mountains capped with fresh snow, eternal vistas of russet-brown
mesa's and cold, exhilarating air and you have the setting for
the NMJHS 15th Annual Conference, held at the Sagebrush Inn in
Taos, November 8 - 10, 2002. The Topic: "Havurot, Hippies
and the Hollywood Ten - Jewish Life in New Mexico, 1950-2000."
Eighty-one Society members attended from all
parts of the state: Carlsbad, Las Cruces, Las VegasSanta
Fe and Albuquerque of course and about a dozen Taos enthusiasts
plus a sprinkling of folks from Virginia, New York, Texas and
The highlight of the conference was the Saturday
screening of the acclaimed film "Salt of the Earth,"
filmed in New Mexico and soon to be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Karl Francis, an authority on Herbert Biberman, the film's Jewish
director, led a very lively discussion concerning the events
in Silver City more
than half a century ago, which changed the
face of labor relations in the New Mexico mining industry. Director
Biberman's political stance, his desire to give working women
an authentic voice in determining the course of their lives,
his longing for justice for the oppressed miners, and the climate
of fear that infected Hollywood in the 1950s provided topics
for a give-and-take that lasted well into the night.
Director Karl Francis addressing
On Friday night, members of the Historical
Society viewed Karl Francis' movie "One of the Hollywood
Ten," starring Jeff Goldblum. The film is the story of Herbert
Biberman's struggle to make "Salt of the Earth." Mr.
Francis pointed out that the "Red Menace" years in
Hollywood are definitely not a topic that current film-makers
wish to bring to the attention of the public. The courage that
Herbert Biberman showed was indeed in short supply in those years.
Society members were truly fortunate to have had
the opportunity to view the Francis film. Francis believes
that film distributors would rather not have the public reminded
of the frightening era of censorship and intimidation that the
Hollywood Ten endured. Director Francis is looking for wider
"Havurot," small communities of
generally non-affiliated Jews, was another theme of the Conference.
The newly established Taos Jewish Center hosted our visit and
all came away impressed with its vitality and commitment to maintain
Jewish identity within the larger community. Life in the small
Jewish communities of Las Vegas, Las Cruces and Carlsbad was
also examined in two panel discussions. Jeanette Wertheim Sparks
and Admiral Robert H. Wertheim, brother and sister, natives of
Carlsbad, whose family has deep New Mexico roots, spoke about
growing up Jewish in the 1930s in the truly isolated town of
Carlsbad. Henry Tobias provided the larger context of New Mexico
Jewish life in the past 50 years in the Conference's introductory
talk. Henry offered a scholar's research with an easy-to-listen-to
manner that engaged everyone present.
Iris Keltz, author of "Scrapbook of a
Taos Hippie", gave a fascinating account of her
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