If it’s true that most of our personal histories will be forgotten within one and half generations of our passing, then the work an oral historian has great purpose. From the oral histories collected so far for this project, a picture of early Las Vegas is developing. What was it like for early Jews who settled here? How did they meet and offer friendship to each other? There was no synagogue.
With wonderful fortune our Jewish Heritage collection of oral histories is preserving memories of those early days. With the recent passing of Edythe Katz-Yarchever and a few months prior of Mimi Katz, I recalled the following story that Mimi loved to tell.
In 1957, Mimi and George Katz arrived in Las Vegas. Wanting to make Jewish friends they attended a Friday evening gathering of Jews. There was no temple, but Jews gathered to celebrate the Sabbath. Here are Mimi’s words from her December 2014 oral history which was recorded for this project:
“Temple Beth Sholom, even though it was the first one, was not built. We decided it was time to meet other people, to meet friends. One Friday night there was a group that was meeting in the basement of a church. When we went there, there must have been...I don't know if there were even fifty people. Of course, they saw George and I walk in and they knew that we were new people. The first couple that came over to us was Edythe and Lloyd Katz. We started talking to them and we found out that Edythe lived in Brookline where I lived. Of course, I didn't know her at that time. She went to a different school. We actually traced that we were like third cousins removed. There was, I think, an aunt of hers was married to an uncle of mine or something that I didn't know about. So every time Edythe and I were together if somebody said, ‘Oh, you two are related?’ she would always say, ‘Through China,’ because that's where they originally came from. That part of the family came from Russia to China and then from China here.”
They were two women who shared the last name of Katz in a small Jewish population of a small city in southern Nevada. They were spiritually drawn together, but each had unique pioneering spirits. Future generations will continue to learn about their experiences and accomplishments through their oral histories.
If you are someone or know of someone who should be included in the Las Vegas oral history of those of Jewish ancestry, please contact us. 702-895-222