Hebrew Free Loan’s treasure trove of historical documents provides a unique lens into the history of Jewish life in Northern California. During the 125 years we have been serving the Jewish community, we have accumulated over 50,000 documents, including loan records, ledgers, correspondence, and photographs. These materials offer rare details about Jewish migration to the West Coast.
We recently completed a full digitization of these documents and turned over all the original materials, plus a digital copy, to their new permanent home at the Stanford University Libraries. The records had previously been stored in the basement of Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco, a sister agency that graciously lent us their storage space for many years. However, the documents were neither indexed nor accessible in that location, and were likely to degrade over time.
We chose Stanford to house our archives because of the university’s archival expertise, the presence on campus of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, and the library’s willingness to implement careful privacy protections. The Hebrew Free Loan archives will now be accessible to historians, Jewish scholars, and others for use in teaching and research for generations to come.
We are grateful to Donald and Roslyn Kahn, Primark Benefits (Donna and Stephen Dobrow; Sara and Gregg Rubenstein), and the Frederick J. Isaac Philanthropic Fund for their generous financial support that made it possible to create these archives.