Book’s 70 chapters provide picture of U.S. Jewish life

77 Miles of Jewish Stories; History, Anecdotes and Tales of Travel Along I-8 by Donald H. Harrison; Create Space, 2017, 338 pages including index, $19.95.


By Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

SAN DIEGO — The 70 chapters of this book appeared originally as individual articles in various editions of  San Diego Jewish World, the website edited by Donald Harrison that provides a wide variety of items culled from Jewish and other publications around the world. Harrison’s knowledge of Jewish-associated subjects, whether historical, geographical, political, social, or general is encyclopedic, and his writing is always lively and interesting.

Veteran journalist that he is, Harrison invariably finds an interesting ‘peg’ or angle to which to attach the item he is writing about, and in this particular instance the general scheme is based on his peregrinations along the Interstate route near the border between the USA and Mexico, generally clinging to the southern part of the region in and around the city of San Diego in Southern California..

Harrison has remained true to his motto, and that of his website, “There’s a Jewish story everywhere,” and his efforts to confirm this have proven to be very fruitful. In addition, he is an expert in the history of San Diego and has authored a book giving the biography of Louis Rose, the first Jew to settle in San Diego in the early years of its foundation, in the 1850s. Who would have believed that one of the first residential developments in the city was named Roseville, after the man who conceived and executed the project, and that a memorial to the man is in place there?

When I interviewed him, Harrison told me that he had decided to drive along I-8 and take every exit in turn, though it’s not clear whether he did this in the chronological order in which the chapters appear in the book. Be that as it may, the compilation contains a fascinating array of anecdotes, human interest stories, historical developments, and events concerning Jews and Jewish communities along the route he describes, ranging from the Mormon church’s San Diego Family History Center reached from Exit 8 to the Beth Jacob orthodox synagogue at Exit 10, with Chabad of East County (Exit 13), and Qualcomm Way and Stadium, named for the telecommunications giant co-founded by Jewish electrical engineers, Irwin Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi and others at Exit 6

All in all the book provides a fascinating and varied picture of life as it is lived in the USA and possibly elsewhere, too, simultaneously reflecting the similarities and differences between Jewish communities and individuals wherever in the world they may be.

Shefer-Vanson is an author and freelance writer based in Mevasseret Zion, Israel.  She recently was in San Diego during a North American tour.


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