With the opening of San Francisco’s Jewish Community High School of the Bay’s (JCHS) new building on Ellis Street in 2002, the city’s organized Jewish community finally returned to the Fillmore. Only local Jewish history buffs appreciated the significance; the neighborhood in which the school is situated — now called The Western Addition — was once San Francisco’s Lower East Side, albeit on a smaller scale than the section of Manhattan to which it is compared.
It is almost impossible to imagine that in this city, where today there is no kosher butcher shop or kosher bakery, and Hebrew schools struggle to get students to attend at all, there were once two synagogues, three kosher restaurants, four Jewish bakeries, five kosher meat markets, three Jewish delicatessens, one Jewish liquor merchant, and a central Jewish afternoon Talmud Torah which students attended six days a week. All within a two-square block area, no less.
“It’s not by coincidence that we brought the ‘Jews of the Fillmore’ exhibition here,” explained Allison Green, Program Coordinator at the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education’s Jewish Community Library (JCL). The library is located at JCHS, just blocks from what was once the hub of this legendary neighborhood, during its heyday from 1906 to 1945. Jews first started moving into the area after their homes south of Market Street had been destroyed in the Great Earthquake and Fire, and began moving away even before the national post-World War II exodus from the inner cities to the suburbs.
View a slideshow from ‘Jews of the Fillmore’: