Scholarships available through Sacramento Pioneer Association

Monica Pope, president of the Sacramento Pioneer Association, shares details pertaining to the organization’s scholarship program for 11th and 12th grade students. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Monica Pope, president of the Sacramento Pioneer Association, shares details pertaining to the organization’s scholarship program for 11th and 12th grade students. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The Sacramento Pioneer Association – a 159-year-old organization that was founded by early prominent Sacramentans such as Gov. John Bigler, C.P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, August Heilbron, B.F. Hastings and Dr. John Frederick Morse – is presently offering history themed scholarships for high school students.
During an interview with this publication last week, River Park resident Monica Pope, the association’s president, shared details regarding the organization’s scholarship opportunities.
“About 10 years ago, we began presenting scholarships to high school students who were passionate about the history of our region,” Pope said. “These scholarships are available once a year and are awarded at our annual pioneer dinner every March.”
Pope added that the scholarship review committee looks for the students’ degree of commitment and personal growth as a result of volunteering, and authenticity in the interest of the volunteer endeavor.
The scholarships are available to junior and senior students in high schools in the Greater Sacramento area who have volunteered at museums that promote the history of Sacramento and surrounding regions.
These scholarships, which are in the amount of $500 each, are designed to be used for the recipients’ future historical education pursuits.
Pope said that the association is eager to spread the word about the scholarships, so more students have the opportunity to compete for these scholarships.
Since the establishment of the association’s scholarship program, about 20 area students have been awarded scholarships, and no more than two scholarships have been presented in a single year.
The most recent recipients of the award were Sacramentans Amanda Wong and Marie Milan.
Wong, who volunteered as a historical interpreter at the 2011 Gold Rush Days in Old Sacramento and became a docent at the California State Railroad Museum in 2012, was inspired by her grandfather to study California history.

Scholarship winner Amanda Wong (left) stands alongside her father, and scholarship chair, Trish Setzer. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Pioneer Association

Scholarship winner Amanda Wong (left) stands alongside her father, and scholarship chair, Trish Setzer. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Pioneer Association

In her pioneer scholarship essay, Wong, in regard to a positive history research related experience with her grandfather, wrote: “We had never bonded until our shared love for American history was revealed. One night, I was preparing for a presentation on the Chinese influence on the Gold Rush when my grandfather arrived. As I explained to him my activities, he surprised me with his prior knowledge. It surpassed mine completely. We begun (sic) to talk and debate our interpretations and realized that we shared very similar passions. After that, the similarities began to pile up. We found that while I was the editor in chief of my high school newspaper, he had been the editor of his college campus newspaper. Where I loved to study the impact of women on history, he loved to study the impact of the Chinese. In each other, we found kindred spirits.”
In expressing her appreciation for her time as a docent, Wong wrote: “Since I have begun volunteering with the California State Rail Road (sic) Museum, I have learned to be confident in my words. This is something that will help me in the future. I plan to go into law, where I will be called to speak before others.”
In her own essay, Milan, who served as a Sacramento History Museum volunteer, also shared details regarding her history related experiences.
Milan explained how the museum introduced her to segments of Sacramento history that she had not previously learned during her historical studies.
“Seeing the different pictures, letters and objects that surrounded me (at the museum) and represented a moment in time of Sacramento’s history, I realized I had no idea about what role (Sacramento) had in the making of California,” she wrote.
Milan made references to the importance of Sutter’s Fort and the Gold Rush in California’s history, and their significance in Sacramento’s history.
And she also explained that her experiences at the museum and working with the tour guides of the underground tours section of the museum led to a memorable moment during an underground tour.
During that particular tour, she interacting with a couple who required additional assistance to enhance their tour experience.
Regarding that moment, Milan wrote: “After having been in the museum for about six months, I was glad that I had learned so much, because that day I found out that I now truly knew my Sacramento history. As the tour went on, I told them little stories and things that I thought were most interesting, and I remember how astonished they were to find out that when the big ark storm hit in 1862, there was an inland sea that stretched almost 300 miles. That experience of being able to retell the history of Sacramento to another made me feel proud and successful for having shown this other side of Sacramento to someone else.”
In concluding her essay, Milan wrote: “I am grateful to the museum and the people there that encouraged me, because without them I wouldn’t have been able to acquire these qualities that help me in the field of engineering for which revolves around team work. Being able to talk to others and stand my ground on decisions are all things that I learned at the museum and are things that will carry on with me throughout my life.”
Essays such as the ones written by Wong and Milan are part of the requirements that must be fulfilled in order to be considered a candidate for the association’s scholarships.
All applicants must write a 500 to 1,000-word essay describing an enriching experience while volunteering for a historical organization in Sacramento. The essay must also include details regarding skills they learned during their volunteering experiences that relate to their future education and career.
Each nominee must also fill out a form that describes their interest in the cultural or natural history of the Sacramento area.
Additionally, applicants must provide one letter of recommendation from the nominator volunteer director/coordinator.
To be considered a candidate for a Sacramento Pioneer Association student volunteer history scholarship, students must fulfill the requirements for the award and submit their essay and a completed application form to the association by Dec. 10.
The scholarship winners, who will be selected by a review group committee designated by the association, will be presented their scholarship awards during the association’s annual dinner at the Sutter Club at 1220 9th St. on March 13, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
To obtain a scholarship application, write to  lynco614@aol.com or call Lynda Otto at (916) 447-7411.

