Remembering family roots in Denver


Denver’s Jewish community has always been tight-knit, said Jerrod Rosen, a fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up in Boulder but often visited his grandparents in the Denver area. Learning more about the family’s history in the city was part of what brought him back from working as a restauranteur in places like New York and Chicago.

“It was a really close-knit community,” he said.

Rosen recently opened Rye Society in River North at 3090 Larimer St. The deli features 100-year-old recipes from his family. When he first leased the space, he found out it was just blocks away from where his family operated a local grocery store the 1920s.

“The most fascinating thing for me with this business was finding out that I chose the space (and am) getting into a neighborhood where we used to be,” he said.

Back then, Denver was split between east and west side Jewish communities, Rosen said. His family lived on the west side of Denver. The family lived in what was considered the “Jewish ghetto” over by the Colfax Avenue viaduct and where the Broncos stadium stands today. Times were hard for families back then. Rosen said his large family shared a small space and the kids worked as newsies, people who sold or delivered newspapers, to save money.

“When it was the `20s, `30s, whatnot, the Jews didn’t have much money. My grandmother grew up with 11 kids in the house, in two bedrooms,” he said. “It was something like 40 to 50 percent of the newsies at the time were all Jewish. That’s how they bought their first house. They were working from 6, 7 years old.”

Eventually, his grandmother started going door-to-door to create partnerships with their neighbors. Those partnerships led to purchasing buildings in the Sloan’s Lake area, some of which are still in the Rosen family.

Over the years, the community has changed, Rosen said. Much of the younger generation is not as religious. But people still want to connect with family traditions.

“Our generation still wants to identify with it — they still really appreciate the cultural aspects,” Rosen said. “That’s how we all grew up and we still want to let that live on.”


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