SANTA CRUZ, coastal city in Northern California. The county had a population of 240,880 in 2001, including an estimated 6,000 Jews. Louis Schwartz, believed to be the first Jewish settler in Santa Cruz, in 1855 opened a general store with the Brownstone brothers. The Jewish community grew slowly; it initially was comprised of single men, but eventually women came and then families. The first observance of the Jewish New Year, under lay leadership, was in 1869, with meetings in community halls or in churches. In 1877 Home of Peace Cemetery was consecrated on land that was donated to the Jewish community. Like many Jewish communities, Santa Cruz' Jewish community's first piece of property was a cemetery. A mutual aid society followed, when in 1887 a small group of Jewish families founded a Hebrew Benevolent Society in Santa Cruz. The first known synagogue building was acquired in the early 1930s. In 1954, the still small Jewish community built a modest synagogue on Bay Street, which was named Temple Beth El, incorporated as the Jewish Community Center of Santa Cruz, California, Inc. Rabbi Richard Litvak became the first full-time rabbi of Temple Beth El in 1977. The Temple moved to new facilities in Aptos in 1990. In the last third of the 20th century and beyond, the Jewish community of Santa Cruz was directly linked to the University of California Santa Cruz with its many Jewish students and faculty. UC Santa Cruz boasts the largest percentage of Jewish students at any Northern California campus (approximately 20% of 15,000 students are Jews: 2,600 undergrads and 250 graduate students). UC Santa Cruz has a Jewish Studies program and a Jewish Studies Research Unit. Among its faculty is Murray Baumgarten, the editor of Judaism. Active in Santa Cruz are three Jewish congregations and a Havurah. Temple Beth El is the oldest and remains a Reform Congregation. Chabad by the Sea is the Orthodox congregation. Congregation Kol Tefilah is Conservative and Hadesh Yamenu is the Havurah grouping. The Hillel serves some 4,000 Jewish college students in the region, including UC Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College, and CSU Monterey Bay. Social Justice is a local Jewish focus, much in keeping with the ethos of the university and the community. "Out in Our Faith" is a gay and lesbian, bi-sexual, and transvestite group. There is a local chapter of the Tikkun Community, COEJL: Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, Eco-Jew, and Mazon chapter. The Jewish community of Santa Cruz sponsors an annual Jewish film festival and has published The Santa Cruz Haggadah. (Michael Bernbaum (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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