English immigrant), made his mark on Old Town by constructing the three-story Franklin House—the town’s “only three story building, as well as its foremost hotel” according to the San Diego History Center. Franklin held San Diego’s first official High Holiday services in 1851, which included Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Fellow Jewish settlers Charles Fletcher and Jacobs Marks, participated in this service.

Along with the many Jewish men who made names for themselves in San Diego, Jewish women also made their marks. Hannah Mannasse (Joseph Mannasse’s wife) held a prestigious place in the region. She was a landowner in Roseville, an area named after Louis Rose, now part of Point Loma. She owned her own herd of cattle, something that was uncommon for a woman at the time. She intentionally acquired these assets on her own (not through inheritance) in order to assert her financial independence. Hannah Mannasse had even gone to court to ensure her assets would be considered separate from her husband’s.

The growing Jewish population became so well established in Old Town that numerous businesses were operated and owned by Jewish entrepreneurs. The now concrete walkway between Fiesta de Reyes and the Casa de Bandini was known as “Calle Judeo” or “Jewish Street” during the 1850s and 1860s because of the numerous Jewish merchants who established businesses there. By the 1860s, the Jewish population of San Diego was estimated to be around 10 percent, although some suggest the number may have been higher.

In 1861, a group of about 16 Jewish men met to create Adath Yeshurun (Gathering of the Faithful) under the leadership of Marcus Schiller. It was a congregation without a physical home until the High Holy Days of 1889, when the Temple that today stands in nearby Heritage Park was dedicated. At that time, the congregation, with Schiller still serving as president, renamed itself as Beth Israel (House of Israel). In the early 20th century, an influx of Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe came to San Diego. For a while they prayed as a separate minyan within Beth Israel, but in 1905 they decided to form their own congregation, which became known as Tifereth Israel Synagogue. After World War II, Tifereth Israel affiliated with the Conservative movement. At approximately the same time, Beth Jacob Congregation switched from the Conservative movement to the Orthodox movement.

As part of our commemoration of Jewish American Heritage Month, we invite you to learn more about the Jewish settlers that decided to call Old Town San Diego home, and the significant sites that still remain part of the historic landscape of the park. Mazel tov!

A Note of Thanks

While we are extremely grateful for all of the historians and others who have dedicated their time creating these valuable resources, we would like to extend our personal thanks to historian Donald H. Harrison. As you may have noticed, much of our source material came from his works. If you’d like to learn more about his work, please visit the San Diego Jewish World website.

Special thanks, also, to San Diego State University Intern Benjamin Khamis for helping create this virtual event in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month!

The Robinson Rose Story with Historian Donald Harrison

The Courthouse Story with Historian Donald Harrison: Jewish American Heritage Month

Resources for Further Exploration

Interested in learning more about the significant roles Jewish settlers played in Old Town’s history? While this list of resources is in no way comprehensive, it is a great place to get started.

Old Town San Diego Stories

Old Town San Diego Jewish History and Walking Tour, Donald H. Harrison, Jewish Sightseeing

This article help serves as a great walking tour for Old Town, as well as an overview of the Jewish culture, architecture, and people that existed in the park during the mid to late 1800s.

Judaism’s Colorful History in the San Diego and Tijuana Region, Donald H. Harrison, San Diego History Center

Did you ever want to know more about how exactly the Jewish community blossomed in San Diego? This article goes into greater depth highlighting the accomplishments of Jewish settlers who had helped shape the San Diego and Tijuana regions.

Regional Stories in San Diego County and Beyond

Jews Settle in Frontier San Diego, Stanley Schwartz, Ben Weinbaum and Lawrence Krause, Beth Israel of San Diego

Here you will learn more about the people that made major contributions to Old Town and San Diego as a whole. It’s a great read that should help further bolster your knowledge about significant figures such as Louis Rose, Marcus Schiller, Celita Mannasse, the Blochman family, and many more!

Jewish Journeys to San Diego, Joellyn Zollman, San Diego History Center

This review focuses on the countless trials and tribulations brave Jewish settlers took in order to successfully make the arduous journey to San Diego. Some unique perspectives come from more recent Jewish immigrants such as Holocaust survivor Baruch Stern and Czech physicist George Feher, not to mention the numerous others included in this review.

Donald Harrison Podcast/Interview, Sunbelt Publication Inc. – Youtube

If you prefer watching videos over reading articles, this video is perfect for you! Watch as historian Donald Harrison speaks about early Jewish celebrations and history in San Diego. Some of which, includes topics regarding the Hebrew Benevolence Society, the Yom Kippur incident, and much more!

Louis Rose ( -1888), William Ellsworth Smythe, San Diego History Center

The man who arrived first, this short article details more about Louis Rose’s life and career in San Diego. Rose was truly a remarkable man who without a doubt, made quite a name for himself in San Diego.

Joseph S. Mannasse ( -1897), William Ellsworth Smythe, San Diego History Center

A short article detailing more about Joseph Mannasse’s life and career in San Diego, the most notable being his contributions to his faith, businesses, and family.

Marcus Schiller (1823-1904), Carl Heilbron, San Diego History Center

Another article within the San Diego History Center’s webpage, this time detailing more about Marcus Schiller’s life and career. In this little biography about Schiller’s life, you will be able to discover his remarkable generosity, dedication to his faith, and duty to civic life.

The Blochman Saga in San Diego, Trudie Casper, San Diego History Center

A detailed article going more in depth of the Blochman’s lives and careers in San Diego, and highlighting the unbelievable journey Abraham Blochman had to endure in order to reach San Diego. From fighting bouts of malaria in the City of Panama to unsuccessful mining operations in San Francisco, the Blochmans finally established a strong foothold in San Diego.


Louis Rose, San Diego's First Jewish Settler and Entrepreneur, Donald Harrison (Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2004).

The life of Louis Rose, who came to San Diego in 1850 and helped shape the city's government, development, and planning.

Schlepping Through the American West: There Is A Jewish Story Everywhere, Donald Harrison (The Harrison Enterprises, 2014).

A grandfather and grandson go on a 3,600-mile round-trip odyssey from San Diego, California to Lethbridge, Alberta, discovering Jewish stories--some of them quite unusual-- wherever they go. On this trip Harrison and his grandson stop at various tourist and historical attractions and uncover the hidden Jewish links. This book can be used as a guide book or as a heart-warming collection of short tales. Also, check out Schlepping and Schmoozing Through San Diego County Volume 1: City of San Diego and Volume 2: Suburban Cities and Towns.

Celebrate, Commemorate: The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community, Joellyn Zollman, San Diego History Center

The definitive history of San Diego’s Jewish community will be compiled into an attractive and engaging quality-print commemorative book. As the exhibition Celebrate San Diego: The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community comes to a close, the commemorative book will live on as a legacy piece featuring key exhibition components of the community’s history as told through timelines, photographs, and new essays chronicling the journey that helped shape the 8th-largest city in our nation.

Other historic sites and museums to explore:

San Diego History Center

San Diego Jewish World

Jewish Historical Society of San Diego

Beth Israel of San Diego

Tifereth Israel Synagogue