Latest update: September 23rd, 2012
Miriam (Mary) Rachofsky was born in Suwalki, Poland. At age sixteen she left her family’s small farm to marry Samuel Abraham Kubeski, a yeshiva student.
The couple lived in Poland with their children, two girls and a boy. But economic hardships and pogroms soon propelled the Kubeskis to search for a better life in Manchester, England, where Abraham found a position as a Hebrew teacher and rabbi. Miriam, who gave birth to three more sons there, launched her career as a midwife, often earning as much as a pound for each delivery.1
Miriam’s uncle Alexander Rittmaster, an escaped prisoner of the Crimean War, had come to Central City in about 1860. Miriam’s brother, Abraham, joined his uncle in 1867. The two of them soon became successful businessmen in the “Wild West.” Therefore, it was only natural for Abraham to suggest to his sister that she and her family join him in Central City. The Kubeskis settled there some time during the 1880s. (They eventually Americanized their last name to Kobey).
The lonely, comfortless life was hard enough to endure, but the absence of young Jewish girls and women made it almost impossible for Mary Kobey. Her handsome sons attracted the gentile girls in the vicinity . As soon as they could [in 1888], the Kobeys left the mountain camp for Denver.
In Denver Abraham helped establish Congregation Agudas Achim and earned his living serving as its spiritual leader and sofer.
In her charming memoir, The Tale of a Little Trunk (1977), Miriam’s granddaughter recalled Shabbat visits to the Kubeski household, where her grandparents would be “dressed in their Sabbath clothes in the sitting room, both engrossed in reading from the Torah. Grandma would be reading what was called the Teitch Hummish, a Yiddish version of the Bible, and Grandpa the Siddur or the Hebrew Bible.” The yamim tovim were celebrated with special enthusiasm, and Miriam would serve her family’s favorite dishes, kishka and tzimmes. On Sukkot the family decorated their sukkah with colorful ripe fruits and vegetables.2
The Angel of Mercy
We mentioned earlier that Miriam had worked as midwife when the family resided in England. Her skills in this area were sorely needed by the poor members of the Denver Jewish community, most of whom lived in the West Colfax section of the city.
Miriam’s reputation soon spread far beyond the Jewish community. On one occasion, Dr. Henry Buchtel, one of early Denver’s leading obstetricians, introduced her at a local medical convention as “the most famous midwife in Denver.”3
Samuel Abraham and Miriam Kobey stood out as models of unswerving piety. They arrived in Colorado in the late 1880s as observant Orthodox Jews and were no less so when they passed away. Miriam Kobey died in 1921, leaving behind an envious reputation for doing chesed.
1Orthodox Women in the “Wild West” by Jeanne Abrams, Jewish Action Magazine online, www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/article/43972/
Dr. Yitzchok Levine recently retired after serving for forty years as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at email@example.com.
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