an Francisco, the gleaming mecca of all things tech, got its big break during another era of innovation: the Gold Rush of the mid-19th century.
“In many ways, they were the founders of San Francisco,” says Jackie Krentzman, executive producer of American Jerusalem, a documentary film about San Francisco’s Jewish history.
For Rosh Hashanah in 1849, some 30 Jews gathered in San Francisco to usher in the New Year.
(A plaque in the 700 block of Montgomery Street commemorates the occasion; services were held in a tent.) Many of the Jews, who had been peddlers and shopkeepers in Europe, applied the same skills in the new country, selling supplies to gold miners.
Eventually, some businesses run by these immigrants became household names.
The most famous was Levi Strauss, who came from Bavaria and invented denim blue jeans.
Adolph Sutro, also from Germany, was trained as an engineer but started out in California as an unsuccessful tobacconist.
Eventually, he managed to raise enough money to build a tunnel through Mount Davidson in San Francisco in order to remove gas and water from mine shafts.
After selling his shares in the tunnel for millions, Sutro went on to become a real estate investor (at one point he owned one-twelfth of San Francisco) and eventually mayor of San Francisco.
Jews thrived in San Francisco partly because they got in on the ground floor of the city’s growth.