The first week-end in November, the Las Vegas Jewish Community (LVJC) had the honor of hosting the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society’s annual fall conference. After over a year of planning by NMJHS President Linda Goff and Conference Co-Chair Harvey Buchalter working in tandem with the LVJC board on site, attendees from all over the state (and as far away as New Hampshire) participated in the conference entitled: Making a Difference: 20th Century Jews and Their Legacies.
This is the second time in the recent past that the LVJC hosted the NMJHS fall conference — when Erev Shabbat worshippers filled the historic Temple Montefiore — we said dayenu, it would have been enough. However, LVJC is now a 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation, which en-ables new funding opportunities such as our first grant from the New Mexico Jewish Federation. This, in turn, enabled us to hire Rabbi Chavah Carp for periodic services throughout the year.
Bolstered by this support, on November 3, 2017, the historic Temple Montefiore (now the High-lands University Catholic Newman Center) once again opened its doors and, for the first time, services were led not only by Rabbi Carp, but also by Cantor Michael Linder, who recently re-tired from Santa Fe’s Temple Beit Tikvah. Having a rabbi and a cantor – and seeing so many Jews fill the old Temple where typically we struggle to make a minyan (or even maintain a Jew-ish majority) – was the fulfillment of a communal longing. It encouraged us to hope that one day we can rededicate this Temple and sustain it as our spiritual home, honoring the legacy of the original Congregation Montefiore. After such a simcha, an oneg co-sponsored by LVJC and NMJHS – with a home baked challah, bagels and lox, among other Jewish delicacies – made a very special Shabbat even more so.
Saturday’s program began with a welcome from NMJHS President Linda Goff, and a welcome from the LVJC by Secretary Diana Presser. Sunday’s panel discussion of Jewish Las Vegas in-cluded long-time resident and local filmmaker, Jim Terr, whose family has long and deep roots in the community; Diana Presser, an NMHU graduate and resident since 1996; and Dr. Thomas Strain, who has practiced medicine in New Mexico since 1987, and here since 2006, shared sto-ries of his spiritual journey through conversion and bar mitzvah to his active leadership as a board member and president of the LVJC.
As the conference came to its conclusion, some took a tour of the Montefiore Cemetery, led by Kate Immerman, treasurer of the Montefiore Cemetery Association, who provided a brief history of the cemetery, from the German immigrants of the 1880’s to the present.