Hanukkah & Hebrew History in Leadville
Jewish Faithful Light Up The Cloud City
It’s a Happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish friends in Leadville Today along with anyone else who celebrates this special Festival of Lights which began at sundown on Sunday, Nov. 28, and will be celebrated thru sundown on Monday, Dec. 6. More commonly known as Hanukkah, this eight-day Jewish holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
In honor of Hanukkah, Leadville Today brings readers the story of Leadville’s Temple Israel Museum and Synagogue. This beautiful building located on the corners of W. 4th and Pine Streets houses a meaningful and moving tribute to this special group of faithful. Their historic contributions to Leadville are many and can be discovered in this Leadville Today video presentation from the 2019 presentation “Jewish Life in Leadville in the 1880s.”
This two-part program presented by Rabbi Ruth Gelfarb and Leadville’s Bill Korn who is President of Temple Israel Foundation provides a rarely seen look into the life of Pioneer Jews in Leadville and their lasting contributions to America’s highest city. Here are those presentations in addition to some current news about the Temple and ongoing efforts at Leadville’s Hebrew Cemetery – enjoy and learn!
Happy Hanukkahs to all of our Jewish friends and neighbors living in Leadville Today! For the most up-to-date information about Holiday Services and other programs in the area, please visit the Synagogue of the Summit website.
Part One – “Jewish Life in Leadville in the 1880s.”
Temple Israel: A Testament of Jewish Faith
Anyone who has read about Leadville’s past can recount the hundreds of stories of lawlessness, revelry, and blatant debauchery. It was an old west mining town in the “worst” way, at times. But regardless of its reputation, in the early 1880s, people from all social strata flocked to Leadville in search of their fortunes. Among the town’s approximately 30,000 inhabitants in the 1880s, were 300 Jewish faithful, including David May and the Guggenheims. It was during Leadville’s first “boom” on September 19, 1884, that the Temple Israel was dedicated, during Rosh Hashanah, reflecting the size and strength of Leadville’s Jewish community.
Fast forward 128 years and on September 2012, that same historic building was re-dedicated to those early pioneers. It now stands fully restored as a testament to this unique part of Leadville history. Thanks to efforts from the Temple Israel Foundation under the personal direction and dedication of local resident Bill Korn, the synagogue now adds to Leadville’s reputation as having the most museums per capita than any other city in the United States.
The Temple Israel Synagogue and Museum provides visitors with a view of what life was like for Leadville’s pioneer Jews. Jews were among the early settlers of the upper Arkansas Valley (ca. 1861) and while some worked in the mines, most worked as merchants. Wholesale liquor was an area of commerce that proved to be particularly lucrative. Leadville’s earliest Jewish settlers mainly had roots in Germany, held assimilationist attitudes, and practiced Reform Judaism. Later immigrants were more religiously rigorous.
Part Two – “Jewish Life in Leadville in the 1880s.”
Leadville’s Jewish population declined with the rest of the town when the U.S. silver standard was abandoned in 1893. Today, there are fewer than 100 Jews living in Leadville. While regular services are no longer held in the synagogue, the building houses a small artifact collection that documents the experience of Leadville’s Jewish pioneers. The foundation has cataloged and has on display nearly 150 artifacts. The collection includes objects supporting the historic record that Jews found prosperity as merchants, tradespeople, and even one brothel owner. Those interested in seeing the collection may schedule a tour through the group’s website at www.jewishleadville.org.
But none of these efforts may have ever seen the lights from a Hanukkah menorah after a tragic fire in 2006, nearly brought the building to the ground. An electrical mishap had flames shooting high into the Leadville sky. But like a phoenix from the ashes, the tragedy gave added zeal to the renovation project, which was supported by private contributions and four grants from the Colorado State Historical Fund. The restoration was completed in 2008.
The Temple Israel Foundation’s dedication to preserving and upholding Leadville’s Jewish history does not stop here. While the synagogue is a testament to the life of Jewish pioneers, the Hebrew Cemetery has also been restored to protect and honor the souls resting there.
Since taking control of the cemetery grounds, very significant volunteer efforts led by the Denver chapter of B’nai B’rith continue every June. They have cleared much of the site from heavy overgrowth, encircled the area with a decorative fence, added an entry arch and monument, all of which culminated in the reconsecration of the cemetery in August 1999. The replacement of missing markers was completed in 2004.
To schedule a tour, reserve the synagogue for special events, make genealogical inquiries call, 303-709-7050 or 719-293-1274 or visit their website at www.jewishleadville.org.
News from Leadville’s Holy Family Parish
Traffic Delays Through Glenwood Canyon
The Colorado Department of Transportation will continue necessary helicopter and rockfall removal operations along Interstate 70 in Glenwood. Work began this week the safety-critical operation required to remove rocks and other material from rockfall fencing above and next to I-70. The material is from summer 2021 debris flows in the canyon. During the project, crews will also repair fencing and other rockfall prevention barriers damaged by the flows, including eight existing rockfall fences on the north slope in Glenwood Canyon.
When the helicopter is airborne, traffic stops on I-70 will be required for eastbound and westbound traffic. These holds are expected to last 20-30 minutes, depending on the work taking place, before traffic is released. The hours of operation will be 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and crews will be monitoring traffic impacts. Midwest Rockfall, Inc. is the contractor on the rock fence repairs.
The work is the next step as CDOT continues to prepare I-70, the recreation path and other infrastructure in the canyon for potential debris flows and rockfall activity in spring 2022. The series of summer 2021 flows caused significant damage. Although crews have worked almost continuously since June to repair damage and remove material, there remains enough material in the canyon that spring flows and rockfall could cause more damage to the roadway and recreation path. In December, work to remove more material from the Colorado River next to I-70 will expand. That work will require lane closures.
Other repairs in the canyon: Crews are getting close to completing permanent emergency repairs on I-70 at Mile Point 123.5/Blue Gulch. Crews have completed necessary repairs to westbound lanes at that location and have fully reopened westbound traffic to two lanes. Eastbound lanes will remain in a one-lane configuration due to continued repairs on the concrete box culvert underneath the roadway at that location.
Anticipated Traffic Impacts
- Single lane closures of the westbound lanes will take place Monday-Friday during working hours.
- Eastbound and westbound traffic will occasionally have planned traffic stops lasting 20-30 minutes, from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
- Eastbound lane closure in place 24-7.
- Once river work begins, additional single-lane closures will be necessary.