Jewish Pioneers, Temple Due Honors

By Charles Bowden
Citizen Staff Writer

The Drachmans dug the cellar at night, and then they carefully spread the soil outside so that no one would notice.

They wanted to keep their two sons out of the hated Russian army. For months, Philip, the older boy, hid under the floorboards of the house in the damp hole. His parents told the Russians he had run away.

When he and Sam finally got out, they went first to England, then to the United States and finally to the Southwest. Philip passed through Tucson in 1854. He needed a dry climate to combat health problems from the months spent in dampness.

Now Philip and Sam Drachman are footnotes to 560 S. Stone Ave., where the first synagogue in the Arizona Territory, Temple Emanu-El, was built in 1910.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., there will be ceremony dedicated a trilingual plaque recognizing the historical importance of the building. The structure eventually will be made into the Museum of the Southwest Jewish Heritage.

It will be a place to store yesterday.

Albert Steinfeld came on the night stage in 1872 in order to avid Apache attacks. He found Tucson dry and barren. There was no telegraph. There was no railroad. Goods shipped from San Francisco took 60 days, from New York four to six months.

People used candles for light because kerosene was too expensive. One man made the town's soap, another its furniture.

Steinfeld went into the dry goods business with his uncle, Louis Zeckendorf, and soon he was manning a small store and mill at Quitobaquito 140 miles west of Tucson on the dreaded Camino del Diablo.

The native Papagos had been driven away form this winter hole by the outlaw Cipriano Ortega, who sought a fabled silver mine.

Within two years, Steinfeld was back in Tucson at the Zeckendorf store. One night some Apaches crept into town and stole horses. They were trailed, and one was killed. His scalp was displayed for years at the store, and customers would stare at the hair and skin.

Isodore Gotthelf arrived by wagon in 1880.

" When the High Holy days came," he recalled, "I got a list of all the Jewish citizens of Tucson, and with my brothers, Jake and Dave, appealed to them to help us form a congregation."

They got Alex Levin to lend them a hall at Levin's Park, a local beer garden and amusement park. Gotthelf gave the services and sermon. Sam Drachman helped.

For years services were held at Julius Wittelshoefer's house, and in 1892 the tiny congregation got a Torah. The temple came in 1910, backed by the Steinfelds, the Drachmans, Dave Bloom, the Mansfeld family and others.

The cornerstone was laid June 20 of that year by the local Masonic grand lodge. Inside they stuffed copies of the Tucson Citizen and The Arizona Daily Star, foreign coins, Masonic Badges, a copy of the rules and bylaws.

Gen. Thomas F. Wilson, a Mason since 1855, gave the address. Masonic corn, wine and oil were poured over the stone.

Then the music played.

When spring came in 1869, the mining boom at White Pine, Nev., went bust, and Jacob Mansfeld decided to leave. He thought he might go to Arizona and start a newsstand and bookstore because no such business existed in the entire territory.

He headed out but finally stopped in southern Utah because Indian wars blocked his path. So he cut over to San Bernardino and then to San Diego, where he hooked up with and old acquaintance, Jim Cornelius, who drove a team regularly to Tucson.

They made the 30-day crossing in party of five. The town was]\, Mansfeld noted, "the outlook for literary business was not very encouraging." But he went ahead with his plan. He sold the New York Herald, Times World, Tribune, Harper's, "as well as the best magazines in the United States." The lending library featured Dickens, Trollope and Dumas.

Mansfeld prospered and was elected to the first Board of Regents of the University of Arizona.

In a photograph of Mansfeld in his store, garlic strands can be seen hanging from the ceiling, and books, newspapers and stationary supplies lie heaped about.

Mansfeld's descendants became prime movers behind the Temple Emanu-El.

He noted in his recollections [page 2C] of early Tucson that "No lines were drawn in society; society in fact did not exist … the pioneer whether Catholic, Protestant, Jew or infidel gave freely to help others not asking any questions about religion or nationality."

Mansfeld found Tucson a place to sink roots.

"It is true," he reflected, "that men have a right to go where they please, but it is also true, that a man owes something to the country and to the people among whom he has made his fortune and nothing is more discouraging to those who remain here, as to see the rich men of the country, pulling up stakes."

Everything grew and many prospered. In 1949, the temple moved east to Country Club Road, many of the original members of the congregation became names on the department stores, real estate, businesses, stores, schools, streets.

The past fell into a hole as the city sprawled away from its ancient core. No more night stages arrived dodging Apache warriors. No more scalps hung on exhibit. The libraries were public and big, and the synagogues were manned by rabbis who now handled the Holy Days.

On Sunday, people will gather to bring the past back into the present. They will go to the old synagogue at 560 S. Stone Ave. where General Wilson poured Masonic corn, wine and oil over the cornerstone. Then they will go to the Arizona Heritage Center for a reception.

They will look at an exhibit of Jewish pioneers in Arizona.

Maybe, they will hear Philip Drachman's cough from the months spent hiding in a damp cellar in Russia.

pages 1C and 2C, November 12 1982, Tucson Citizen

The original article in the Tucson Citizen was accompanied by three photos from the Arizona Historical Society. The first was "Tucson's first Jewish temple, on South Stone Avenue." It is known today as the Stone Avenue Temple and in recent years has been restored. Visit NMAJH's postcard page for an image showing the original temple. The second photograph was "Sam Drachman talks with customers at his cigar shop" and the third Sam Mansfeld and a customer at Mansfeld's Congress Street bookstore, about 1902."