Of all the folks who have trodden across the dusty and muddy streets of old Denver, perhaps the most internationally famous resident is Golda Mabowitz who lived with her sister Shayna Korngold in a humble worker’s duplex at 1606 Julian Street in old West Denver.
Golda was born in Kiev, Ukraine on May 3, 1898, one of eight children to Moishe and Blume Mabowitz. In 1898, the Russians controlled Ukraine (which Putin would like to control again). Five of the Mabowitz children died in infancy, four boys and a girl, and Golda was the surviving middle girl of the three girls left. The family decided to come to North America and eventually ended up in Milwaukee. Golda told her parents she wanted to become a teacher, but teachers were not allowed to be married in Milwaukee then. Her parents just wanted her to marry, but Golda had other plans. Golda saved her money and on Feb. 17, 1913, got on a train to Denver. Here she lived with her sister Shayna and her husband Sam Korngold for almost two years.
In Denver, Golda attended North High School. She met many fellow Russian Jews at a place in Lakewood a few blocks west of where she lived known as JCRS, where the internationally famous Casa Bonita Restaurant is now located (soon to open and famous again). JCRS stood for “Jewish Consumptive Relief Society,” which operated a hospital on the site for patients trying to get rid of tuberculosis. Breathing Colorado’s pure air and sleeping outside in the summer and winter was believed to be just the cure for tuberculosis. For years, JCRS was the name for the shopping center. Golda said meeting her many fellow Russian Jewish refugees at JCRS made her realize how important it was for the Jewish people to have their own homeland. Golda stated in her autobiography, “it was in Denver that my real education began.”
In 1915, Golda returned to Milwaukee where she graduated from that city’s North High School. She married a gentleman named Myerson, whom she met in Denver, emigrated to Israel, got involved in politics, and became one of two women to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence. She shortened her name from Myerson to Meir and went further into politics, becoming the first woman Prime Minister of Israel. She was the first student who attended North High who later became prime minister of a foreign country. Notice I said the first.
In the beginning, there was not a lot of community support to save the duplex where Golda lived. The building was a simple Westside working class duplex with dragon gargoyle rain spouts, not a fancy millionaire’s mansion on Denver’s east side of town. The Saturday before it was to be torn down in 1981 by the Boys and Girls Club who owned the duplex, Bill Saggstetter, a Denver Post photographer, and I crawled under the construction fence to have a last look. I felt like Indiana Jones without the cool felt hat; I always wanted to be an archeologist. We combed through the dust of the half basement and Bill found Sam Korngold’s check stubs, which actually showed a small surplus. Better than the Flaherty’s, my mother’s people, who lived eight blocks north on Hooker street—did we even have a checkbook with stubs? I noticed a right-slanting ripple on the front door sill and scraped under decades of paint to find the original mezuzah. We opened the mezuzah which revealed the small Hebrew handwritten parchment scroll from the skin of a kosher animal.
The next day, Bill and I took the mezuzah over to Rabbi Manuel Laderman’s house on 17th Avenue. He was the founding Rabbi of the Hebrew Educational Alliance, now way out in south Denver. Rabbi Laderman said, “Dennis, I knew the man who wrote this scroll. Label Gordon was a founding member of our synagogue.” Bill took a picture of the scroll and his wife, Beth, wrote a short story in the Denver Post with Bill’s photo. Ironically, the Denver Post placed the photo of the scroll upside down, as no one in the process knew which way was up in Hebrew. I compared it to a U.S. flag being placed upside down as a sign of crisis, distress, a plea for help. After the Post put the picture of the mezuzah from humble 1606 Julian in their prodigious pages, everybody got a little teary. Roz Duman, staff aide and later founder of the Coalition Agains Global Genocide, got Congresswoman Pat Schroeder to call the Israeli embassy, and a lot of others got the long preservation process rolling.
A short time later, I saw Rabbi B.C. Sloime Twerski, who also lived on Denver’s Westside. He read about my finding the mezuzah, and he told me that the mezuzah draws down God’s protection on the house and the people in it. He added that the mezuzah was a reminder of the commandments to all who see it.
Monday Jan. 10th, 2022, Lena Fishman, yes, of the Westside Fishman’s, invited the community to attend the rededication ceremony of the Golda Mier Museum on Denver’s Auraria Campus. The program began with an installation of a new mezuzah on the doorpost of the museum to replace the old one I found back in 1981. The duplex now rests on a solid foundation at 1146 9th Street on Auraria’s Campus. That’s just east of St. Cajatan’s Church on 9th Street on Auraria. Stop by sometime and see it. If you have any questions or want further information, contact email@example.com. Lena is the new director of the Gold Meir Museum at Auraria. May the new mezuzah protect Lena as she takes up the new mantle to look out for Golda Mabowitz’s old duplex.
The Honorable Dennis Gallagher is a former city auditor, city councilman, state senator and state representative. He shares thoughts and stories from North Denver’s past and future in his monthly column in The Denver North Star.