Former East Sacramento resident Louis F. Breuner played essential roles in East Lawn’s establishment, Breuner’s store

Louis Frederick Breuner once resided in this 45th Street, Fabulous Forties home. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Louis Frederick Breuner once resided in this 45th Street, Fabulous Forties home. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part seven in a series about the rich history of and associated with East Sacramento’s award-winning East Lawn Memorial Park.

In the history of Sacramento, one of the most recognized surnames is Breuner. And had it not been for one member of that family, East Lawn Memorial Park might not exist today.
That member of the family was Louis Frederick “Lou” Breuner (1869-1947).
In 1904, Lou, who was born in Sacramento on Aug. 15, 1869, purchased 42 acres of the old Newton Booth place, which was previously known as the Twin Oaks Farm.
It was on this property that Lou, with the assistance of other local men, including Fred W. Kiesel and Chauncey H. Dunn, established East Lawn Cemetery, as East Lawn Memorial Park was then known. East Lawn Cemetery was dedicated on April 23, 1905.
Lou also had his home built on a portion of the same property in about 1911.
The Breuner family was best known for its involvement with the John Breuner Co.
John Breuner (1828-1890), who was Lou’s father, was born in Baden, which at that time was part of the German Confederation, which consisted of 39 German states in Central Europe.
John had arrived in California in the early 1850s with dreams of getting rich in gold. But he would instead begin acquiring his greatest wealth making furniture and tools for miners.
In 1856, John opened the first cabinet store in California in a single-story building near the corner of 6th and K streets.
Originally operating his Sacramento business as a one-man workshop where furniture was sold and repaired, John, who resided in a house behind the store, eventually expanded the operation to a much greater level as the business grew along with the city.
Early abstracts of titles of 6th and K streets properties show John’s ownership of a 20-foot parcel alongside the store in 1861, followed by the April 1866 purchase of the property where the store was located. Next, John purchased the corner of 6th and K streets in July 1868.
Despite setbacks from floods, fires and other obstacles, the store continued its development.
And during the progressing early years of this store, the business grew to a staff of two employees.
In 1869, arrangements were made for Breuner’s to manufacture desks and chairs for the Senate and Assembly chambers at the then-under construction state Capitol.
During its history, the company also sold furniture for other notable Sacramento places, including the Governor’s Mansion at 16th and H streets.
In 1884, the company expanded to a larger building at the 6th and K streets site.
With his health declining, John retired from his business while Lou and his older brother, John, Jr., were still in their youth. The two brothers then carried on the business, which by 1890 had a staff of a dozen employees.
Eventually, four generations of Breuner family members would head the operations of their furniture and home furnishing company.
An extensive enlargement of the 6th and K streets store occurred in 1900 with the construction of a three-story building that was built alongside the old Breuner’s building.
The old and new buildings were joined together as one structure and covered with red sandstone – the same material used about a decade earlier in the construction of the nearby post office building at the northeast corner of 7th and K streets.

