The settlement of New Mexico’s Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and other European countries began with the merchants who traversed the Santa Fe Trail from 1848 to 1871. Many chose Santa Fe at the end of the trail as their new home. Growth for this community stagnated in 1878 when the railroad bypassed Santa Fe in favor of Las Vegas 60 miles to the northeast. Las Vegas became a major commercial hub, with a large Jewish community that ran mercantile businesses. In 1881, the Montefiore Cemetery was created. It became one of the first Jewish cemeteries west of the Mississippi. Three years later Congregation Montefiore was established, and they built the first Jewish temple in New Mexico in 1886. The congregation dissolved in 1955 because of a decrease in the number of Jewish residents.
Jewish Symbol @ the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi
Since their arrival, the Jewish spirit of community collaboration has spurred their involvement in all civic affairs. One of the most significant contributions to the city occurred during the construction of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe. In need of financial assistance to complete the construction, Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy sought financial help from the Jewish merchants. In gratitude for their assistance, the doors of the main of entrance bear an inscription in the ancient Hebrew Tetragrammaton of YHWH, the Hebrew name for God, which is articulated as Yahweh or Jehovah.