Moses Alexander: Jewish Governor of Idaho, First Jewish Governor in the United States

Moses Alexander

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Moses Alexander, Jewish Governor of Idaho

Moses Alexander, Jewish Governor of Idaho


Moses Alexander was born in 1853, in Obrigheim, Bavaria, the youngest of a family of eight children

Moses Alexander came to United States at 14 years of age, selling newspapers in New York City.

In New York, he had two sisters, but neither of whom had room for him in their homes.

Mr. Jacob Berg, a store owner in Chillicothe, MO, visited the sisters and was introduced to Moses.


Along the way . . . 

Mr. Berg offered Moses Alexander a job and transportation to Missouri

At first, Alexander worked as janitor and then a stock clerk for his room and board and $10/month at Jacob Berg & Co.

After a year Alexander was selling in the Men’s Department, and eventually became the head of the men’s department.

Alexander developed a special trait: he never forgot a face or a name.

When Mr. Berg died, his partner took Alexander into the new firm as a partner called Wallbrunn & Alexander.



Moses Alexander was elected to City Council of Chillicothe, Missouri in 1886.

He was elected Mayor in 1888, and was known for saving the town from bankruptcy.

Alexander’s doctor recommended that he move West to a dryer climate.



Moses Alexander saw that Boise would be the capital of this new state, and that he could get in on the “ground floor.”

His opened shop in 1891, and business prospered. His wife was in charge of alterations.

Alexander's Store, Boise, Idaho

Alexander’s Store, Boise, Idaho


Moses Alexander invited a gathering of Boise’s Jews to a meeting where they organized Congregation Beth Israel of Boise, Idaho. He was elected Vice-President.

The temple was completed within a year and Moses Alexander was one of its lay rabbis.



Alexander was elected Mayor of Boise in 1897 and again in 1901

He ran for Governor in 1908, but was defeated.

He ran again and was elected in 1914, becominthe first Jew elected State Governor in the United States.

Idaho State Capital, Vintage Postcard

Idaho State Capital, Vintage Postcard

At first, he was the only Democrat in State office, and most of his reforms were vetoed by the legislature.

Running for a second term, the Democrats were swept into office, thus accomplishing:

  • Prohibition law
  • Workingmen’s Compensation Ac
  • State Highway system
  • Completion the Arrowduck Dam
  • Dedication of the Dallas-Celilo Canal – an open waterway from Lewiston, Idaho to the sea
  • Furnishing Idaho’s quota of troops in World War I


While in Chillicothe, Missouri, Moses Alexander met Hadwick (Helena) Kaestner, a German girl employed in Mr. Berg’s house, and then in Mr. Wallbrunn’s house.

In 1876 she converted to Judaism, was confirmed, and given the name of Helena.

Moses and Helena were married soon afterwards

Mrs. Moses Alexander

Mrs. Moses Alexander

Together they had four children, three daughters and one son.


Moses Alexander died in 1932.



  • Juanita Brooks, The History of the Jews in Utah and Idaho, 1853-1950 (Utah: Western Epics, 1973).