Former East Sacramento resident Louis Frederick “Lou” Breuner served as president of the John Breuner Co. from 1890 to 1940. Photo courtesy of East Lawn Memorial Park

Former East Sacramento resident Louis Frederick “Lou” Breuner served as president of the John Breuner Co. from 1890 to 1940. Photo courtesy of East Lawn Memorial Park

The company, which opened a store in Oakland in 1906 to accommodate those who had lost their homes in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, later grew to include 12 stores in Northern California and Nevada.
Several years after the opening of the red sandstone Breuner’s building, the L Street portion of the store was converted into a warehouse.
Furthermore an addition to the building along the same side of the building was constructed in 1922, and six years later, the main portion of the building was enlarged, remodeled and given a Spanish architecture-style appearance.
The building later experienced other changes during its history, including the devoting of the entire structure to merchandise.
Breuner’s, which became the oldest and largest furniture firm in Northern California, operated at 6th and K streets until Sept. 20, 1972, following a five-week, “Once in a Lifetime” store closing sale, in which prices were drastically reduced.
Lou, who served as the company’s president from 1890 to 1940, greatly contributed to the success of Breuner’s.
Much of the business’s growth and expansion occurred under Lou’s guidance.
In addition to his contributions to the company, Lou was the first westerner to serve as president of the National Retail Furniture Association, and he was the founder, chief organizer and three-term president of the Retail Furniture Association of California. He served two terms in the first of these named organizations.

Lou was also a charter member of the Sacramento Rotary Club and the Del Paso Country Club, a past president of the Sunset Parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West and a member of the Sutter Club, the Woodmen of the World and the Union League and Olympia Clubs of San Francisco.
In 1900, Lou became the youngest man called to the presidency of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. He was also a founder and advisor of the Sacramento Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Furthermore, Lou belonged to various fraternal organizations, including the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 6, the Washington Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons, the Ben Ali Temple of the Shrine and local Scottish Rite bodies.
His leadership abilities also served him well as grand commander of the Knights Templar of the state of California and commander of the Sacramento Commandery of Knights Templar.

Lou and his wife, Clara F. Louisa Schmidt (1873-1928), who Lou married in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 14, 1893, moved into their new East Sacramento home at 1128 45th St. in about 1923. The house is located two houses to the north of the former home of Alden Anderson, who was featured in the last article of this series.
The couple’s sons, Louis John Breuner (1894-1974), Clarence Henry Breuner (1896-1960), Richard Weston Breuner (1899-1986), Wallace Emerson Breuner (1902-1975) and Robert Alvin Breuner (1909-1969), all held leading roles with the Breuner’s firm.
Following a nearly decade-long illness, Lou passed away at the age of 77 on Monday, May 12, 1947 while he was residing in Carmichael.
Private funeral services in his honor were held in the East Lawn chapel two days later and his remains were entombed inside the East Lawn mausoleum.

Herbert Yee: Cultivating growth in Sacramento

Well-known Sacramento resident, retired dentist Dr. Herbert Yee may have recently turned 87 years old, but his age has certainly not hindered his motivation to contribute to the community.

HERBERT YEE stands in front of the soon-to-be-opened Sunflower Farmers Market on Del Rio Road, just south of the Sacramento Zoo. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

HERBERT YEE stands in front of the soon-to-be-opened Sunflower Farmers Market on Del Rio Road, just south of the Sacramento Zoo. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

His latest contribution is bringing a unique, 30,000-square-foot grocery store to local shoppers at his South Land Park shopping center, just south of the Sacramento Zoo.

Market coming this spring

While spending a moment at the shopping center last week, Herbert enthusiastically shared details about the soon-to-be-opened Sunflower Farmers Market.

“We have been working since June 1 on the new market,” Herbert said. “They signed the lease on June 1, we hired a contractor, named Headwater, and the owners (of Headwater) are (former Sacramento vice mayor) Doug Pope and Norm Marshall. Sunflower is a market from (Boulder) Colorado. They’re based there and they have big warehouses in Phoenix, Ariz. and they’re in New Mexico and they’re now in California. They’re also in Las Vegas, Nev., where they have two stores. Right now they have about 33 stores and three more developing. They opened their first (local) one six months ago in Roseville Square and then about a month ago, they opened one in Modesto, and a third one in this area, then they have one in Fremont and one planned in Mountain View and San Jose, so they’re moving.”

Altogether, this nearly 10-year-old grocery store chain operates markets in eight states, including all of the aforementioned states, as well as in Utah, Texas and Oklahoma.

Sunflower, which is scheduled to open in Herbert’s shopping center in May, is the response to a failed attempt to complete a deal that would have brought a Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store to the same site last year.

Herbert speaks very highly about Sunflower, which is dedicated to providing its customers with natural and organic products at reasonable prices.

