Meyer Hellman & Aaron Cahn: First Permanent Jewish Residents of Omaha, Nebraska

Meyer Hellman & Aaron Cahn

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Meyer Hellman and Aaron Cahn were brother-in laws.

They arrived, in 1856, and became the first permanent Jewish residents of Omaha.


Meyer Hellman was born in Mulhausen, Germany in 1834

He came to the United States, in 1850.

Here he first settled in Cincinnati and worked as a traveling salesman for a clothing firm.

He arrived in Omaha in the mid-1850s.


Aaron Cahn was born Bleidenthal, Nassau, Germany.

He came to United States in 1848, first living in Hartford Connecticut, then Cincinnati, Ohio, and finally to Omaha Nebraska, arriving in 1856.



Meyer Hellman and Aaron Cahn started a wholesale & retail clothing business – M. Hellman & Company.

Meyer Hellman doubled size of store, in 1857, by having it first wood framed in Cincinnati and then brought to Omaha by boat.


In 1866 the store and entire block was destroyed by fire.

M. Hellman & Company was rebuilt, this time with brick.

M. Hellman & Co. in Downtown Omaha with New City Fire Engine in Front. Circa 1875

M. Hellman & Co. in Downtown Omaha with New City Fire Engine in Front. Circa 1875

M. Hellman & Company opened a branch store in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1866, that was managed by Meyer Hellman’s brother, Ben Hellman.


Aaron Cahn sold a lot to city for $2,500, for first fire station.

Aaron Cahn often was accompanied by “Buffalo” Bill Cody on business trips to the West.


1861, Aaron Cahn owned a saloon located within the Territorial Capital Building, in Omaha.

The idea to move an existing saloon into the Capital building came from the Acting Governor Morton who believed that having a saloon on site would keep the legislators in the building – hence a quorum would always be readily available.


Aaron Cahn retired from the clothing business in 1886



Meyer Hellman married Maria Rau of Louisville, KY, in 1871.

Together they had six children.

All left Omaha within 6 years of Meyer’s death.


Meyer Hellman continued to run his business until his death in 1892


Aaron Cahn had married Meyer Hellman’s sister, Caroline while in Cincinnati before moving to Omaha.

Caroline and Aaron Cahn had a son – the first Jewish child born in Omaha.

Aaron Cahn remained a prominent Omaha citizen until his death, in 1903.


For more information see the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • The Jews of Omaha: The First 60 Years, by Carol Gendler, 6-part series, Vol. 5, #3 & 4; Vol.6, #1 – 4. 1973-1974

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