The Sinsheimer Family, circa 1893 (Sinsheimer Collection, Special Collections and Archives, California Polytechnic State University, 036-8-05-122-05-01)

Written by Wendy Myren on September 24, 2014

A Jewish family in San Luis Obispo

Wendy Myren is a history graduate student (Spring ‘15) completing an internship in Special Collections and Archives. She is working on a project to organize the correspondence of the Sinsheimer family of San Luis Obispo. This is the final post of her series of blog posts in which she shares some of her experiences in the internship and the stories she uncovers. Check out Wendy’s first, second, third, and fourth blog posts too!

With the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, I thought it would be fitting to convey my Shanah Tovah to all those who celebrate.  Aron Sinsheimer and his family were the most religious of the Sinsheimers, and Aron placed a great amount of stress on Rosh Hashanah in particular (See Thomas Sinton’s The Sinsheimer Brothers of San Luis Obispo and San Francisco).  The following except is from a letter Aron wrote to his children who were away, about the importance of this Jewish holiday.

San Luis Obispo, September 26, 1897

These Holidays may to some people of the Jewish faith seem [an] old most grown institution.  To me they are very young and eternally new.  It is then when the parental heart misses the dear ones from home more acutely.  You, I know are longing to be at home, if only for this one day.  It is a day when I cannot help and let the past year appear in retrospective view and I find that we have to be thankful for the good health we have enjoyed and are living in a part of the country blessed by good climate… My beloved ones, as the New Year opens its portals, may it bring you long life, health, prosperity, and Happiness.

Although Aron is probably thankful for different things than we are (such as not contracting yellow fever!), his message still rings true over 117 years later.

The impact of the Sinsheimer family on Judaism in San Luis Obispo

So how did the presence of Aron Sinsheimer and his family have an impact on San Luis Obispo?  Most importantly, after years of oppression in Germany (see Sachar’s A History of the Jews in America), Aron was able to practice his faith without fear, and he and his descendants added greatly to the Jewish culture in this town.  As mentioned in my third blog post, Nettie Sinsheimer helped create the early foundations for Congregation Beth David when she founded a Jewish Sabbath School in the late 1870s.  She taught and became superintendent of this school. Aron’s grandchildren and great grandchildren donated his Torah that he brought from Vicksburg as the congregational Torah for a local temple in San Luis Obispo!

Studying local history helped me to understand San Luis Obispo’s roots and appreciate the impact of the Sinsheimer family.  If you would like to know more about the Sinsheimer family or the history of San Luis Obispo County, contact Special Collections and Archives at the Kennedy Library.  You can enrich your understanding of the past when you dive into the unique collections found in the archives.

Read more on San Luis Obispo History, special collections and archives, and wmyren.