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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Naphtali Phillips’

N. Taylor Phillips: Scion Of One Of America’s First Jewish Families

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

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.

Zipporah’s daughter Rebecca married Jonas Phillips in 1762. Jonas was a member of the Philadelphia county militia during the Revolutionary War and at one time was employed by Congregation Shearith Israel of New York as a shochet. Their son Naphtali Phillips was a grandfather of N. Taylor Phillips. (One should not confuse the grandfather, Naphtali Phillips, with the grandson, Naphtali Moses Taylor Phillips.).

In 1796 it was Naphtali Phillips who took the first copy of George Washington’s farewell address that came off the press of the American Advertiser, a leading Philadelphia newspaper. In 1848 this document was placed in the cornerstone of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital.

On July 5, 1797, Naphtali Phillips married Rachel Hannah, daughter of Moses Mendez Seixas, a prominent Newport, Rhode Island, merchant and banker and a brother of Gershom Mendez Seixas, known as “the patriotic Jewish minister of the American Revolution.”

[Naphtali] Phillips always took a deep interest in the affairs of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel. He was its President as early as the year 1816 and served for fourteen terms in that office. He was also trustee of the congregation for many years; his entire official service covering a period of long over half a century. He was for many years prominent in the affairs of the Democratic party in New York City and served on many political committees.1

On June 16, 1812, Rachel Hannah gave birth to her fifth child, Isaac. Isaac Phillips would go on to serve as president of Congregation Shearith Israel.

He [Isaac Phillips] was one of the founders of Mount Sinai Hospital and was the last surviving member of the charter board. He was, according to the strictest sect, an Orthodox Jew until the day of his death. His first wife dying in 1855, he married in 1856 Miss Miriam Trimble [1839-1882], a Gentile, who became a convert to Judaism before her marriage.2

Miriam Trimble Phillips gave birth to N. Taylor on December 5, 1868.

Naphtali Moses Taylor Phillips attended Columbia Grammar School and then Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1886 at the age of 18 with the degree of LL.B. At 21 he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of NY, and three years later to the bar of the United States Supreme Court. He held various political offices. He was a member of the New York State legislature (1898-1901), serving on the judiciary and other committees and as a member of the Joint Statutory Revision Commission of that body (1900). He served as deputy comptroller of the City of New York from 1902 to 1910. Mr. Phillips was a leader in Democratic politics for many years.

As a result of his distinguished lineage, N. Taylor was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. On March 9, 1892, he married Rosalie Solomons, daughter of Adolphus S. Solomons and Rachel Mendez Seixas Phillips Solomons. Rosalie was active in Jewish affairs as well as in politics. She served as Tammany co-leader of the Seventh Assembly District, from 1918-1939 and passed away in 1946 at the age of 79.

One of the outstanding characteristics of Naphtali Phillips was a phenomenal memory through which he consistently endeavored to carry on the traditions he inherited from the past. It was this loyalty to his American and Jewish family traditions which stimulated his enduring interest in the American Jewish Historical Society. He was one of its founders, and a director of it since 1893. For many years he was its treasurer, and later its honorary vice-president. In its Publications there are printed no less than ten articles from his pen, several of which characteristically tell the story of families of his American forebears from Colonial times, while others are centered on historical aspects of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel with which ancestors of his had been prominently associated for over two centuries.

This conscious identification with his past made him one of the leading spirits fifty years ago in organizing and making effective the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebration of the settlement of the Jews in this country. It was also expressed by his being a life member of the New York Historical Society.

When the United States entered the first World War, N. Taylor Phillips, a Son of the American Revolution, was determined in his generation also to give military service to his country. At the time he was nearly fifty years of age, and he found difficulty in being accepted in the armed forces. But he persisted in his purpose and eventually he was able to enter the army. He became a captain and served in Washington throughout the war.

His loyalty to the past was expressed most penetratingly through his synagogue. He loved it passionately. N. Taylor Phillips served as its president for eight years.

