web analytics
April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Gershom Mendes Seixas, American Patriot


Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas

Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas

“In 1768 the position of hazzan became vacant at Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City, and Gershom Mendes Seixas, at the remarkably young age of 23, was unanimously elected to the post. Seixas was born in New York in 1745 or 1746 (the records are unclear), the son of Isaac Seixas. Legend has it that his grandfather was a Portuguese Marrano, Miguel Pacheco da Silva, who, upon realizing that the office of the Inquisition had discovered his criminal heterodoxy, prevailed upon one of his loyal servants to help smuggle him out of Inquisitorial reach. After escaping from his home in 1725, he fled to London, where he found a fairly large Jewish community. In London he reverted to his pre-Marrano name of Abraham Mendes Seixas and was elected to membership in the Mahamat, or ruling board of the Sephardic community.”[i]

“Abraham’s second son, Isaac Mendes Seixas, was born in Lisbon in 1709, but at an early age he escaped from his Marrano life in Portugal and by way of Barbados came to New York in 1730 (or 1738).”[ii]

The Jewish community at this time consisted of a mere 250 to 300 people and was dominated by Jews of Spanish/Portuguese origin that proudly referred to themselves as members of La Nacion. A few Ashkenazic Jews were also part of the Jewish community at this time.

In 1741 Isaac married London-born Rachel Levy (1719-1797), the eldest daughter of Moses Levy. The Levys were a prominent New York Ashkenazic family. This caused an uproar among New York’s Sephardic elite, who looked down upon Ashkenazim as their social inferiors. Isaac’s uncle Rodrigo Pachero made it clear that he was “displeased” with his nephew’s marriage into an Ashkenazic family. Since he was not the only member of the New York Spanish/Portuguese Jewish community to feel this way, Isaac did not invite any of them to his wedding.

“Seven children besides Gershom were born to this marriage. The first child, Abraham (born 1741), and the last, Raphael, died in infancy. The others, who lived out their normal span of life, left a notable impress on the pages of American Jewish history. Gershom was the fourth of the children. His younger brother Benjamin and his younger sister Grace (Grace Nathan) were active and picturesque personalities. His older brother, Moses (1744-1809), was one of the organizers of the Bank of Rhode Island in Newport and was first Grand Master of Masons in Rhode Island. It was this Moses Seixas who as president of the Newport Jewish community in 1790 addressed to George Washington an historic letter of welcome to that town.

“Gershom’s younger brother, Abraham (1750-1799), who married Richea Hart of Charleston, served throughout the Revolution, first as Lieutenant in the Georgia Continental Line and then as Captain in the South Carolina Militia. His older sister, Abigail (1742-1819), at the age of seventeen became the wife of Hillel Judah at New Aberdeen.

“History does not tell of the games or growing pains of these boys and girls constituting the family of Isaac Mendes Seixas in their New York home before their merchant father moved to Newport, R.I., where he died during the Revolution at the age of 71 on November 3, 1780. Nor does history inform us how Gershom received his training to become the religious leader of the New York Jewish community. There was no rabbinic seminary, nor even a rabbi in the United States at the time. It must have been his own spirit, his constant attendance at synagogue services, the Jewish life in his home, and what he learned from New York’s Hazan Joseph Jessurun Pinto, that qualified him by the summer of 1768, when he was twenty-three years old, to present himself as a candidate for the position of hazan of the community.”[iii]

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”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
"Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah." That's his Jihad. What's yours? - An ad campaign sponsored by  the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
MTA Hopes to Change Rule, Ban ‘Killing Jews’ Anti-Jihad Ad
Latest Sections Stories
Food-Talk---Eller-logo

“People who never buy cookbooks are getting this one,” said Victoria. “They read it cover to cover and find it so interesting.”

South-Florida-logo

We have recently witnessed how other minorities deal with even perceived danger aimed at their brothers and sisters. They respond in great numbers.

South-Florida-logo

The Hebrew Academy students took part in all categories and used successful and innovative techniques to achieve their goals.

“The objective behind establishing small communities as places for relocation was a remedy for the excessive cost of housing and education in the large New York metropolitan market,” Mr. Savitsky explained.

Jewish Democrats did not entirely trust the son of Joseph Kennedy, a man broadly considered to be both anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.

The teenage years are not about surviving. They are about thriving.

Every moment was a gift. I held each one, savoring.

We arrived in Auschwitz on Thursday, January 30, 2014. My seminary was taking us to see where the prisoners were kept. When we got there, I stepped off the bus in complete and total silence. I was in the back, and when we got to the gate I hesitated and started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t […]

From the moment Israel was declared a Jewish state, it has been the subject of controversy and struggle.

Now that Pesach is over, we return you to your regularly-scheduled pressing questions:   Dear Mordechai, Can I use a nose hair trimmer during Sefirah? Harry Lipman   Dear Harry, Yes, as long as your nose hairs are so bad that they’re affecting your job. Like if you have a desk job, and they interfere […]

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby.

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

The 2-day real estate event will take place in Brooklyn on April 26 and 27.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Dr. Aaron Friedenwald

This was a most unusual step to take in those days, given the difficulties of travel to Europe. Nonetheless, on May 1, 1860 he sailed from New York on the steamship Hammonia.

Glimpses-030615

The ship’s captain apparently respected the Friedenwalds’ strict adherence to halacha because he allowed them to use his cabin for davening and other religious observances.

I happen to believe that for a couple to spend a few years in kollel is a wonderful way to start a marriage.

Penn wrote the following to a friend in England: “I found them [the Indians of the eastern shore of North America] with like countenances with the Hebrew race; and their children of so lively a resemblance to them that a man would think himself in Duke’s place, or Barry street, in London, when he sees them.”

The special charm of these letters is their immediacy and authenticity of emotion and description.

There were many who believed that some North America Indians were descended from Jews.

One might think to attribute the crudeness of the calendar to the fact that it was produced by a frontier community unable to calculate a more precise table.

“Throughout his life, he observed Tisha B’Ab as the Nahalah (anniversary) for all of his relatives who were murdered, as this is the national Jewish day of mourning.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/gershom-mendes-seixas-american-patriot/2014/05/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: