Oral Family Histories
NMJHS has been actively engaged in the collection, preservation, and documenting New Mexico Jewish family histories for more than 20 years. These histories were published in a series of fifteen Pioneer Family Pamphlets.
NMJHS decided to resume collecting Jewish family oral histories for several important reasons. While there are various documents held by various families, often in shoe boxes or unorganized files written materials simply don’t tell the whole story. It is the oral interview that often brings to light the history that written documents don’t tell. The memories, recollections, anecdotes, and insights make the history real. They also bring out the nuances of the lives and careers of the family members. Skilled interviewers who are trained to elucidate information by asking the relevant follow-on questions to open new threads of the family history and events to record.
Realizing that there were more family histories to record, Dr. Noel Pugach, Professor Emeritus, UNM and longtime NMJHS member began a series of new family interviews in 2017. To date, those family history interviewees are:
- Marian Silver, Santa Fe
- Kathryn Rubin formerly of Raton, N.M., now Colorado Springs
- Lillian ‘Sis’ & Michael Druxman, formerly of Las Cruces, now Albuquerque
The interview with Marian Silver encapsulates the story of three generations of New Mexico Jews who played a significant role in the economic, social, civic, and religious life in Santa Fe. Members of the family revitalized commercial life on the Plaza with the establishment of the White House by the first generation (Uhlfelder-Blatt) and the Guarantee by the second (Petchesky). It is particularly striking that women occupied a central place in running these enterprises. Marian (Joanna Uhlfelder’s granddaughter) married Abe Silver from New Orleans and they operated the Guarantee (which took over the White House) until they sold it 1986. None of their children were interested in taking it over.
Meanwhile, Marian and Abe were founders of Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Fe’s first synagogue, and served in various positions of leadership. The Silvers were major supporters of the Santa Fe Opera and Abe served on its board of Directors for many years and was Emeritus Director until 2015. They were devoted to the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and many other civic and charitable institutions. They were honored as Santa Fe Living Treasures in 2008. Abe Silver died in May 2015.
Marian Silver Interview: Click here
A conversation with Kathryn Rubin yields a wealth of information and insight into the story of New Mexico Jewry. Kathryn was the daughter of Louis (Ludwig) and Mina (Kahn) Heyman. She was born and raised in Albuquerque in 1923 and knew many of the early Jewish families not only in the city, but also in Gallup and Santa Fe, notably the large Kahn clan. She married Leon Rubin and settled in Raton with him as his family owned a mercantile business in Raton. Barney later took over the store and over the years the Rubins established several important commercial enterprises in Raton. They were the town’s leading merchants. The Rubins were also members of Temple Aaron in Trinidad, to which they were devoted. They played a vital role in leading the congregation and preserving the impressive building.
Kathryn Rubin Interview: Click here
“The Family of Sam Klein”
This interview with the daughter and grandson of Sam Klein provides an important introduction to the history of the Las Cruces Jewish community. Sam Klein was born in New York, but was attracted to the Southwest, first living in Douglas, Arizona and then settling permanently in Las Cruces. Sam laid the foundation for its business community by planting his popular furniture store on Main Street. He was later joined by his cousin, Joe Rosenfeld, who built the Boston Store, a department store, and then his son-in-law, Jay Druxman who had a men’s clothing store in the area. For some thirty years Sam Klein served in various political offices: county commissioner, member of Las Cruces City Council, and mayor of Las Cruces. Sam and his wife Frances were also among the founders and leaders of Congregation Beth El, a Reform synagogue.
The Druxmans’ Interview: Click here