Last month we traced the establishment and development of the Jewish Community in Charleston, South Carolina, and its first synagogue, Kahal Kodesh (Holy Congregation) Beth Elokim (KKBE). From its inception in 1749 the synagogue was Orthodox and followed the Sephardic ritual. (This was the case with all of the synagogues founded during colonial times.)
The English first settled at Albemarle Point in what is now South Carolina in 1670. In 1680 this settlement was moved to a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and became Charles Town (named in honor King Charles II). The new location was more healthful than the original settlement, and, since it was behind the islands of a land-locked harbor, provided safety from attack. The name was changed to Charleston at the end of the War of Independence.
There is a stereotype that many may have regarding women of the past - namely, that their place was in the home. But this was not necessarily the case for Jewish women during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indeed, there were some women during this period who were engaged in a variety of commercial endeavors. Things did begin to change at about the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the attitude that a woman's place is in the home became prevalent.
The January installment of Glimpses Into American Jewish History discussed the early Jewish settlement of Newport, Rhode Island.Even as the Newport Jewish community developed, its numbers were always small, especially compared to Jewish communities today. Indeed, despite growth during the middle part of the 18th century, there were probably never more than 100 Jews residing in Newport.
The Rev. Ezra Stiles was born on November 29, 1727 in Connecticut and graduated from Yale University in 1746. He then studied theology at Yale and was ordained in 1749. After working as a tutor at Yale for a year, he began some mission work among the Indians. In 1752 he was forced to give this up due to ill health. He turned to the study of law and in 1753 took the attorney's oath. He practiced law in New Haven until 1755, whereupon he returned to the ministry, accepting the position of pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Newport, Rhode Island, serving there from 1755 until 1777.
In 1636 Roger Williams, after having been banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for what were considered radical religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay. He was joined by twelve other settlers at what he named Providence Plantation, due to his belief that God had sustained him and his followers.
Last month we discussed how Rabbi Abraham Joseph Rice came to America in 1840 and became the rav of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (Congregation Nidchei Yisroel). Rav Rice was the first ordained Orthodox rabbi to settle in North America.
The first Jews arrived in North America in 1654. What is not so well known is that the first qualified rabbi to settle here, Rabbi Abraham Rice, did not arrive until 1840. One might refer to the first 186 years of American Jewish history as the "Reverend and Cantorial Age," since such men, as well as some laymen who possessed better than average Jewish educations, served as the leaders of the various Jewish communities during that period.
In Savannah, Georgia, there is a memorial to the American Revolution called Battlefield Memorial Park. One of the markers there is for Colonel Mordecai Sheftall.
In two earlier articles we traced the life and rabbinical career of Rabbi Simon Glazer until 1918. Rav Glazer was a rare individual in that he was a secularly educated European trained Orthodox Rov who spoke and wrote English fluently.
The first part of the life of Rabbi Simon Joshua Glazer was sketched in last month's Glimpses column. In his youth Rabbi Glazer received a first class Torah education. At the age of 18 he was ordained by Rabbi Alexander Moshe Lapidus, a lifetime friend of Rav Yisroel Salanter. In 1897 Rabbi Glazer immigrated to America where he devoted himself to mastering the English language and acquiring secular knowledge.
Virtually all of the rabbonim who came to America during the latter part of the nineteenth century did not speak English. A few did master the language and become proficient at speaking and writing it; one of these was Rabbi Simon Joshua Glazer, who did more than just learn to speak and write in English - he also acquired a substantial secular education.
In 1927 Captain N. Taylor Phillips1 delivered an address before Congregation Shearith Israel in New York in which he recalled some of the history and traditions of early New York American Jewry. His recollections give fascinating insight into Jewish religious life in America when the community was still in its infancy.
Naphtali Moses Taylor Phillips, generally known as N. Taylor Phillips, was a descendent of one of America's first Jewish families. His great-great-great grandfather, Dr. Samuel Nunes (Nunez) Ribeiro and his great-great grandmother, Zipporah were among the first group of Jews to arrive in Savannah, Georgia in 1733. Zipporah married David Mendes Machado, who served as the chazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York from 1737 until his passing in 1747.
Naphtali Phillips, the ninth child of Rebecca Machado and Jonas Phillips, was born in New York on October 19, 1773. His great-grandfather was Dr. Samuel Nunes Ribeiro, an escapee from the Portuguese Inquisition1 who became one of the first Jewish settlers of Savannah, GA.2 His maternal grandparents were Zipporah Nunes and David Mendes Machado.3 David Machado also escaped from the Inquisition in Portugal and served for a number of years as the chazzan and Torah teacher of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York.
It was in 1859, according to the Central City Colorado History & Historic Facts website, that "John Gregory discovered 'The Gregory Lode' in a gulch near Central City. Within two weeks, the gold rush was on and within two months the population grew to 10,000 people seeking their fortunes.
Last month's Glimpses column, "The Man Who Brought Judah Touro Back To Judaism," discussed how legendary philanthropist Judah Touro's return to religious observance was influenced by Gershom Kursheedt (1817-1863). Kursheedt also convinced Touro to leave considerable sums of money to support many Jewish causes.
Last month's column sketched the life of Judah Touro (1775-1854), who became immensely wealthy after his move to New Orleans in 1802, using his fortune to support many causes and individuals.
"[Judah] Touro's name will always be numbered among the foremost in the annals of American philanthropy. His charities knew neither race nor creed, and his public spirit was no less noteworthy."[i]
The story of Jacob Mayer is one of the most bizarre in the annals of American Jewish history. In order to understand how such a thing could have occurred, one must keep in mind that for many years America was a Jewish free-for-all.