web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



The Jewish Settlement of Savannah, Georgia


Share Button

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from New Light on the Jewish Settlement of Savannah, Malcolm H. Stern, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, volume 52, 1963. Reprinted in The Jewish Experience in America edited by Abraham J. Karp, Ktav Publishing House, New York, 1969, pages 66 -92. (Referred to as NL.)


London, in the late 1720′s was overflowing with peoples of many origins. Despite the presence of great wealth, there were also immense poverty and unemployment. The debtors’ prisons were crowded with inmates, and even when these unfortunates were released, they were without support and often could find no gainful employment. Their plight moved James Edward Oglethorpe, Member of Parliament, and some of his friends, including John, Lord Viscount Perceval (later, Earl of Egmont), to push for the establishment of a philanthropic colony in the territory south of the Savannah River chartered to the Carolinas but bordering on the Spanish possessions in Florida. On June 9, 1732, King George II, after two years of Parliamentary red-tape, issued the charter for the colony of Georgia.

“Some months before, interested parties began besieging the Trustees for the colony of Georgia for appointments as Commissioners to raise funds for the sending of colonists. Among these were the leaders of London’s Sephardic Congregation in Bevis Marks.” (NL pages 69-70) The synagogue appointed three commissioners who were to “interest themselves with those who have permission to arrange settlement in the English colony north [sic!] of Carolina “[1] “From the outset, the three Jewish Commissioners had as their one aim the lifting of some of these poor Jews from the relief rolls of London Jewry.” (NL pages 70-71) Initially their request to send Jews to Georgia was rejected, but in January, 1733 permission was granted.

“The three Jewish commissioners reacted swiftly. They hired a ship (whose name has not come down to us) under a Captain Hanson and shipped forty-two Jews to the new colony. Although the ship left London in January, it was July 11 before she arrived at Savannah.” (NL page 71)  The forty-two Jews aboard this ship included  Dr. Samuel Nunes Ribiero (known in America as Nunes or Nunez) and his family. (See “Escape From The Inquisition” The Jewish Press, December 2, 2005 page 71 for the story of how Dr. Nunez and his family escaped from Portugal and came to England in 1726.) “The Savannah community already boasted about 275 inhabitants. On July 7, 1733, with formal ceremonies, the town was laid out into wards and streets. The arrival of forty-two Jews, four days later, precipitated considerable consternation. Oglethorpe (who had come earlier with the first settlers who founded Savannah and served as the group’s leader) consulted legal authorities in Charleston. Since the Georgia charter excluded only “papists,” the Charleston lawyers ruled that the Jews had to be admitted. The news reached London several months later and evoked this strong statement to Oglethorpe, dated October 18, 1733: ‘The Trustees have heard with concern of the arrival of Forty Jews with a design to settle in Georgia. They hope  they will meet with no sort of encouragement, and desire,  Sir, you will use your best endeavours that the said Jews may be allowed no kind of settlement with any of the grantees, the Trustees being apprehensive they will be of  prejudice to the Trade and Welfare of the Colony.’” (NL page 74)

This letter crossed one from Oglethorpe, written in August, which reached the Trustees in November, reporting an outbreak of contagious disease in the colony that killed twenty, and reporting that Dr. Nunez had put a stop to the epidemic. “This contribution somewhat mollified the Trustees. They replied to Oglethorpe in November: ‘The Trustees are very much pleased
with the Behaviour of the Jewish Physician and the Service he has been to the Sick: As they have no doubt you have given him some Gratuity for it they hope you have taken any other Method of rewarding him than in granting of Lands.’ Nunes’ achievement was not great enough to make Jews welcome in the eyes of the Trustees.” (NL pages 75) Indeed, the Trustees wanted nothing less than “that the said Jews be removed from the Colony of Georgia.” However, by the time this view was received in the colony, “Oglethorpe, long since acting under the Charleston opinion, had already granted lands to the heads of the Jewish families.” (NL page 76)

