Then and Now: Rabbis son saw early greatness in Ansel Adams

By this time of year, the accommodations at Yosemite have been booked for months. You could try your luck by showing up at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge with the “Yo Semite”

Ansel Adams was just 26 when he met Albert Bender.

T-shirt designed by Sarah Lefton (who went on to found, for years the bestselling item at the Contemporary Jewish Museum store. Or you could stay home and stare at the framed Ansel Adams poster of Half Dome in the den.

As it turns out, there is a local Jewish connection to the silvery visions that Adams brought to calendars and coffee-table books around the world — Albert “Micky” Bender (1866–1941). An Irish-born rabbi’s son who came to these shores at age 15, Bender — barely 5 feet tall and with a minor speech impediment — was an early enthusiast of modern art and urged the local community to support new artistic trends, especially photography.

When Bender met the unknown Adams in 1926, he helped the young man finance his first portfolio. Bender’s support of local libraries and museums prompted both Stanford University and Mills College to name their rare-book libraries after him.

This column is provided to j. by Daniel Schifrin, writer-in-residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where stories of local Jewish life are explored in “California Dreaming: Jewish Life in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush to the Present.”