Cos­mopoli­tans: A Social & Cul­tur­al His­to­ry of the Jews of the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area

Fred Rosen­baum
  • Review
By – September 7, 2011

Fred Rosenbaum’s Cos­mopoli­tans is a won­der­ful, extreme­ly well researched resource, cov­er­ing the cul­tur­al, eco­nom­ic, and polit­i­cal his­to­ry of the Bay Area’s Jews from the first set­tlers dur­ing Gold Rush through World War II, with an epi­logue that quick­ly describes recent events. 

But it reads like an adven­ture. Every­one is here; Levi Strauss, Gertrude Stein, Yehu­di Menuhin, artists, musi­cians, politi­cians, reli­gious fig­ures. Will the good guys win against the crooked office hold­ers? Will the dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty be able to work togeth­er in the face of each local and inter­na­tion­al cri­sis? Even in the begin­ning, there were at least two syn­a­gogues. Fol­low through the years, as the phi­los­o­phy changes, splin­ters, and pro­lif­er­ates. Charm­ing antique pho­tographs put faces to the names and buildings. 

The Jews of the Bay Area, almost from their ear­li­est days, were high pro­file lead­ers and inno­va­tors, active in local and nation­al pol­i­tics; patrons of the arts, cham­pi­ons of civ­il rights, work­ers, and women. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, in 1992, the Cal­i­for­nia elec­torate sent to the Unit­ed States Sen­ate two Jew­ish women, Diane Fein­stein and Bar­bara Box­er, who have proved their worth many times over. Index, notes.

Sydelle Shamah has been lead­ing book club dis­cus­sions for many years, and is a pub­lished sci­ence fic­tion writer. She was pres­i­dent of the Ruth Hyman Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Mon­mouth Coun­ty, NJ.

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