Jews of the Wild West

Episode 1 of 1

Western Jewish pioneers, those of the silver screen and real life, are a largely forgotten chapter in U.S. History. And yet, they played a definitive role shaping the expansion of the United States. There were nationally known names such as Levi Strauss, Samsonite founder Jesse Shwayder and the Guggenheim family, who built their great fortunes through grit and determination in California and Colorado. A young Golda Meir spent formative years in Denver. And there were also lesser-known characters such as Solomon Bibo, a Prussian immigrant, who became a non-Native American tribal leader in New Mexico and Solomon Carvalho, a Sephardic painter and photographer who spent the mid-1800s documenting the territories of Kansas, Colorado and Utah. Wyatt Earp's wife, Josephine Marcus Earp, was a Jewish actress whose beauty is rumored to have triggered the fight at the OK Corral. And by the end of the 19th Century nearly every notorious Wild West town had a Jewish mayor. The wagon trains that moved westward with Jewish families traveled for the same reason as many settlers: opportunity. Continuous cycles of anti-Jewish oppression, deadly violence and forced poverty in Europe forced over two million Jewish refugees to seek out a better life in America. The antisemitism and tenements found in New York City, however, did not offer the respite many Jews were seeking. By 1912, it is estimated that more than 100,000 Jews had migrated to the Wild West to put down roots. Today, they epitomize the important legacy of immigration in America. Through on-camera interviews, compelling footage, and historical photographs, JEWS OF THE WILD WEST tells a positive immigration story and highlights the dynamic contributions Jewish Americans made to shaping the Western United States.

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