web analytics
May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


The Early Jewish Settlement Of Texas


Old B'nai Israel Synagogue and Cohen Community House

Old B'nai Israel Synagogue and Cohen Community House
Photo Credit: Nsaum75/wikimedia

In 1856 the first organized Jewish religious services in Galveston were held in Isidore Dyer’s home. He set aside a room in his house that served as a synagogue. Isidore was deeply involved in all aspects of the welfare of the Galveston community, both Jewish and non-Jewish. When he passed away he was universally mourned.

Rosanna and Joseph Osterman

Dutch-born Joseph Osterman, a merchant and silversmith, married 16 year-old Rosanna Dyer (1809-1866) in Baltimore on February 23, 1825. Rosanna was the sister of Leon and Isidore Dyer. After suffering some financial setbacks in Baltimore, Joseph, at Leon’s urging, traveled to Galveston in 1837 and opened a mercantile store. Rosanna followed him the next year. Their business was soon trading with all parts of Texas and abroad. Indeed, they were so successful that by 1842 they were able to retire.

During the yellow fever epidemics that occurred between 1854 and 1866, Mrs. Osterman served as a volunteer nurse, and even used her home as a temporary hospital while caring for the sick and dying.

Shortly after the Civil War broke out in 1861, Federal military forces blockaded Galveston, and business came to a standstill. Although most of the city’s residents left for the mainland, Rosanna – by then a childless widow – chose to stay in Galveston.

Many of the exigencies of the War were met by the humane efforts of Rosanna Dyer Osterman. The ample stores of the Osterman family were placed without reservation at the disposal of the Confederate and Union armies for the care of the sick and wounded. The famished hospitals were largely supplied by her liberality. Her presence and her care gave hope and encouragement to the convalescent, or afforded the last consolation to those who were passing from the turmoils of time to the rest of eternity. She herself, throughout the blockade, unable to obtain kosher food, abstained from everything ritually forbidden.At the end of the War this generous woman visited her relatives in Philadelphia and on her return met with a tragic death. On the morning of February 2, 1866, the steamer ‘W. R. Carter’ exploded not far from Vicksburg on the Mississippi. There were few survivors; the body of Mrs. Osterman was recovered for Jewish interment.

Some twenty-five institutions benefited by the provisions of her will, which was drawn up in the midst of the War. [Mrs. Osterman’s estate amounted to over $200,000, a huge sum in 1866.] The will provided that the city of Galveston organize a “Widows and Orphans Home” for the support of widows and orphans of all denominations. This particular bequest had a value in excess of $100,000.3

The Galveston News paid her this tribute: “The history of Rosanna Osterman is more eloquently written in the untold charities that have been dispensed by her liberal hands than by any eulogy man can bestow. Her work made her distinguished for unselfish devotion to the suffering and the sick.”

Rosanna Dyer Osterman unstintingly gave of herself to help others. She was the first major female Jewish philanthropist in America.

* * * * *

1. “Trail Blazers of the Trans-Mississippi West,” American Jewish Archives Vol. 8, No.2, October 1956.

2. The Jewish Encyclopedia, Ktav Publishing House, 1906, Volume 5, page 23. This article is available at http://tinyurl.com/29hpnan.

3. “Trail Blazers of the Trans-Mississippi West.”

 

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.

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 “The Early Jewish Settlement Of Texas”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Israel Envisions Regional Cooperation with Arab Nations
Latest Sections Stories

How is it possible that some of our people cannot see what I see, the miracle of the existence of the state of Israel?

Road sign in Russian and Yiddish greeting visitors on the road just outside Birobidzhan. (photo by Ben G. Frank)

Birobidzhan railway station sign is the world’s only one spelling the town’s name in Yiddish letters

Ayelet Shaked

She’s seen as a poster child for The Jewish Home’s efforts to reach beyond its Orthodox base.

Girls don’t usually learn Gemara. Everyone knows that.

Mordechai and his men shared a strong mutual loyalty.

“Can I wear tefillin in the bathroom?” That was the question US Private Nuchim Lebensohn wrote to Mike Tress, president of the Agudath Israel Youth Council, in a letter dated November 18, 1942. Lebensohn was not your typical young American GI. Polish by birth, he was forty-three years old and married when he was drafted […]

To what extent is your child displaying defiance?

This therapist kept focusing on how “I could do better,” never on how we could make the marriage work.

Mistrust that has lingered after the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri, has edged the issue forward.

“The observance of a kosher diet is a key tenet of Judaism, and one which no state has the right to deny,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Orthodox Union.

Two weeks of intense learning in the classroom about Israel culminated with Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Students attended sessions with their teachers and learned about history, culture, military power, advocacy, slang, cooking, and more.

The nations of the world left the vessel to sit rotting in the water during one of the coldest winters in decades and with its starving and freezing passengers abandoned.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Dr. Aaron Friedenwald

He wrote a strong defense of shechitah in which he maintained that the Jewish method of slaughter had a humanitarian influence on the Jewish people.

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.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-early-jewish-settlement-of-texas/2012/02/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: