January 2009

Just as it was beginning to appear that the Jewish strain of Western history had exhausted itself, two Western Jewish biographies, and one book of biographical essays, prologue to the subject's poetry, were published in late 2008. Each was researched in depth and reflects period and place as vividly as the contributions and idiosyncracies of its key subject and his or her cohorts. Endowed with high level writing, editing and production skills, these works cast new light on radically diverse and extraordinarily able Jewish pioneers. Residents of different sections of the American West, they may never have met, and if they had, may not have willingly met again.

Frances Dinkelspiel. Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant named Isaisas Hellman Created California. St. Martin's Press. New York, 2008 ISBN-13: 978-0-312-35526-5, ISBN-10:0-312-35526-2

Bettina O'Neil Lyons. Zeckedorfs and Steinfelds: Merchant Princes of the American Southwest. The Arizona Historical Society, Tucson. 2008. ISBN 978-0-910037-49-5

Notes for a Novel: The Selected Poems of Frieda Fligelman. Edited by Rick Newby and Alexandra Swaney. "The Queen of Social Logic." by Alexandra Swaney. "Frieda Fligelman: Commemorative Notes to a Life Complete." Arnie Malina. Drumlummon Institute. Helena, Montana. 2008. ISBN 0-97696844-1-X

All are now available from local and online bookstores

Brief reviews of each will appear as completed starting with Towers of Gold.

In her landmark biography of Isaias Wolf Hellman, Frances Dinkelspiel, his great-great-granddaughter, presents a prototype of a California rags-to-riches pioneer. His attributes, all prodigious, included intelligence, need, ego and prudence (don't lend to those who can't you pay back), plus shrewd partnering, in marriage and business. In 1859 at seventeen, Isaias left Reckendorf, Bavaria, to join a Hellman relative in Los Angeles, population 4,000. Gold gone, new rushes had erupted in California commerce, agriculture, industry, finance and transportation. From greenhorn clerk, Hellman progressed to merchant, banker, investor, philanthropist and community leader. By 1890, he was a multi-millionaire, ensconced in San Francisco banks, businesses and philanthropies. One constant in his ascent was his wife Esther Neugass, who gave him companionship, three children and access to her brother-in-law, Meyer Lehman, founder of Lehman Brothers. In 1850, at the first Yom Kippur service in San Francisco, the lay rabbi noted: "California, in her infant state, asks you aid to build her cities. . . . Few, if any, rushed through that open door and contributed more than Hellman."