6 Things About Jewish New Mexico

From Chili Matzo to Crypto-Jews

Father of the Bomb: J. Robert Oppenheimer lived on a New Mexico ranch before he began work at the Los Alamos laboratory.
Father of the Bomb: J. Robert Oppenheimer lived on a New Mexico ranch before he began work at the Los Alamos laboratory.

By Yardain Amron

Published July 15, 2014, issue of August 01, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Fancy some green chili in your matzo brei on Passover? Then you should go to New Mexico. Here are six things about Jewish New Mexico you should know.

1) New Mexico is home to many of the last crypto-Jews, who claim that their ancestors fled to Mexico during the Spanish Inquisition to escape persecution. Over the generations, these Jews were forced to practice their Judaism secretly, and today, retain in many cases only suggestive practices — such as lighting candles on Friday nights, refraining from eating pork, or keeping the Sabbath.

2) In 1881, the Jewish Community of Las Vegas, New Mexico, built the Montefiore Cemetery, one of the first Jewish cemeteries west of the Mississippi.

3) In 1884, the local community organized the first Jewish congregation in New Mexico, Congregation Montefiore, building a temple two years later. The Reform congregation is named after the world famous British philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore.

4) On Passover, according to Hadassah Magazine, some Jews here add green chili to their matzo brei.

5) At the age of 18, Charles Ilfeld arrived in Santa Fe from Bad Homburg, Germany. He emerged as a new pioneer, building a formidable mercantile emporium, the Charles Ilfeld Company, and becoming an exemplary member of New Mexico society. His company lasted through the 1950s.

6) Son of a Jewish textile manufacturer, Father of the Atomic Bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, lived on a New Mexico ranch before he began work at the Los Alamos laboratory. The first atomic bomb test was conducted in the desert, southwest of Soccoro, New Mexico.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.