Yahweh in Santa Fe

The tetragrammaton for Yahweh at the entrance to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis.

Numerous hidden historical treasures providing clues to Santa Fe’s fascinating past abound. Proof of this phenomena is right in plain sight. Upon entering the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is the tetragrammaton of the Hebrew name of God transliterated in four letters as YHWH or JHVH and articulated as Yahweh or Jehovah. The Jewish merchants who traveled the Santa Fe Trail settling in the capital city in the mid 19th century provided financial for the construction of the cathedral. The same merchants also provided financial support for the Holy Faith Episcopal church while it was being built. A Star of David is located in their main chapel.

Diaspora in the Southwest

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.

Largest Jewish Cemetery West of the Mississippi

In 1881, the Montefiore Cemetery in Las Vegas 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. Fairview cemetery in Santa Fe had the first Jewish section in the town. Today, there’s also a Jewish section at at Memorial Gardens Cemetery on Rodeo Road.

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