Orange County has long been perceived as having a higher percentage of anti-Semitism than other parts of California. The truth, as usual, is a bit more complicated. As seen in this 1921 editorial in the Santa Ana Register (today’s Orange County Register), there were individuals in positions of authority here that opposed anti-Semitism, and actively called it out as un-American. It’s interesting to note that, while the editor specifically mentions Henry Ford as one of the leaders of the growing anti-Semitic movement in the 1920s, he writes that Ford is “well-meaning but mistaken.” He couldn’t grasp that a well-respected American businessman would intentionally spread hate. He then goes on to state that “they [the Jews] happen to be a little more energetic and persevering than most of the other races” and that “this country is no place for such persecution.” So, while there were indeed neighborhoods where Jews couldn’t purchase homes, or clubs they weren’t allowed to join, it’s important to remember that there were those who stood up and spoke out.
Dalia Taft, archivist of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society – a Connect 2 People Initiative of Jewish Federation & Family Services – highlights images from the archives every month. For more information, please visit www.jewishorangecounty.org/historical. You can also contact Dalia at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (949) 435-3484, ext. 167.