Don Harrison
AuthorDonald Harrison. Photo by Sandi Masori

By finding at least one Jewish story every time you exit the Mexican border into Old Town San Diego, veteran journalist Donald H. Harrison’s book Schlepping and Schmoozing along Interstate 5 transforms the main north-south West Coast highway into a treasure trove of Jewish experience.

The recently released first volume in Harrison’s three-volume series tells 30 stories from approximately 20 miles of Interstate 5 exits from the US-Mexico border to the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego. The three-volume set will eventually cover a total of 72 miles, reaching the Orange County line.

But in Harrison’s estimation, the book provides an important message for Jewish readers far beyond that geographic area as well as a blueprint for profiling Jewish communities nationally.

“Readers can learn that the mosaic of the Jewish experience can be represented exit by exit along a major highway, whether here or in their own cities,” Harrison said. San Diego weather. “This type of reporting can also be used to tell the stories of other ethnic and religious communities in the United States. As someone who is fascinated by the stories of others, I hope that one day I will see similar efforts from representatives of other groups.

Harrison’s fascination is also evident through her previous series of books, Schlepping and Schmoozing through San Diego County, a similar compilation of Jewish-themed news stories. He spent the first phase of his journalistic career in mainstream media (including The Associated Press), then worked in public relations before returning to journalism running several Jewish publications in San Diego, most recently the San Diego Jewish World website. (Full disclosure: I acquired the San Diego Jewish World of Harrison.) Harrison’s journey has been continuously shaped by his belief that “there is Jewish history everywhere”, a philosophy that once again shines in Schlepping and Schmoozing along Interstate 5.

What follows is the rest of the Times of San Diego interview with Harrison.

Q: After posting Schlepping and Schmoozing through San Diego Countywhat specifically inspired you to make Interstate 5 the coverage area of ​​this book?

A: This Interstate 5 book, with new stories, is based on a lesson I learned in 1989 when I helped found Old Town Trolley Tours of San Diego. People tend to remember stories related to physical places. Interstate 5 is the backbone of California, with most of our state’s population living or working within 10 miles of this highway, so it’s a route to an incredible variety of stories.

Q: Why should readers outside of Southern California care about these Jewish stories along Interstate 5?

A: Some of the stories in this book are strictly local, while others are national or even international in scope. Here are just three examples of national stories: the brothers who founded the Simon Property Group, which owns hundreds of malls across the United States; the Tisch family, which has sports, philanthropic and real estate interests throughout the United States; and the creation of sesame street television show, which in turn led to the development of the new Sesame Place San Diego amusement park.

In addition to learning about businesses and programs that may be represented in their own cities, outside readers can also gain insight into some local Jewish aspects of San Diego, which is one of the most popular vacation spots. popular in the country. Wherever I travel, I like to find Jewish connections, and I think visitors to San Diego will too. One chapter offers a Jewish tour of Balboa Park. Another talks about Jews who played for the San Diego Padres.

Q: What story or two do you find unique in this book?

A: From a personal perspective, I enjoyed telling the stories of personal friends such as symphonic musician Eileen Wingard and the late San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender. One of the funniest stories to write is about the mishaps that attended the City of San Diego reception for Queen Elizabeth II in 1983, which I had the opportunity to observe up close.

Q: What is unique about the Jewish history of San Diego and Southern California compared to other parts of the country?

A: Each region of the country is influenced by its geography. San Diego County occupies the southwest corner of the continental United States. It is bounded to the south by Mexico and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. Some of the stories, charged with the Jewish experience, reflect this particular heritage. This book examines Jewish life across the border in Tijuana and chronicles the murals in Chicano Park. It also tells Jewish stories about the US Navy and the Port of San Diego.

Q: Why do you think it is important to find Jewish history everywhere?

A: There are two different audiences for this type of book: Jews and non-Jews. For my fellow Jews, the book is a reminder of the many things we have contributed to the tapestry of American life. It also recounts some of the biases and prejudices that we had to overcome. For non-Jews, it is an introduction to Jews in various activities: as businessmen, farmers, environmentalists, artists, historians, philosophers, teachers, journalists, politicians, civil rights leaders, spiritual leaders and law enforcement officials. In other words, the book offers them the opportunity to meet Jews in areas of common interest.

Jacob Kamaras is editor and publisher of the San Diego Jewish World, which was founded by Donald Harrison.