ROCKY MOUNTAIN JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY
A Legacy of Caring: Jewish Women in Early Colorado Charities and Social Activism: Beginnings
It is said that Rebecca Gratz was the model for Sir Walter Scott’s heroine in Ivanhoe – Rebecca of York. This certainly could be true, for Rebecca Gratz was a remarkable woman and a real life heroine. She was the foremost American Jewish woman of the 19th Century, an activist for the poor and a profoundly religious woman. Rebecca devoted her life to confronting and overcoming the personal challenges that she faced as a Jew and as a member of one of Philadelphia’s most prominent families. She led the way for other charitable women by founding the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, the first Jewish charity in the United States that was not associated with a synagogue, and by founding the Hebrew Sunday School Society. [Dr. Dianne Ashton will be speaking on Rebecca Gratz on Wednesday, February 11th at 7:00 p.m. For more details, click on the Livingston Lecture link below. Dr. Ashton in her book Rebecca Gratz: Women and Judaism in Antebellum America, uses Rebecca Gratz’s letters to explore Rebecca’s unique blend of American and Jewish values and her influence on subsequent generations of American Jews.]
Beginnings in Colorado
Twelve Jewish men of German descent were “1859ers,” a part of the Gold Rush in Colorado. These Jewish men and others, settled down, married, and raised families in Denver and mining towns all around Colorado. Clara Goldsmith, pictured in the photo to the right as a young woman, was born in 1860 – the first Jewish girl to be born in Denver.
Colorado cities and towns began to show the civilizing touches of women. The Hebrew Ladies’ Benevolent Society, was organized in 1872 and began a tradition of caring and concern that became the special sphere of Jewish women in Colorado.
Delphine Cohen, pictured at the left, was a founder and the first president of the Benevolent Society and thus became the first Jewish woman in Denver to hold an office in any organization.
Click on page titles below to learn more about these charitable women.
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