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Albuquerque, New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, city in New Mexico. Available documentation dates a village of Alburquerque (the first "r" was later dropped) from 1706. The comparatively lush land adjacent to the Rio Grande River to the west of the Sandia Mountains in central New Mexico and 60 miles south of Santa Fe proved to be an attractive point for settlement for Spanish newcomers from Mexico. A number of Indian pueblos already existed there. American military occupation after 1846 and the territorial status accorded New Mexico in the United States allowed Americans to join the existing Hispanic and Indian population.

Jews were among the early American traders to the area. As early as 1852 Simon Rosenstein was operating a store on the plaza – now called Old Town – and possessed real estate in 1850. He married a Hispanic woman and may have been the first Jew divorced in New Mexico in 1866.

In 1880 the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad created a railroad depot and yards over a mile from the old plaza, which became a focal point for New Albuquerque and New Mexico. By 1883, some 25 Jewish males formed the first Jewish organization in Albuquerque and New Mexico, a chapter of B'nai B'rith. They were young, mostly single, and all were merchants or clerks. By 1896 their number had nearly tripled; and the group, although still young, showed maturation through marriage and the creation of families. As a result, Albuquerque's Jews created a congregation in 1897, the second in the Territory after Congregation Montefore in Las Vegas. It was named Congregation Albert, the name acquired through auction to the highest bidder by Alfred Grunsfeld in honor of his father. It adhered to Reform practice. This Congregation is now the oldest in the state. In 1921 a more traditional Conservative congregation formed under the name B'nai Israel.

Although Albuquerque was the largest city in the state before World War II, the Cold War provided great impetus to its further growth. As a result of the whole area's isolation and open spaces Albuquerque became a center for atomic research and attendant industries and the site for numerous military bases. With a population of 35,000 in 1940 the city grew to 200,000 by 1960. By 2000 it had 448,000.

The increase of Jewish population in Albuquerque outmatched the city's general growth. In 1940 the estimate of Jewish numbers was 450 – over one-third of the state's total Jewish persons. In 2000 the estimate was 7,500, perhaps 70 percent of the state's Jews.

The social character of the Jewish population changed dramatically after World War II. Scientists, doctors, attorneys, and faculty became quite common, gradually matching shopkeepers. A survey carried out in 1977 counted more than 100 Jewish faculty members at the University of New Mexico in the city. In the last decades of the 20th century Jewish women joined the ranks of professions in rapidly increasing numbers. However, Jewish-owned businesses – new and old – continued to exist and prosper.

Jewish residents have long participated in the political life of the community. The first mayor of an incorporated Albuquerque in 1885 was Henry N. Jaffa. Mike Mandell followed him in 1890. Jews continued to serve on various local commissions after World War II. In the late 1980s, Steve Schiff, a former district attorney and a Republican, was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served until his death in 1998.

Their increasingly varied social character gave witness to Jews assuming an ever-broadening range of important roles. Home builder Sam Hoffman constructed large housing developments in the early postwar era until his death in 1959. Architect Max Flatow, who arrived in 1947, contributed some of the city's tallest modern structures and the College of Education complex at the University of New Mexico. From 1985 to 1992 Neil Stulberg conducted the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra in the city.

In the latter decades of the 20th century all dimensions of activity broadened. In religious organization Chavurat Hamidbar was formed in 1973 and Nahalat Shalom (Renewal Independent) came into existence under Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb in 1983. In the early 1990s Chabad made its presence known. In addition, secular organizations grew up after World War II with an eye to aiding Jewish refugees and supporting Israel as well as seeking to aid a growing number of elderly and to educate Jewish children. By the end of the century a well-developed Jewish Community Council and a splendid campus placed Albuquerque in the category of middle-sized Jewish communities in the United States.


M. Simmons, Albuquerque: A Narrative History (1982); H.J. Tobias, A History of the Jews in New Mexico (1990).

[Henry J. Tobias (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.