In 1897 when Congregation Shearith Israel dedicated its present synagogue building, it was N. Taylor Phillips who wrote a valuable history of the congregation as his grandfather Naphtali Phillips had done three generations earlier. This was published in the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society and in the American Hebrew. In the fall of 1954 when he was eighty-five years old he was one of the two men who opened the doors of the synagogue for its solemn service of reconsecration at the beginning of the national tercentenary celebration of the settlement of the Jews in the United States, just as almost a century earlier his grandfather, Naphtali Phillips, then eighty-seven years of age, had formally opened the doors for the dedication of the newly built synagogue of the congregation on Nineteenth Street.

He would chant the Book of Jonah in the afternoon service of the Day of Atonement. He did this with special love because he knew that his great-grandfather, Jonas Phillips, had similarly chanted the Book of Jonah in the synagogue at the time of the Revolution. His seat in the synagogue was in the same position in the present synagogue as that of his father and grandfather in the earlier synagogue of the congregation.

In all such ways he deeply cherished the historic traditions of his fathers. It was this loyalty which made him so constant and so devoted a member of the American Jewish Historical Society for nearly two-thirds of a century from its foundation in 1892.3

N. Taylor Phillips passed away on April 30, 1955 at the age of 87. He was considered the Phillips family’s unofficial historian and published many articles about the history of the Jews of New York during the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

1″Naphtali Phillips,”Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893-1961); 1913; 21, AJHS Journal. page 172 ff. (Available at www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.)

2 Obituary of Isaac Phillips, The New York Times, August 6, 1889.

3″Necrology N. Taylor Phillips 1868-1955″ byD. De Solo Pool, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893-1961); Sep 1955-Jun 1956; 45, 1-4; AJHS Journal, pages 64- 66. (Available at www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.)

 

 

Dr. Yitzchok Levine recently retired after serving for forty years as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

Naphtali and Josephine Phillips

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
           Editor’s Note: Much of this article is based on “Naphtali Phillips,” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1913, 21. The article is available at www.ajhs.org/reference/adeje.cfm. All quotes are taken from that article unless otherwise indicated.
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.

His mother, Rebecca Machado Phillips, was a most unusual woman. Not only did she give birth to 21 children but she was also involved in a variety of chesed organizations, something that was pioneering for women at the time.4 Naphtali’s father, Jonas, was a merchant in New York and Philadelphia. He was of Ashkenazic descent and grew up in London, where he must have received a better than average Jewish education, since he was trained as a shochet. The Phillipses were observant Jews.

 

At the age of three, with his mother, brothers and sisters, he was taken to Philadelphia, Pa., by his father, who fled from New York with other patriots after the battle of Washington Heights, November, 1776, into a voluntary exile, during which time New York was in the hands of the British. The older Phillips was an ardent patriot and served as a soldier in the Revolutionary army. The son naturally became a devoted admirer of Washington from earliest youth, and when the latter was inaugurated as first President of the United States in 1789, young Phillip, though only sixteen years of age, was one of those who accompanied the cavalcade which escorted Washington from Philadelphia to New York for that ceremony. After the Revolutionary War he continued to reside in Philadelphia where his father, who was engaged in business, was the President of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Mikve Israel.

Mr. Phillips voted for General Washington on his second election as President and voted also in every presidential election thereafter until that of General Grant in 1868, a period of 76 years.

 

Young Naphtali became interested in journalism, and his first job was with the American Advertiser, a leading Philadelphia newspaper. On July 5, 1797 he married Rachel Seixas, daughter of Moses Mendez Seixas, a prominent merchant and banker in Newport, Rhode Island.

 

Mr. Phillips took up his residence in New York permanently about the year 1801, and shortly thereafter became the proprietor of the National Advocate, the leading New York newspaper of that period, and continued at its head for many years. He then became an attach? of the New York Custom House, where he remained until failing sight overtook him about the middle of the last [19th] century.

 

Rachel and Naphtali Phillips had eleven children together. Rachel died from yellow fever during the plague that afflicted New York in 1822. On October 8, 1823 Naphtali married Rachel’s first cousin, Esther B. Seixas, daughter of Lieutenant Benjamin Mendez Seixas, a Revolutionary War officer and one of the founders of the New York Stock Exchange. They had four children together.

