By Maggie Bukowski
For the past two months I have been working as a student assistant helping to sort through the Las Vegas Jewish Federations archive. I have worked through around forty-eight of the estimated fifty-five boxes that were donated to UNLV’s Special Collections. Doing so has been wonderful and has taught me a lot about the Jewish community in Las Vegas. Today, while working to identify people in pictures, I ran across a real Jem of a picture from 1945. The picture is from the Las Vegas Morning Tribune’s Sunday, March 11, 1945 edition. The photo features a boy holding a Torah surrounded by men in uniform and plainclothes.
I was deeply intrigued by this photo as I have not seen many 1940s photos in the Federations collection. Since I was curious I headed to the libraries first floor to see if I could find it on microfilm. After much searching, and giggles at the 1940s cartoons, I found the newspaper page I was looking for along with an additional photo and a small article. Talk about successful research.
The article stated that the Torah dedication program was held in the base chapel at the Las Vegas Army Air Field on February 25. The Torah was donated for the duration of the war by the Beth El Congregation of Phoenix, Arizona. The photo features Las Vegas Jewish leaders such as Mark Schulman the Las Vegas B’nai B’rith president (far left), Nate Mack (second from left), as well as Rabbi Max H. Kert (third man) who came from the Olympic Jewish Center of Las Vegas.
Pearl Harbor was bombed seventy-five years ago today and finding this photo on the anniversary of that event was a nice reminder to me that just because history is over does not mean that it is not relevant. This photo prompted me to think about aspects of WWII and the history of Las Vegas that I had not though of before; mainly that religious ceremonies and life went on despite unusual circumstances.