Albuquerque, founded by Spanish colonists in 1706, seems an unusual place for Jewish immigrants to settle. Yet long before New Mexico statehood in 1912, Jewish settlers had made their homes in the high desert town, located on the banks of the Rio Grande River. Initially, business opportunities lured German Jews to the Santa Fe Trail; during the expansive railroad days of the 1880s, Jewish citizens were poised to take on leadership roles in business, government, and community life. Henry Jaffa, a Jewish merchant and acquaintance of Wyatt Earp, served as Albuquerque’s first mayor. From launching businesses along Central Avenue, to establishing the Indian Trading Room at the famed Alvarado Hotel and founding trading posts, Route 66 tourist establishments, and the Sandia Tram, Jewish businesspeople partnered with their neighbors to boost Albuquerque’s already plentiful assets. Along the way, community members built Jewish organizations—a B’nai B’rith chapter, Congregation Albert, and Congregation B’nai Israel—that made their mark upon the larger Albuquerque community.
Author Bio: Author Naomi Sandweiss, an Albuquerque native and longtime New Mexico Jewish Historical Society volunteer, used more than 200 images from public archives, congregational collections, and individual and family collections to illustrate the city’s fascinating Jewish history.
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