“I am very impressed with Sunflower,” Herbert said. “They promise that they will buy locally. They have five air conditioners upstairs. Four of them are 12 and a half tons, one is seven tons. And I said, ‘Why do you need so much air conditioning?’ They said, ‘We want to keep the vegetables fresh.’”

Sunflower’s departments include meat and seafood, bakery and deli, natural living, dairy/frozen, beer and wine and floral items. The chain purchases almost all of its products by the pallet or truckload in order to save money. Sunflower then passes part of its savings on to customers.

Furthermore, the store does not charge its vendors for shelf space and it has no membership cards or complicated discount schemes.

HUMANITARIAN. Herbert Yee provided the finances for the Kee Siu School in his hometown in China. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

HUMANITARIAN. Herbert Yee provided the finances for the Kee Siu School in his hometown in China. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

In its efforts to provide its customers with low prices, the store is dedicated to its motto, “Better than supermarket quality at better than supermarket prices” and its slogan, “Serious food, silly prices.”

Sunflower Farmers Market will fill the southern end of the South Land Park shopping center on Del Rio Road. The shopping center also includes La Bou Bakery and Café, Parkside Pharmacy and Macau Café.

In addition to bringing a new market to South Land Park, Herbert, who is a 1942 graduate of Sacramento High School and a World War II veteran, has kept active with many other properties and activities during his life.

Dentist to Calif. governors

Many locals remember Herbert for his success in dentistry, as he spent 54 years in this profession, including his time as the official dentist for the staff of two governors – Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan.

Community leader

Herbert’s many titles that he has held read like credits at the end of a feature film.

SO ALL MAY LEARN. This cultural center and library, which was funded by Herbert Yee, opened in China in 2007. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

SO ALL MAY LEARN. This cultural center and library, which was funded by Herbert Yee, opened in China in 2007. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

Among the many special positions that he has held are president of the California State Board of Dental Examiners, regent of the University of Pacific, president of the UOP Dental School Alumni Association, president of the International College of Dentists, president of the American Cancer Society for Sacramento County, counselor of the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Education, district governor of Lion’s Club District 4 C5, president of the Sacramento Chinese Benevolent Association, president of the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Association and president of the Yee Fong Toy family association.

He has served on the California State Railroad Museum Foundation board for about the past 30 years.

A presidential commendation

In 1984, Herbert was named president of the U.S. section of the International College of Dentists at the annual convention in Atlanta.

In acknowledging Herbert’s naming to this position, President Ronald Reagan sent a letter to Herbert that included the following words: “This honor reflects your commitment to your profession and to the organization paying tribute to you. By your service as a dentist and as a member of your community, you have made outstanding contributions. In every area where you work, whether as a member of your profession or as a concerned citizen, your dedication is greatly respected.”

WWII VETERAN. Herbert Yee served in the U.S. Army from January 1944 to October 1945. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

WWII VETERAN. Herbert Yee served in the U.S. Army from January 1944 to October 1945. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

Active gentleman of the community

Herbert, who also owns the buildings occupying Pizza Hut, Kamon Sushi restaurant and bar and A & A Company video, cellular phones, music, etc. at the southwest corner of 16th and V streets, the Asian Food Center at 1301 Broadway and Bud’s Buffet at 1016 10th Street. He is a longtime member of the Sutter Club, American Legion Post 692, Lion’s Club District 4 C5, the Sacramento Pioneer Association and the Del Paso Country Club.

Humanitarian

He has also contributed to his native land through his funding of the construction of China’s Kee Siu School, which opened on Sept. 28, 1981, and a cultural center and library named after himself and his father, Henry Yee. The cultural center and library opened in China in 2007.

Descendant of Sacramento pioneers

Although Herbert did not arrive in the United States at Angel Island as an immigrant from Sing Tonga, Kee Siu, Toi Shan, China until he was 6 years old on May 1, 1931, his family history in Sacramento dates back to the 19th century.

Herbert’s great-grandfather, an herbalist, named Dr. Wah Hing (born Yee Fung Cheung), arrived in California during the Gold Rush, and while practicing in Sacramento, he had his most famous patient, Jane Stanford, the wife of Gov. Leland Stanford.