The Jewish population of Savannah increased slowly with the arrival of new immigrants and, of course, the birth of children. On November 12, 1733 a ship arrived from London bringing a “total of thirty-nine additional immigrants.” There were twenty-one births by 1742, although, as was common during these times, some of these children did not survive infancy. “In addition to these infant deaths, the community lost nine adults.” (NL page 79)

“The religious needs of the community had been thought of before the departure from London.”  Benjamin Sheftall, an Ashkenazic Jew who was one of the original forty-two immigrants, kept a record (originally in Hebrew and then later translated into English by him for his son) of the early history of Savannah Jewry. In this document he wrote,   “.they brought with them a Safertora, with two Cloatus [covers?] and a Circumcision box which was given them by Mr. Lindo a merchant in London for use of the congregation they intended to establish.”

However, it was not until July 1735 that a congregation, named “K-K. Mikva Israel,” was actually established.  This was done partially in response to “some proselytizing activity on the part of Christians (that) was in progress, and not without success.” (NL page 80) Despite their small numbers, the Jews of Savannah were split into two distinct groups – the ghettoized Ashkenazim and the assimilated ex-Marrano Sephardim. The differences were considerable.

We have here two sorts of Jews, Portuguese and Germans. The first having professed Christianity in Portugal or the Brazils, are more lax in their way, and dispense with a great many of their Jewish Rites, and two young men, the Sons of a Jew Doctor, Sometimes come to Church, and for these reasons are thought by some people to be Christians but I cannot find that they really are So, only that their education in these Countries where they were oblig’d to appear Christians makes them less rigid and stiff in their way. The German Jews, who are thought the better sort of them [i.e. better Jews], are a great deal more strict in their way and rigid  observers of their Law.[2]

Therefore, it is not at all surprising that “the Congregation was split by strife.” Indeed, in 1740 and 1741 many Jews left Savannah for the larger Jewish community of Charleston, South Carolina, and the synagogue ceased to function. However, it was reestablished in 1774, when it began meeting in the house of Mordechai Sheftall, a son of Benjamin Sheftall. “He was a man of exemplary piety, and adhered closely to all the rites and ceremonies of his faith. He had fitted up a room in his house, at his individual cost, for the accommodation of the congregation.”[3] Thus began a new chapter in the history of the Jews of Savannah.



[1] The Sephardim of England, Albert M. Hyamson, Methuen, London, 1951, page 156.

[2] The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, volume XX.

[3]  The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, volume I, No. 10 (January 1844) (http://www.jewish-history.com/Occident/volume1/jan1844/savannah3.html)
 
 
Dr. Yitzchak Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the department of Mathematical Sciences Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. He may be contacted at llevine@stevens-tech.edu.

Share Button

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.

No Responses to “The Jewish Settlement of Savannah, Georgia”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Unit 9900 is an intelligence unit that utilizes the unique capabilities of soldiers on the autism spectrum.
Autism in the IDF: Uniquely Talented Soldiers
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Levine-Dr-Yitzchok-NEW

“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.

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.

Last month’s column sketched the myriad of social programs in which the Orthodox American communal worker and leader Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) was involved. Adolphus married Rachel Seixas Phillips (1828-1881), a descendant of colonial patriot families and together they had eight daughters and a son.

There are many observant Jews who contributed much to secular and Jewish life in America and yet have, unfortunately, been essentially forgotten. One such man is Adolphus Simson Solomons (1826-1910).

Cholera was officially recognized to be of epidemic proportions in New York City on June 26, 1832. The epidemic was at its peak in July and 3,515 out of a population of about 250,000 died. (The equivalent death toll in today’s city of eight million would exceed 100,000.) Sadly, in 1832 there were no effective treatments available for those who contracted this disease.

As this is our third column on the Reverend Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, we’ll begin with a summary of his life.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-jewish-settlement-of-savannah-georgia/2006/01/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: