web analytics
September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Gershom Mendes Seixas, American Patriot (Part Two)


Gershom Mendes Seixas

Gershom Mendes Seixas

(All quotations are from “Gershom Mendes Seixas: His Religious ‘Calling,’ Outlook and Competence,”Thomas Kessner, American Jewish Historical Quarterly (1961-1978); Sep 1968-Jun 1969; 58, 1-4; AJHS Journalpg. 444 ff.)

 

Last month’s column sketched the background of American born Gershom Mendes Seixas (1745-1816), who became chazzan, or hazzan, of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel in 1768 at the age of 23. In 1775 Gershom married his first wife, Elkalah Myers Cohen, who passed away ten years later.

“As Seixas and his wife began to settle down, the Revolution broke out with actual hostilities in New York. The Jewish community, composed mainly of merchants, shared the grievances of their fellow traders (many Jewish merchants signed the non-importation agreement). Revolutionary feeling was intensified by revolutionary rhetoric which described England as an oppressive European power hindering personal liberties, a description applicable to the countries of the Inquisition.

“With the coming of the British, Jews, like all New Yorkers, had to decide whether to stay in New York and acquiesce in British rule or abandon their property and homes and leave the state in patriotic loyalty to the principles of the Revolution. In this dilemma Gershom Seixas rose to lead his fellow congregants. He identified with the Revolution on an elemental level. It was a movement that would benefit the Jew and a movement that accorded with the liberal views of the era. A short eight years after achieving his position of hazzan, Gershom Seixas influenced his congregation to make a strong show of support for the Revolution.

“The decision to leave New York must have been particularly difficult for Gershom Seixas. As the religious leader of his community, he had to make the decision to abandon, and thus split, the congregation and to close down the synagogue. For all practical purposes this meant the destruction of the New York Jewish community. Furthermore, he had to take responsibility for the books and scrolls and other religious portables and for leaving the Jewish house of worship to the uncertainties of a war situation, (uncertainty justified when two British soldiers burned holes in two sacred scrolls that had been left behind). On another level it was a decision that meant a great deal of hardship for him in view of his meager finances and, more importantly, of a family tragedy that resulted from the loss of Elkalah’s infant child just three weeks before the move from New York.”

Despite these difficulties Reverend Seixas preferred not to remain in a city under British control, and he and his wife moved to his father’s home in Stratford, Connecticut, where they resided from 1776 to 1780. His favorite daughter, Sarah Abigail, the future Mrs. I. B. Kursheedt[i], was born there in 1778. There was no nucleus of a Jewish congregation in Stratford, and Gershom probably earned his living by going into business, as did most of the other patriotic refugee Jews who had relocated to Connecticut.

However, he did not completely abandon those Jews who had remained in New York City. For example, in March 1777 he went to New York to officiate at the wedding of Samuel Lazarus and Fannie Cushell, and in 1779 he performed the same service for the Hessian soldier Alexander Zuntz and Rachel Abrahams.

When his father died in 1780 Gershom moved to Philadelphia, bringing with him the property of the New York congregation he had carefully guarded during his four-year stay in Connecticut. There he was offered and accepted the position of hazzan of Congregation Mickve Israel. This congregation first met in the upper story of a rented building. In 1782 Mickve Israel erected a new building that Gershom dedicated. In his dedication speech he called for God’s protection for the Revolution and for Him to impart wisdom to the revolutionaries and their supporters.

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Gershom Mendes Seixas, American Patriot (Part Two)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS's response to President Obama's warnings came in the form of a movie trailer.
ISIS Sends Obama Fiery Video Response [video]
Latest Sections Stories
Ganz-091214-Fifty

Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.

Goldberg-091214

There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.

Women's under-trousers, Uzbekistan, early 20th century

In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.

Schonfeld-logo1

This is an important one in raising a mentsch (and maybe even in marrying off a mentsch! listening skills are on the top of the list when I do shidduch coaching).

While multitasking is not ideal, it is often necessary and unavoidable.

Maybe now that your kids are back in school, you should start cleaning for Pesach.

The interpreter was expected to be a talmid chacham himself and be able to also offer explanations and clarifications to the students.

“When Frank does something he does it well and you don’t have to worry about dotting the i’s or crossing the t’s.”

“On Sunday I was at the Kotel with the battalion and we said a prayer of thanks. In Gaza there were so many moments of death that I had to thank God that I’m alive. Only then did I realize how frightening it had been there.”

Neglect, indifference or criticism can break a person’s neshama.

It’s fair to say that we all know or have someone in our family who is divorced.

The assumption of a shared kinship is based on being part of the human race. Life is so much easier to figure out when everyone thinks the same way.

Various other learning opportunities will be offered to the community throughout the year.

The new group will also deliver kosher food to Jewish residents in non-kosher facilities, as well as to kosher facilities where the food is not up to par.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine

In 1787 Jonas wrote a letter to Congress asking that the federal Constitution guarantee religious liberty in the state of Pennsylvania.

Jonas Phillips

Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.

These letters give us the privilege of knowing him in his old age when he is mellow, tempered in his judgments, and sagacious from long experience of dealing with people.

The British evacuated New York on November 25, 1783, and Congress demobilized the American army shortly thereafter.

“Simple, modest, altogether unassuming, Gershom spent his happiest hours with his ever-growing family who were never far from his thoughts.

“Attuned to the ideal of establishing a new Zion in free America, they named their new colony Palestine.

Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/gershom-mendes-seixas-american-patriot-part-two/2014/06/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: