Jews of the Wild West a Mul­ti­cul­tur­al True Story

  • Review
By – April 30, 2012

This book traces the lives of two Jew­ish fam­i­lies, the Staabs and the Ilfelds, who left Ger­many in the 1800s and set­tled in San­ta Fe and Las Vegas, New Mex­i­co. Start­ing with noth­ing but their hon­esty and busi­ness acu­men, these fam­i­lies became wealthy and pow­er­ful. They con­tributed to their com­mu­ni­ties with ener­gy and gen­eros­i­ty. Each page tells of the adven­tures of a mem­ber of the fam­i­ly and is accom­pa­nied by a col­or­ful draw­ing by the author. 

It was Abra­ham Staab who lent the Arch­bish­op mon­ey to the build the cathe­dral in San­ta Fe. When the church couldn’t repay the loan, Abra­ham made it a gift. To show his appre­ci­a­tion, the Arch­bish­op put the name of God in Hebrew accom­pa­nied by a Jew­ish star over the side entrance to the cathe­dral. Julia Staab, Abraham’s wife, was saved from harm one day while trav­el­ing by stage­coach. Her com­pan­ion, a nun, had once nursed Bil­ly the Kid back to health. When the famous rob­ber dis­cov­ered who was inside the stage­coach, he did not rob or harm them. In 1865, Charles Ilfeld came to San­ta Fe and lat­er moved to Las Vegas where he start­ed a depart­ment store that still exists today. One of his nephews, Lud­wig, lent a horse to Ted­dy Roo­sevelt to ride in the Rough Rid­ers’ parade. Sub­se­quent­ly, Charles’ broth­er mar­ried a Staab and the Staabs and Ilfelds became one large extend­ed family. 

Addi­tion­al vignettes through­out the book pro­vide exam­ples of the impor­tant role Jews played in set­tling the Amer­i­can Wild West. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 12.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

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