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Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was the discovery of springs in Nevada's barren flats in the 1800s that drew Jewish gold-seekers to the state's capital, Carson City, which lies several hundred miles northwest of Las Vegas. With the construction of railroads linking Las Vegas to Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Southern California, large numbers of Jews settled in Las Vegas by the turn of the century. One of them was the Polish-born Adolph Levy who moved from Illinois to start a dry goods store. In the 1930s, his niece, Sallie Gordon, gave birth to Las Vegas's first Jewish baby.

When the rough and tumble gold rush petered out, a more glamorous industry burst onto the scene. The first casino opened in 1931, and the glitzy, lucrative business soon caught the attention of New York mobsters Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who opened the iconic Flamingo Hotel in 1946. In the 1950s, Ben Jaffe built the Cuban-flavored Tropicana on a 40-acre parcel, and in the 1960s Jay Sarno and Nate Jacobson designed and constructed the Roman Empire-themed Caesars Palace. Despite their sinful trades (gambling and alcohol), Jewish casino and nightclub owners garnered civic respect by investing in the community. Bootlegger, racketeer and casino owner Moe Dalitz, 'mown as "Mr. Las Vegas," was honored as Humanitarian of the Year by the American Cancer Research Center and Hospital in 1976, and he received the ADL's Torch of Liberty award in 1982. When he died in 1989, he left his considerable fortune to 14 Las Vegas non-profit organizations.

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Jews have been an integral part of non-casino life as well. Hank Greenspun was the editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Sun until his death in 1989. An early supporter of the State of Israel, he was active in real estate, developing Green Valley, which is part of Henderson, a suburban city within the Las Vegas metropolitan area. His family continues to control the majority of real estate there today. Another prominent real estate pioneer was Irwin Molasky, who built Las Vegas's first enclosed mall, the Boulevard, the first major hospital, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, and the first high-rise condominium.

Today, more than 75,000 Jews live in Las Vegas, and a vibrant Jewish world of religion and culture thrives. Las Vegas is home to 19 synagogues--three of which are Chabad centers--about 10 kosher restaurants, four Jewish day schools, a JCC and a popular annual Jewish film festival. Jews also play prominent roles in politics: Oscar Goodman served as mayor from 1999 to 2011, and his wife, Carolyn Goodman, succeeded him. Shelley Berkley served in the U.S. Congress from 1998 to 2011 and made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2012.

Jews continue to be leaders in the casino industty. During the 1990s, Steve Wynn built and revamped many of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, including The Mirage, Treasure Island, the Bellagio (See photograph on page 62), Wynn and Encore. Sheldon G. Adelson, ranked among the world's 50 richest people, is chairman and principal owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which owns The Venetian and The Palazzo. Known for his support of Israel and conservative causes and candidates, he and his wife Miriam have also contributed millions to strengthening Jewish life in Las Vegas.

PLACES OF WORSHIP

Temple Sinai, a Reform synagogue, grew out of a merger between Temple Beth Am and Adat An El in 2007 templesinailv.org

Temple Beth Sholom, the oldest Conservative synagogue in the state of Nevada (1931), has more than 600 families in its congregation bethsholondv.org

Young Israel Aish Las Vegas is a modern Orthodox synagogue whose founder, Rabbi Yitzchak Wyne, hosts "The Rabbi Show" every Sunday on KDWN-AM. yiaishlv.com, therabbishow.com

Congregation Shaare Teffila was founded in 1981 as the first Orthodox synagogue in Las Vegas and houses an eruv and mikveh. shaarei-tefilla.org

Ner Tamid is the largest Reform synagogue in Nevada. When the synagogue started in 1988, it was home to 60 families and today it has grown to 600 families. lvnertamid.org

Midbar Kodesh was founded in 1995 and is a Conservative synagogue in the Southeast corner of the Las Vegas Valley. midbarkodesh.org

SITES OF INTEREST

The Adelson Educational Campus was founded 30 years ago as The Hebrew Academy Las Vegas. The Campus is home to three religious Jewish day schools and one community Jewish day school for 600 children ranging from 18 months to 18 years old. The school's state-of-the-art facilities are open to the community and are a gift from the Adelsons. adelsoncampus.org

The Holocaust Resource Center is an open library that provides teacher training about the Holocaust. lvhresourcecenter.com

FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

The Jewish Film Festival, now in its 12th year, is the longest-running film festival in Las Vegas and is attended by more than 3,500 arunially. January 13-27. desempace.org

Israel Independence Day is an annual community celebration featuring a concert and Israeli food. April 17,2013.

Where Art Thou is an upscale happy hour sponsored three times a year by the JCC. Featured artists display and sell their art, and kosher wine and desserts are served. Locations and times vary.jccsn.org

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THE MOB MUSEUM

This Las Vegas museum showcases true stories of organized crime with the help of engaging, interactive exhibits. Notable Jews featured include notable Jewish gangsters Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Meyer Lansky. themobmuseum.org
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Title Annotation:JEWISH ROUTES
Publication:Moment
Geographic Code:1U8NV
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Words:898
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