Santa Ana’s rather small Jewish community received a huge boost in numbers with the arrival of the Santa Ana Army Air Base, which literally added hundreds of members to its ranks. With no real infrastructure to speak of (no synagogue, no kosher butchers, no Jewish schools… ) it suddenly found itself needing to create a support system for the many young Jewish men (and a few women) who were arriving on a daily basis. Rising to the occasion, these few families began providing High Holiday services, Passover Seders, Purim parties, and many, MANY weddings. In 1943, with more and more Jewish soldiers deciding to settle in the area, Dr. Frank (Ephraim) Schaffell, a local chiropractor, began hosting regular Shabbat services in his home in Orange. Congregant Max Ivler borrowed a Torah from a friend in New York City, and the prayers were recited from memory, as the group could not yet afford siddurim. By 1945, the first successful Orange County Jewish congregation (there had a been an earlier attempt in the 1920s) had grown large enough to purchase a building, much of it thanks to the efforts of Dr. Schaffell. Born in Ukraine in 1896, Schaffell emigrated with his mother and siblings to New York at the age of 10, where his father had established a butcher shop. He graduated from chiropractic college in NY and headed west, landing a job as manager of the Shady Brook Health Springs and Baths, a popular retreat in Silverado Canyon. He moved to Orange in 1942 and started his own company, the Orange County Health Center, shortly before marrying Miriam Silvers of Brooklyn, and contributing greatly to the growth and future of our OC Jewish community.
Dalia Taft, archivist of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society, highlights images from the archives every month. For more information, please visit www.jewishoc.org/history. You can also contact Dalia at email@example.com or at (949) 435-3400, ext. 360. The Orange County Jewish Historical Society is a program of the Merage Jewish Community Center and is fully funded by the Jewish Community Foundation Orange County.