 

Mr. Phillips always took a deep interest in the affairs of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel. He was its President as early as the year 1816 and served for fourteen terms in that office. He was also trustee of the congregation for many years; his entire official service covering a period of (long) over half a century. He was for many years prominent in the affairs of the Democratic party in New York City and served on many political committees. At his death, which occurred November 1, 1870, in his ninety-eighth year, he was the oldest member of the Tammany Society, having belonged to it for nearly three-quarters of a century. As a mark of respect to his profound piety and long service to his people, his funeral was held at the vestibule of the synagogue of his congregation, the only person in it history of over two and one-half centuries, other than its ministers, who has ever been thus honored.

 

Reaction to Lincoln’s Assassination

(The following is from “A Personal Tribute to Lincoln by Josephine Phillips” by Phillip Goodman, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, Sep. 1951-Jun. 1952, 41. The article is available online at www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.)

 

Josephine Phillips (1814-1896) was either the 6th or 7th child to be born to Rachel and Naphtali Phillips. (Since she had a twin sister, Jochebed, it is not clear who was born first.) She was deeply affected by Lincoln’s assassination on April 15, 1865, and wrote a moving letter to her brother-in-law, Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) of Washington, D.C. Adolphus was married to her half-sister Rachel Seixas Phillips (1826-1881). Louis Marshall called Solomons “… one of the finest exemplars of a Jew of American birth, being distinguished alike for unswerving loyalty to his faith and his country”
Her letter, written only five days after Lincoln’s death, expresses her profound grief. The significance of the letter quoted below lies not so much in its confirmation of historical data, as in the fact that it was a typical personal outpouring of grief that was shared by untold numbers of other Jews.
New York, April 20th 1865.
Dear Adolphus,
I received your letter last Monday & presume you also got mine containing our mutual sorrow & horror at the sad event that has plunged all in profound grief, never in history has any event in any nation brought forth such real regret, & the loyalty of the people high & low rich & poor is seen mingled with love & veneration for the man “whose heart was warm whose hands were pure whose doctrine & whose life coincident exhibit lucid proof that he was honest in the sacred cause & to such are rendered more than mere respect.” These lines from Cowper5 are forcibly brought to my recollection as illustrating much of the character of our lamented President.
New York is literally clad in black & it is more rare to see a house without it than with it, from the splendid mansion to the smallest Shanty, even the gates of the poorest black or white display their emblem of sorrow; full well I can imagine how badly you feel it was only last week you wrote me about your being at his house & seeing him come out & request the band to play Dixie, & to-day that he appointed to celebrate our victories, his own funeral takes place. I have not yet recovered from the shock of last Saturday. Yesterday we had shool & a very large assemblage, the services were very solemn, the Tabah [Torah reader's desk] was covered with black also the pillars & gallery, to-day we have it again at three o’clock” nothing is thought or talked of to-day no stores are opened & the poorest person will not work. I see by the paper the body will be here on Monday, his poor wife & children what a sad change for them! I am truly glad Mr. Seward & son will recover & also that his assassin is arrested, but it seems strange Booth has yet eluded the vigilance of the police, his Mother I hear resides in 19th St. NY. & is of course in the greatest affliction, what a villain he is!
JOSEPHINE
The morning paper mentions the fact of the synagogues being the first places of Worship that had Prayers for the President.

1Escape From The Inquisition,” The Jewish Press, December 2, 2005.

2The Jewish Settlement of Savannah, Georgia,” The Jewish Press, January 6, 2006.

3David Mendes and Zipporah Nunes Machado,” The Jewish Press, July 6, 2007.

4Rebecca (Machado) Phillips (1746-1831): Colonial Jewish Matriarch,” The Jewish Press, April 7, 2006, pages 41 & 46. Glimpses into American Jewish History Part 13.

5 Probably William Cowper (1731-1800), an English poet.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine recently retired after serving for forty years as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/naphtali-and-josephine-phillips/2009/04/01/

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