Las Vegas’s First Jew Turns Ninety, Reminisces Hannukah’s Past, Looks Ahead
By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, December 22, 2022 1:31 am
LAS VEGAS – The first Jewish individual was born in the Las Vegas Valley ninety years ago. Nearly a century later, the pioneer claims that local Hannukah celebrations and antisemitism incidents have changed dramatically.
Roberta Kane, often known as “Bobbie” by her friends, celebrated her 90th birthday at the M Hotel in November with her seven children and several friends. However, the hotel and part of the valley did not exist when she was born in 1932.
“There weren’t many Jewish people here at the time,” Kane remarked Wednesday morning in the living room of her Henderson apartment. “It was probably less than 100 or 200 people.”
Her birth unknowingly made Las Vegas history, as a small number of Jewish people had settled in the largely barren desert just years before. Her parents migrated here from California to build two 24-hour liquor stores, one on Fremont and one in Charleston, she claimed. Other family members relocated here and started their own enterprises.
It occurred at a period when Las Vegas’ population was estimated as 5,265 individuals, a significant divergence from Clark County’s approximately 2.3-million-person estimate on Wednesday. The small community, on the other hand, meant that there was little variation.
She claims Las Vegas has always been “accepting” of her family’s religion, although she admits that how it was done differs drastically from how Jewish children follow it today.
“We didn’t have a temple here until 1946, Temple Beth Sholom at 16th and Oakey,” Kane explained. “I admit that I grew up without understanding some of the songs or traditions.”
Hannukah celebrations were limited to the houses of 20 or so Jewish families in town, rather than the huge celebrations observed now spanning numerous temples and public venues. The valley today has an estimated 100,000 Jewish residents.
She claims she was never subjected to antisemitic activities as a child, but this cannot be stated for the entire state. According to the non-profit Jewbelong, antisemitism incidents in Nevada surged by 64% between 2020 and 2021.
However, the menorah candle lights shine this holiday season brightly, as Kane claims the community has never been more united. She points to the Jewish community she’s come to consider “family” at Congregation Ner Tamid.
“I would tell the Jewish community how proud I am of how it has grown and the beautiful individuals who are working so much to preserve the education and strength of the Jewish traditions,” Kane remarked, smiling.
Kane’s secret to longevity is a good diet, daily exercise (including a weekend trainer who puts her “through the mill”), and kindness. When she is not lecturing or public speaking at local events and gatherings, she still drives across the valley and spends much of her time at her local library.
She stated that she intends to live for at least another decade or two, and when asked why, she replied, “Why not?”
Credits: 8 News Now
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