Rabbis in the West often required an alternative source of income because their constituency was often quite small. Jacob Sheyer, rabbi and merchant, had business interests in Marysville, California, and in Carson City as early as 1863. Sheyer had the longest tenure of any rabbi in Nevada in the nineteenth century despite his untimely death.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1834, Sheyer married Amelia, from Kempen in Polish Prussia. With their three daughters, they may have settled first in 1862 with friends in Marysville, California. By 1863, Sheyer and a partner, Louis Morris, had a clothing shop in Carson City which specialized in upscale women's wear. The Sheyer family lived at the store before purchasing a home on King Street–the site of the present Nevada State Library and Archives–in 1870.
Trained in Jewish Orthodoxy but familiar with the early Reform movement in Germany, Sheyer accommodated language and ritual to satisfy German, Polish, and English-speaking worshipers. He regularly conducted Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah services at Carson City's Masonic Hall and in Virginia City. He presided over marriages and circumcised Jewish male infants throughout northwestern Nevada. Highly esteemed for his religious leadership, Sheyer was accorded the title "Rabbi for the State of Nevada" by the state capital's Daily State Register. Carson City's Jewish population grew from about fifteen to seventy-five during Sheyer's tenure, but it never had a permanent congregation or synagogue.
Sheyer's popularity may have begun to burden him. He returned to Marysville in 1874, only to have a flood destroy his riverside store. Sheyer, who had once been described as "healthy and vigorous" back in Carson City, took ill and died in 1875. His widow reopened the fashion store in her own name and continued to raise their three daughters. She never remarried; Carson City lost its only resident rabbi, and Nevada did not have another until 1932.
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