Santa Fe’s First Rabbi

Rabbi Leonard A. Helman came to Santa Fe in 1974.

Rabbi Leonard A. Helman was Santa Fe’s first rabbi when he came to town in 1974. His first post was at Temple Beth Shalom, which back then was the city’s only Jewish congregation. During that time he also worked as a lawyer for the N.M. Public Service Commission. In 2004, he established a scholarship at the N.M. School for the Deaf. An international competitor in bridge tournaments, he founded the Leonard Helman Bridge Center in 2008. Helman also provided scholarships for children interested in bridge in the belief that the game will provide them with necessary analytical skills in the future.

A childhood picture of Leonard A. Helman.

Indelible Mark on Santa Fe History

Leonard A. Helman came to New Mexico when he was 48 years old and served as a rabbi until his death in 2013. He left an indelible mark in local history. As Lance Bell, born in 1966, said, “Rabbi Helman put Judaism on the map here in our City Different. Many of the original Jewish families, including founding families of Temple Beth Shalom, helped start Congregation Beit Tikva because of our love for Rabbi Leonard Helman. We have been referred to by some as ‘Helman disciples.’ Whether it was at a wedding or funeral, Rabbi Helman had special verbiage and life messages that he was so good at delivering. Attending his funeral in the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi was a special memorial that was fitting for Santa Fe royalty.”

Founding of Beit Tikva

Congregation Beit Tikva started at a Passover Seder in April of 1995. The group met in a private home every Friday night for services after the first Seder. That summer Rabbi Helman took charge of the congregation. The group quickly grew large enough that Leah Kellogg approached the Lutheran Church of the Servant and asked to rent space on Friday nights, where they continued to worship for the next ten years. During the High Holy Days, when attendance grew, services were held at the Capital Christian Church and Presbyterian Church. In 2005, Beit Tikva built their own temple on Old Pecos Trail.

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