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Making a slight detour, Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the...

March 03, 1985|HERB HAIN

Making a slight detour, Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West by Harriet and Fred Rochlin (Houghton Mifflin: $17.95) starts out in northern Mexico, where Jews were burnt at the stake during the Inquisition early in the 17th Century. But then it heads in the right direction, giving us a "How the West Was Won" with a mostly German-Jewish accent. Did you know that Wyatt Earp's consort for almost 50 years was Josephine Sarah Marcus, an actress? That MJB coffee was named after Max Brandenstein? The pioneer Jews were merchants (Goldwater in Arizona, May in Los Angeles, Levi Strauss in San Francisco), but also cowpokes, miners and public servants. Blanche Colman of Deadwood, S.D., became the first female lawyer in that state. Crammed with 180 illustrations, this book, by devoting no more than a page or so to even the best-known names, manages to paint a broad canvas of not just Jewish pioneers, but the entire westward movement.

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