FAMILY MAN. Herbert and Inez Yee have been married for 66 years. The couple is shown prior to their marriage in this photograph, which was taken in about 1944. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

FAMILY MAN. Herbert and Inez Yee have been married for 66 years. The couple is shown prior to their marriage in this photograph, which was taken in about 1944. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee

Herbert explained the story behind his grandfather’s work with Jane Stanford.

“As the story goes – you’re talking legend, because this was so long ago – in about 1862, (Jane Stanford) was suffering from sort of like pneumonia and the American doctor said that he could no longer do any more and that was it,” Herbert said. “The Chinese chef said, ‘Well, since you finally gave up, why don’t you try our Chinese doctor?’ So, the governor said, ‘Well, go and fetch him.’ So, (the chef) got on the horse and buggy, went down to Chinatown and they located him playing mah-jongg or gambling something at Wah Hing grocery store. So, (Dr. Wah Hing) told his helper – a young man – to go fetch a certain item of medicine and they brewed it and then brought it to the governor’s mansion. (The doctor) then gave the brew to Mrs. Stanford and told the staff that in one hour, if her fever breaks and she can breathe, then she would be fine. Interestingly, this story was related to me back in 1950 by an old man who was 100 years old. He said, ‘You know, you’re great-grandpa saved the governor’s wife.’ So, the legend has been traveling all of these years.”

Today, Herbert resides in South Land Park with his wife, Inez, whom he married in 1945. The couple has four sons, four daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Congregation B’nai Israel has roots dating back to the Gold Rush

 
The 15th Street synagogue at 1421 15th St. served the congregation from 1904 to 1954. / Photo courtesy of Congregation B’nai Israel
The 15th Street synagogue at 1421 15th St. served the congregation from 1904 to 1954. / Photo courtesy of Congregation B’nai Israel

For more than a half a century, Congregation B’nai Israel has had a temple in Land Park that has been a very important place for the local Jewish community. The site, however, is only part of the rich history of the congregation’s presence in Sacramento.

The roots of Congregation B’nai Israel, in fact, date back to the great Gold Rush of California.

During this time in history, Jewish immigrants arrived in Sacramento mainly from Germany and Poland. Others arrived from Russia, England and France.

Of these early Jewish immigrants, Moses Hyman, who resided at 56 Front St., is recognized as the first Jewish leader in Sacramento.

Congregation B’nai Israel was established in 1852 as an outgrowth from the Hebrew Benevolent Society, which was founded by Jewish pioneers during the later months of 1850.

Services of the congregation were held in private homes in the capital city until June 1852, when a building was purchased from the First Methodist Episcopal Church.

The prefabricated building, which was located at 7th and L streets, was shipped around Cape Horn from Baltimore to San Francisco in 1849.

The building, which was then brought to Sacramento and consecrated in September 1852, became the first synagogue west of the Mississippi.

From left to right, President Dalton Feldstein, Rabbi Phineas Smoller of Los Angeles, Rabbi Irving Hausman of Congregation B’nai Israel and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, president of the UAHC (now Union for Reform Judaism) participate in the temple’s 100th anniversary service on Jan. 18, 1952. / Photo courtesy of Congregation B’nai Israel

From left to right, President Dalton Feldstein, Rabbi Phineas Smoller of Los Angeles, Rabbi Irving Hausman of Congregation B’nai Israel and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, president of the UAHC (now Union for Reform Judaism) participate in the temple’s 100th anniversary service on Jan. 18, 1952. / Photo courtesy of Congregation B’nai Israel

Unfortunately for the congregation, the original synagogue was burned down during a great fire, which also destroyed many other buildings in the area.

Following the fire, under Rabbi Z. Newstadter, a congregation met at a temporary temple on 5th Street.

By 1864, a new temple on 6th Street, between J and K streets, was consecrated and used for services and other gatherings for the following 40 years.

In about 1880, the congregation shifted from Orthodox Judaism to Reform Judaism.

A new, two-story synagogue with an upstairs sanctuary, a social hall, stage and kitchen, was constructed and opened on 15th Street, between N and O streets, in about 1904.

The history of the Jewish synagogue in the capital city includes many notable Sacramentans.

Among the more notable people who were members of the congregation were David Lubin and Harris Weinstock.

Many present day Sacramentans are familiar with the names Weinstock and Lubin due to the longtime existence of the department store, Weinstock-Lubin and Co., which was located at 11th and K streets. Other locations of the store, which was later known as Weinstock’s, were located in the greater Sacramento area.

