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Jewish History in Wood River Valley was Long and Notable
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Ari Goldstein pictured next to the Friedman family stores on Hailey’s Main street in the 1950s. COURTESY: Blaine County Historical Museum
   
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

The Jewish people have left their mark on Idaho. Not only did Boise clothing merchant Alexander Moses become the nation’s first Jewish governor in 1915 but Boise’s Ahavath Beth Israel is the longest continuously running synagogue west of the Mississippi River.

Jews have also had a notable impact on the Wood River Valley. Simon J. Friedman was one of the first merchants in Hailey, arriving just after the town was platted and opening a general store on Main Street in a 20-by-40 tent selling dry goods, clothing, books and shoes. 

 His cousin Simon Moses Friedman served as Hailey’s first mayor and established the city’s water supply. In 1931, his children donated the land for Friedman Memorial Airport to the city.

Learn more when Ari Goldstein presents “A Jewish History of the Wood River Valley” at the Community Library. The program will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3. Register in person at https://thecommunitylibrary.libcal.com/event/9020813.

The program will be livestreamed and it will be available to watch later on the Library’s Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/710519347.

Jews served as miners, merchants and elected officials in the valley’s early days, even as they experienced the challenges that accompanied being Jewish on the American frontier. As the valley evolved, they became sheep ranchers and skiers.

In 1983 they established the Wood River Jewish Community, which is about to open the first synagogue in central Idaho.

The presenter Ari Goldstein worked for three years at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, first as a project manager and later as senior producer of the museum’s public programs. He has served as a Glass Leadership fellow at the Anti-Defamation League and a Conference Committee Member for the Council of American Jewish Museums. He has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Jewish Civilization from Georgetown University.

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