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PHOENIX, capital and largest city of Arizona. Its Jewish population in 2002 was 83,000, the 13th largest in the United States and growing. The first known Jew in Phoenix was Dr. Herman Bendell, who arrived in 1871, a year after the town was laid out, as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Arizona Territory. The first Jewish settlers came in 1872: Emil Ganz, a Civil War veteran, who was elected Mayor of Phoenix in 1887; Michael and Joseph *Goldwater (Goldwasser,) who founded a family mercantile dynasty that grew from a wilderness outpost into a statewide chain; Other early arrivals were Hyman Goldberg, his sons Aaron and David, and his brother Isaac (1875); Adolph, Leo, and Charles Goldberg (1879); Wolf Sachs; Joe Melczer; Selig Michelson, postmaster from 1908 to 1912; Gus Hirschfield; Harry Friedman; Pincus Kalsman; I.J. Lipson; and Isaac Rosenzweig. Aaron Goldberg, sat in the ninth and tenth territorial legislatures (1899–1901,) authored the bill that made Phoenix the capital, and his brother, Hyman was elected to the 19th and 20th legislatures. Barnett E. Marks, a young lawyer, who also organized the first Sunday school, later became assistant U.S. attorney for Arizona (1927–28.) Both Barnett and his wife, Freeda, were elected to the state legislature (1922.) Jews have been active in the political and civic life of the city. Rabbi Abraham Krohn of Beth Israel was memorialized in the city in 1958 when it named a public housing development for him. The mayor of Phoenix in 2006, Phil Gordon, was an active member of the Jewish community.

Informal Jewish worship services began in 1906 in a room over Melczer's saloon under the leadership of Barnett Marks. Temple Beth Israel was begun in 1921 as the first synagogue in Phoenix with funds raised by local sections of B'nai B'rith and the National Council of Jewish Women, which had been organized in 1917. Temple Beth Israel relocated to a new building in 1949. The original sanctuary was used as a Baptist church until 2002 when it was acquired by the AZ Jewish Historical Society with plans for restoration. Jews began coming to Phoenix for their health around 1920. The Jewish population increased dramatically after World War II as soldiers who had been stationed in Arizona returned to the state with their families. The city became one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, a major southwest trading center, and a haven for winter residents from all parts of the U.S. It is estimated that 2,000 Jewish families move to the Phoenix area yearly. There are over 40 congregations – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Humanistic, and Jewish Renewal. The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix supports 11 constituent agencies including the Bureau of Jewish Education, Council for Jews with Special Needs, Greater Phoenix Va'ad Ha Kashrut, Hillel at Arizona State University, Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Family and Children's Service, King David School, Kivel Campus of Care, Pardes Jewish Day School, and two Community Centers. The community also has two other day schools: Phoenix Hebrew Academy and Jess Schwartz Community High School. The Federation has a very strong Israel office stressing programming, travel opportunities, and economic partnerships. The Phoenix Sister City Commission accepted a partnership with Ramat Gan in Israel (2005.) Cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert (all east of Phoenix) and Surprise (west of Phoenix) have growing Jewish communities. Surrounding retirement communities are Sun City, Sun City West, Sun City Grand, and Sun Lakes. (Other organized congregations in Arizona are in Flagstaff, Kingman, Lake Havasu, Prescott, Sedona, and Yuma.) According to a demographic study conducted in 2002 the Jewish population in Greater Phoenix included approximately 83,000 in 44,000 Jewish households, a 138% increase since 1984.


J. Stocker, Jewish Roots in Arizona (1954); F.S. Fierman, in: AJA, 16 (1964), 135–60; 18 (1966), 3–19; Phoenix Jewish News (1947–2005); Arizona Post (1946–2005); Risa Mallin, Arizona Jewish Historical Society.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.