Meet the Jewish Community of Santa Fe

A conversation with Mrs. Naomi Israel, President of the Congregation Kol BeRamah

A Virtual Visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, is one of the oldest capital cities in North America (sharing its founding date with St. Augustine and Montreal). Santa Fe became a major tourist spot in the early 1900s, as people traveled out west by train. Jewish merchants have long played a historical role in town, with various myths about how a Tetragrammaton ended up on the front door of the cathedral downtown. The city is well known for its thriving art scene, its summer opera programs and its unique cuisine.

In the 1940s, Los Alamos National Laboratory was established as a home for the Manhattan Project, and scientists were brought out to work in this secret location. “The Lab” still is a hub of scientific research and innovation, and today, many Jewish scientists and researchers make their homes in Santa Fe, and “go up the hill” to Los Alamos on their daily commute.

About Kol BeRamah

In 2007, the Kol BeRamah Torah Learning Center came into existence in Santa Fe as an all-volunteer Torah learning cooperative of about 10 people. Led by Rabbi Mordechai Scher z”l, who gave generously of his time and taught countless hours of in-depth Torah study, our tiny community began to grow.

A few short years later Kol BeRamah had outgrown its space, moved, and required a full-time rabbi to address all of the community’s needs. Rabbi Ron and Rivkah Wittenstein were hired in 2014. For five years, they worked to connect many individuals in northern New Mexico. Under their guidance, the community continued to expand and grow. In the fall of 2019, Kol BeRamah hired a new rabbi and rabinessa, Avraham and Liora Kelman.

OTS Amiel BaKehila Comes to Santa Fe

During our rabbi search last spring, Kol BeRamah also discovered OTS Amiel BaKehila, through connections made at the Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future. Our first program took place last September, just before Rosh HaShanah with the fascinating delegates Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider, Ariel Lazarus, and Margalit Frydman. Multiple Jewish organizations in Northern New Mexico hosted events, including a packed house for Ladino music concert by Ariel Lazarus at Temple Beth Shalom. This program was particularly suited to Santa Fe’s community, with its rich history of crypto-Jewish settlers, who came here to try to get as far away as they could from the long arms of the Inquisition.

Each of the OTS Amiel BaKehila delegations have received enthusiastic reviews, and each program has had aspects that especially suited our interesting and unusual community of artists, scientists, business people, state government employees, and retirees who have come out here to enjoy the opera and music festivals.

From that first concert with Ariel Lazarus, to Laura Ben-David’s stunning photography, to cybersecurity discussions with Yael Elbaz, to an upcoming visit with Chef Yahav Kriti, we have benefited greatly from these visits, with people whose interests dovetail with our own. It is wonderful to see how the delegates on each visit always connect with community members, sharing Torah learning, personal experiences, and music and song, enabling all of us to grow together.

Come visit us in Santa Fe!