Latest update: September 4th, 2012
During the Revolution Congregation Shearith Israel was temporarily closed due to the capture of New York by the British. Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas and many of the prominent Jewish families associated with the synagogue relocated to Connecticut, which was not under British rule. Solomon and Sampson the elder were among those who left New York. Sampson (the younger) was born while the Simsons were residing in Connecticut.
Sampson Simson studied at Columbia and is said to have been the first Jewish graduate of that college; at his graduation he delivered a Hebrew address which seems to have been written for him by Gershom Mendes Seixas. Then Simson became an attorney in New York, starting his training as confidential clerk to Aaron Burr. When in need of legal help, Shearith Israel occasionally used Simson’s services. In 1813, after he had been severely injured in a nocturnal assault upon him, he retired to a farm in Yonkers, where he stayed for many years, observing Jewish dietary laws and other prescriptions, but isolating himself from all contact with New York and with his fellow – Jews.” [The Rise of the Jewish Community of New York 1654-1860 by Hyman B. Grinstein, Jewish Publication Society of America]
It has been said that he was an eccentric person with utopian ideas. Perhaps his years of seclusion tended to make his ways peculiar. His ideas were certainly novel and stimulating. Among them was his belief that Jewish societies should not lend their funds at interest to synagogues, as they were wont to do. This view was, of course, based upon the Bible. Inline with his belief, he prohibited the North American Relief Society from lending its funds to any Jewish institution. [The Rise of the Jewish Community of New York 1654-1860]
Mr. Simson’s will
contains some matters of interest. When he died, in 1857, he left three thousand dollars to Shearith Israel, two thousand dollars to the Beth Hamidrash, the very orthodox synagogue, and one thousand dollars to his alma mater, Columbia. To Amsel Leo, who had married his niece, he bequeathed a Sefer Torah (perhaps the one which he had used while on his Yonkers farm). [The Rise of the Jewish Community of New York 1654-1860]
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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