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2005 blog


Louis Rose Society: An Update

San Diego Jewish Times, December 14, 2005

By Donald H. Harrison 

Being the end of the year, I’d like to give you a report on the progress of the Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History—an organization that was founded on, well, counter-intuitive principles.

Here we’re trying to raise over $100,000 for a memorial to San Diego’s first Jewish settler who also was an entrepreneur and civic leader, but instead of setting up a multi-leveled giving structure, with “platinum,” or “gold” categories, so big donors can be accorded more recognition than small donors, we treat everyone alike.  With a $36 tax-deductible contribution to the Jewish Community Foundation/ Louis Rose Fund, you’re just as important as someone who gives much more.

Now any fundraiser who knows the Yiddish idiom will tell you that this is a meshuganah idea.  Instead of seeking 36 contributions of $3,000 each, and being done with the project, we’re looking for just the reverse, 3,000 contributions of $36 each.  Not only that, we don’t just simply take the money and say “thanks a lot,” we try to provide a value far in excess of what the contribution could buy on the open market.

When a contributor joins the Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History, membership confers the right to designate someone in the San Diego Jewish community whose life will be researched by the society, with the results posted on the website,

Call any research service and ask them how much they charge per hour to go through old newspaper archives and research a person’s life—and you’ll learn that the process could easily run you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Yet, we research and post the stories that have appeared about the honoree in the Southwestern Jewish Press, the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, and the San Diego Jewish Times for a single charitable donation of  $36.  And that’s not per story, that’s the total—no matter how many stories we find and post.   

Want to hear something crazier?  If a member wants to honor more than one person, as a way of giving, say, the perfect Chanukah gift,  all he or she has to do is send another $18 donation per additional person to the Jewish Community Foundation/ Louis Rose Society, 4950 Murphy Canyon Road, San Diego, CA 92123.  None of these donations go toward salaries, because the Louis Rose Society is 100 percent volunteer!

And, here’s another “strange” thing about our Society.  You can’t honor yourself nor anyone living under the same roof with you.  To be an honoree, you have to be honored by someone else.  Talk about counter-intuitive! Everyone knows that there are rich people in every community who will generously support any cause, just so long as you name the building, or the wing, or a major room in that building after them.  Yet, our policy, in effect, says, “no, you can’t buy an honor—because when you buy it, it is not an honor at all.”  To be honored, you don’t need to spend money; simply be kind, wise, loving, or, in any other way, inspire someone by your deeds to donate the $36 to launch the research on your life.  Crazy, aren’t we?  We seem to break all the rules of fundraising.  Yet, we’re determined to proceed in this fashion.

Why?  Our goal is to make the inspiring stories in San Diego’s Jewish history accessible to everyone by building monuments and creating an on-line biographical encyclopedia.  Our idea for the Louis Rose monument is to make it a familiar and cherished landmark that will be hugged, climbed on, and embraced by generations of San Diego children.  The monument will be built in NTC Park at the foot of Womble Road along the boat channel. It will be situated along what will become one of the most popular recreational paths in San Diego, a path along the water’s edge of the Roseville section of Point Loma and San Diego Bay.  Joggers, walkers, picnickers, Frisbee players, boaters—all kinds of people enjoying the San Diego that Louis Rose helped envision will see the monument.

Rose loved animals.  One of his pets became a favorite of San Diegans who were Rose’s neighbors in the mid to late 19th century.  It was a giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands, a terrapin that he named “Chili.”  Another was a dog of uncertain breed, perhaps a small terrier, whom he had named “Pat.”  Sometimes Pat would yap at passersby, but if they came too close, he’d beat a quick retreat—and take cover underneath Chili.  So our vision for a monument is a grouping at Louis Rose Point, showing Rose accompanied by the giant Chili and the timid little Pat on an outing to the town site that he laid out besides the water. 

Just as we want people to know the story of Louis Rose and his daughter, Henrietta, upon whose unmarked grave our Society, the San Diego School Board, and other organizations recently placed a headstone, so too do we want people around the world to learn the stories of other members of our San Diego Jewish community, past and present. 

As I write this column, our archive project—which involves indexing the old newspapers, then posting the stories about the honorees on the web—has reached newspapers printed in late 1951.  We keep working our way through the newspapers chronologically, little by little, hoping for more volunteers so we can speed up the process.

There are some wonderful stories on the “San Diego Jewish Honor Roll” portion of our website, accessed by clicking on the name of an individual honoree.  For example, there are stories told by Maxwell Kaufman, then publisher of the Southwestern Jewish Press, and by Albert Hutler, then director of the United Jewish Fund, about their experiences in Europe helping Jewish Displaced Persons, and subsequent efforts in San Diego to provide a home here for the refugees.

There are book reviews and travel stories written by Ida Nasatir who along with her husband, Dr. Abraham Nasatir of San Diego State fame, were intellectual leaders of our community. 

On our site, there are the stories of club women like Anna Shelley and Estelle Levi, whose hard work supported myriads of causes.  There are stories that tell what it was like to grow up in San Diego—the parties, the dating, the marriages.  Our research reveals the adolescent pasts of people like Sheriff Bill Kolender and author Shimon (Stanton) Camiel.  And it shares the memories of other people whom we shall not forget even in death, like Sherry Newman Caplan, whose pioneering bat mitzvah at Tifereth Israel Synagogue prompted the newspaper to explain that a bat mitzvah is just like a bar mitzvah, only it’s for a girl!

This project also brings back the memories and works of rabbis like Baruch Stern of Beth Jacob Congregation, Monroe Levens of Tifereth Israel Synagogue and Morton Cohn of Congregation Beth Israel—whose respective Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues during the era of the 1940s and 1950s were the only three synagogues in San Diego County.  Our archives show how highly these three men thought of each other, despite their differences in doctrine, and how closely they worked together, officiating at each other’s simchas, striving together for the common Jewish good.

Simply put, the Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History celebrates our history, recognizing that whether a person was very active, or only a little active, whether rich or poor, whether religious or secular, whether male or female, he or she was a piece of the mosaic of our San Diego Jewish history.  And so, we want to help donors to recognize the members of our community who were special in their lives.

Don’t let people whose lives were—or still are—important pieces of our Jewish history be forgotten because their memory was neglected.  Please make the $36 contribution to the Jewish Community Foundation/ Louis Rose Fund, and do several good deeds all at the same time.  1) Help us build the memorial to our pioneer Louis Rose, who has no surviving family left.  2) Honor someone from our San Diego Jewish community.  It can be your parent (so long as you do not live in the same household), a deceased spouse, a cherished friend, a historical figure—whoever was important in your Jewish life. 3) You can help us prove the idea that a loving community—which takes pride in each other’s accomplishments—is not such a crazy idea after all.

If you need more information about the Louis Rose Society, how to join, its works, and how you can become active, please call me, at 619 265 0808, or email me at