The name David Lubin has also been memorialized through the David Lubin Elementary School at 3535 M St. in East Sacramento. The school, which had the previous address 3700 K St., opened in about the mid-1920s.

In addition to his connection to the Weinstock-Lubin store, Lubin is also recognized as the founder of the International Institute of Agriculture.

 

Weinstock, who was Lubin’s half-brother, was the co-founder of the Sutter Club, the Unitarian and Economic clubs of San Francisco and the Commonwealth Club of California.

Additionally, the temple’s records show that Weinstock, who occupied the temple’s pulpit when no rabbi was present, was responsible for bringing Rabbi Joseph L. Levy to Sacramento.

Children and others attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Riverside synagogue. / Photo courtesy of Congregation B’nai Israel

Children and others attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Riverside synagogue. / Photo courtesy of Congregation B’nai Israel

Levy was recognized as the “bright light of Judaism” and was invited to speak at a variety of temple and civic functions.

Other notable people who were members of the congregation were Isador Cohen, August Heilbron, Albert Elkus and Lewis Gerstle.

Following World War II, the Jewish community of Sacramento expanded immensely.

It was also during this time that the 15th Street synagogue was showing its age.

A joke about the building at the time was that the structure was held together with baling wire.

During the late 1940s, property was purchased for a $250,000 synagogue at the site of the old Riverside Baths, a public swimming pool on Riverside Boulevard and 11th Avenue.

Heading the drive to collect funds for the new temple was the congregation’s president, Dalton Feldstein.

So important was Feldstein’s assistance with the project to have the synagogue constructed that the structure became known as “the house that Dalton built.”

The cornerstone for the Riverside synagogue was laid on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 1953 at 11 a.m.

Attending the event were representatives of Gov. Goodwin J. Knight and Congressman John E. Moss, Jr., who placed items in the cornerstone.

 

Following the cornerstone laying ceremony, public tours of the new building were led by leaders of the congregation.

On Friday, April 2, 1954, the then-recently completed synagogue was dedicated, as more than 1,000 Sacramento Jews, as well as Christians and others, gathered for the event.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the dedication ceremony presented “a spirit of brotherhood among all faiths and all men.”

During the dedication ceremony, Rabbi Irving I. Hausman read a prayer and introduced Feldstein, who he described as the “propelling force” behind the new synagogue.

In his dedicatory address, Feldstein said, “This is the first time in my life that I have had the honor and pleasure of dedicating a house of worship. The problems and the trials that went into bringing (the synagogue) into being are as nothing tonight.”

In the early 1960s, a religious school building, which was later named in memory of Bennett “Buddy” Kandel, was added to the temple grounds.

The synagogue’s records show that from about the mid-1940s until 1985, membership in the congregation grew from about 200 individuals to about 700 families.

It was also in 1985 that a groundbreaking was held for a chapel, a library and an office building.

Another feature of the temple site is the Opper Courtyard, an outdoor sanctuary named after Sy and Estelle Opper and dedicated in April 1998 to Sophia Dubowsky for her devotion to her family and the Jewish community.

On June 18, 1998, a firebomb destroyed the temple’s library, but through much support, funds were raised for the reconstruction of the building.

The trauma and destruction caused by the incident aroused the sympathies of many Jewish and non-Jewish people in the community.

The Opper Courtyard, an outdoor sanctuary named after Sy and Estelle Opper, was dedicated in April 1998. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Opper Courtyard, an outdoor sanctuary named after Sy and Estelle Opper, was dedicated in April 1998. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Following the bombing, Rabbi Mona Alfi commented about this tragedy.

“Ironically, I think that much more will come out of the bombing than any harm that was inflicted upon us,” Alfi said. “I think we’re going to come across as a stronger congregation (and) a more involved congregation.”

The congregation’s ability to persevere and overcome this dark incident in the synagogue’s history is a fine example of the outlook of its members.

In a 1999 documentary about the history of the synagogue, it was mentioned that the true spirit of Congregation B’nai Israel is not in its buildings, but instead in the soul of its members.

Working to serve the spiritual needs of its members and guests, weekly services are led by Rabbi Alfi on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.

Today, Congregation B’nai Israel, which is recognized as the city’s oldest Jewish congregation, continues to honor its traditions of heritage while “creating a Jewish experience that is relevant to today’s society.”

For additional information regarding Congregation B’nai Israel, call (916) 446-4861 or visit www.bnais.com.