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06 November 2015

The Jews of Trinidad, Colorado

Trinidad, Colorado is a small city in the Southeastern part of Colorado. Its history dates back to the time of the Spanish traders who took advantage of its close proximity to the Santa Fe Trail. However, it wasn't until the early 1860's that large numbers of immigrants began to arrive. They came as a result of coal being discovered in the region and they wanted to take advantage of that. By the late 1860's the population of Trinidad reached about 1200 people. Trinidad incorporated as a city in 1876, a few months before Colorado became a state and in 1878 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached Trinidad which helped it become a community ready for growth.
Part of that growth was the establishment of a Jewish community which happened in 1883. In 1872, two brothers, Henry and Sol Jaffa arrived in Trinidad to manage the store owned by their friend, Henry Biernbaum.  Eventually the Jaffa brothers established their own store which they called the Jaffa Brothers Trading Company. After time, a third brother, Sam,
arrived in Trinidad. In 1883, that first congregation, Congregation Aaron was established. The name Aaron came from the name of the father of the Jaffa brothers, who was a Rabbi in the old country. That congregation had 24 members and the friend of the Jaffa's, Henry Biernbaum served as its first president. In 1889, the first Synagogue (at right) was dedicated. At this time the congregation had 46 men and their families.
The synagogue, which today is the oldest in Colorado, still standing at its original location, serves not only the Jews of Southeastern Colorado bot also Jews of the neighboring area of New Mexico. It stands only about 20 miles from the New Mexico state line. A few miles away is located the Trinidad Masonic Cemetery, of which part contains the burial ground of Congregation Aaron (see below). 
It is the amazing people who established these incredible pioneer congregations that helped move the Jewish people west. Its also some very dedicated and loving people who keep their history and memories alive. We should all be thankful for them.

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