If the level of observance was low in New York before the war (see previous post and comments), imagine the state of Jewish life in Sacramento, California. My mother’s family settled there in the late 30’s, where my grandfather and my grandmother’s brothers had established a business. My grandmother told me that she refused to travel to shul in the car, so my grandfather attended alone for a few months until she gave in.
According to my mother, her uncles hesitated to bring their parents over from Germany. They realized the parents would be disappointed in the brothers’ lack of observance and shocked at the absence of religious amenities. My great-grandparents did manage to get out in 1939 and lived with my grandmother, who, despite the Sabbath driving, remained the most religiously observant.
I did not look forward to my frequent trips to Sacramento. It was dull, and my grandmother kept a close eye on me. When the Orthodox synagogue first opened, I wanted to attend. Grandma tried to exert control over the situation by insisting that I take a sweater. Ordinarily I would have accommodated her requests, but this was Sacramento. In July. I would have had to wear it, as carrying without an eruv is forbidden on Shabbat. I left the sweater at home.
An article about the new Sacramento eruv inspired this post. I see that my grandparents’ shul, the Conservative Temple of Mosaic Law, still exists.