This collection was compiled between 1949-1989 by Rabbi Floyd Fierman, Ph.D. (1917-1989), who served Temple Mount Sinai of El Paso, Texas from 1949 to 1979. His leadership in the community extended far beyond the temple. He was actively engaged in combating racism and fighting for civil rights in El Paso. He was also dedicated to interfaith education and communication and to tracking the history of Jews in the binational southwest.
This collection is the result of his interest in the careers and accomplishments of Jewish pioneers who moved west with their families seeking opportunities of various sorts. As these pioneers settled, they built synagogues, business interests, and communities. By 1860 there was a strong Jewish presence in America's western-most reaches.
Although Fierman was not trained as a professional historian, his contributions to the field included several books and monographs on Jews of the southwest, including Guts and Ruts: The Jewish Pioneer on the Trail in the American Southwest (1984), and its sequel Roots and Boots (1988). He also wrote for several scholarly journals including Western States Jewish History, American Jewish Historical Quarterly, American Jewish Archives, and Arizona and the Southwest.
In his search for historically-significant materials, Fierman photocopied documents from many regional repositories, such as the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives. He also maintained close contact with archivists and librarians from all over the country in his quest for materials and documents. He developed a particularly close relationship with the late Rabbi Jacob Marcus, archivist and historian at the American Jewish Archives.
A sizable portion of the material collected is a product of Rabbi Fierman's notes as taken down on whatever material was available to him at the moment, including hotel and airplane stationery. He often recopied these notes several times and compiled elaborate appendixes to the files which are often longer and more complex than the original record.
The material in this collection is organized into two groupings, according to the geographic location of the Jewish individuals, families, or institutions researched. The first four boxes contain materials relevant to New Mexico's Jewish history. The last three boxes contain materials relevant to the Jewish history of western Texas. Folder headings within each grouping are organized alphabetically according to the name of the relevant individual, institution, or the subject matter of the file.