Move over, Cotopaxi. Your tenure in Denver Jewish history began oh so recently, in the 1880s. Once you were king of the hill. The founders. The legends.
The people whose descendants can look back more than 130 years later and say: That’s when traditional Judaism in Denver began.
Technically, that’s still true. But did we mention Denver? How did the city get its name? For that matter, Larimer Square — where did that name come from? And Larimer County?
Enter Avrohom and Sorah Larimer.
With a side dish of . . . Abraham Lincoln.
Avrohom’s great-great-great grandfather founded the city of Denver.
Gave the city its name, after his friend James Denver; and bought the first property in the city at, you guessed it, 14th and Larimer Sts.
Remember that ill-fated colony in Cotopaxi, Colorado, that unfortunate collection of settlers from Ratno, Poland, in the 1880s? After barely surviving a couple of harsh Colorado winters in the mountains — actually, some did not survive — the East European Jews moved down to Denver to begin the traditional Jewish community here, along West Colfax Ave.
But 130 years later, six members of Denver’s traditional Jewish community, Avrohom and Sorah Larimer, and their four children, Shalom, 12, Moshe, 11, Yitzy, 6, and Chavah Malkah, 2, are living reminders that in the traditional Jewish life of Denver, 130 years ago is not so far back.
The Larimers are proud of their Denver roots, and of their greatgreat-great-grandfather’s acquaintanceship with Abraham Lincoln.
But the Larimers are infinitely prouder of something else: their Jewish roots. Their connection to the founding of Denver, and even to Lincoln, pale before their roots that go all the way back to Mount Sinai, over 3,000 years ago. Two more articulate advocates of the meaning of Sinai and its mitzvot can hardly be found.
In an interview, the Larimers traced the unusual markers on their journey. The number and depth of these markers required no special focus on the part of the interviewer. Comfortable in their own skin, comfortable with the choices they made, indeed, not just comfortable but buoyant and sailing, the Larimers’ sincerity and straight-forwardness are arresting. Nothing special is required to catch the attention of the listener (me) and now, of you, the readers.