Monday, January 20, 2020 -
Print Edition

A history of Colorado Springs Jewry is underway

Fred Sondermann, left, a leading figure in Colorado Springs Jewish history; right, Perry Bach

It’s amazing the things one can find in an attic.

Dr. Perry Bach became interested in the history of Jews in Colorado Springs as a result of a query from his cousin in Miami asking how the two of them were related. He researched his family tree and found that he had relationships with 400-500 people from all over the world, dating back to the 1800s. He became fascinated with the connections that exist among people. This led to a request from Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs to write a brief history of the synagogue for its 40th anniversary celebration in September, 2010.

When Bach began his research for Temple Shalom, he started by looking through the materials kept in the synagogue’s crawl spaces above the restrooms and coat closet. He found papers that were very disorganized and scattered all over the attic.

He began by putting the records in order: pictures, minutes of board meetings, personal notes and anecdotes on scraps of paper. As the materials were written by many different people, the perspectives were varied.

Bach eventually came up with a cohesive pamphlet, titled “Glimpses at our History,” that was distributed at the 40th anniversary gala for the temple.

As a result of his research, Bach’s interest in history was piqued. He decided to take time from his child psychiatry practice to expand on the booklet. The oldest records he found dated back to 1860. From that year to 1980 much of the recordkeeping was done by women who were active in the Jewish community and the temple, including Rose Lorig and Adele Obodov. The initial part of the project involved Bach sorting through the records and placing them in sequence.

When asked what kind of problems he encountered, Bach mentioned the initial organization of the material he found in the temple’s crawl spaces.

Also, Bach found that the writing varied widely due to the authors’ many styles and points of view. He had a large job clarifying relationships between people; the work was initially not cohesive. Bach had to choose between being a writer himself and being merely a compiler of the huge amount of information available.

In addition to compiling and sequencing the great mountain of information found at Temple Shalom, Bach requested biographical and autobiographical chapters from individuals still living in the area who were active in the Jewish community during the previous 20 years.

He ran into the difficulty of receiving these chapters in a timely manner. The chapters requested were on a volunteer-only basis; he was unable to impose strict deadlines for their submission. Finally, he stopped asking for the chapters, and some remain missing to this day.

A further problem involved the decision of what information to include and what to omit. Bach wanted there to be no conflicts over who to include, and thus offered to include anyone who wanted to be in the book.

The last problem he mentioned was that of trying to make the past “come alive” while working with mainly dry facts.

How did the Jews help to shape the city of Colorado Springs? Bach says that they generally did so quietly, by donating land and serving on city committees.

One of the earliest Jewish settlers to Colorado Springs was Louis Ehrich. He became the chair of the City Realty Board; it was he who convinced the Printers’ Union to come to Colorado Springs in the 1890s.

This board was also the owner of the land that later became the site for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Ehrich was also the first chair of the library commission.

Rubin Goldmark was the first director of Colorado College (1895-1902) and was the first chair of the music department there.

The first owner of the property that later became the site of the Broadmoor Hotel was Jewish.

Isaac Cahn owned a lumberyard and much of what is now Old Colorado City, currently the west side of Colorado Springs.

Jewish leaders of Colorado Springs worked with civic leaders to keep the Ku Klux Klan out of the city in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Jews owned scrapyards that later became steel and iron works companies, and these then grew into construction and realty companies that are still doing business in the city today.

The tentative title of Bach’s book is Jewish Colorado Springs: 1860 to 2019. He anticipates a publishing date next winter.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Leave a Reply