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Charleston the oldest and largest city in the state of South Carolina.


By the 19th century, Charleston was home to the largest and wealthiest Jewish community in North America.
Jews began to settle in Charleston in 1695, 25 years after the English founded Carolina.

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Governor John Archdale, in a descriptive report on the colony, mentioned having a Spanish-speaking Jew as an interpreter in his dealing with captive Florida Indians. The early Jews were mostly Sephardim who came to Charleston from England by way of the Caribbean islands for the commercial opportunities available in a growing Atlantic seaport, and the religious freedom and personal rights offered and tolerated by the colony's Lord Proprietors. They helped build the city's colonial prosperity largely as shopkeepers, traders, and merchants. Among them was Moses *Lindo , who helped develop the important indigo trade and was made "Surveyor and Inspector-General of Indigo" for the provinces.

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Charleston Jewish community life began in 1749 when Jews were numerous enough to organize a formal congregation called Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God). Influenced by Sephardi congregation Bevis Marks in London, Beth Elohim adopted its strict Sephardi ritual and governance. Its founding fathers were Joseph To-bias, president; Michael Lazarus, secretary; Moses Cohen, rabbi; and Isaac Da Costa, ḥazzan. The Hebrew Benevolent Society, founded in 1784, and the Hebrew Orphan Society, chartered in 1802, handled charitable activities. (Both are still active.) During the first decades of the 1800s, Charleston, with more than 700 Jews, had "the largest, most cultured, and wealthiest Jewish community in America,...


The war left Charleston and its Jews decimated and impoverished. Noticeable recovery did not occur until mid-20th century. Jews were well integrated in the Charleston community. Jews were active Masons; Isaac Da Costa was a member of the first Masonic lodge in South Carolina and four others were among the 11 founders of the Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Masonry (1802). Isaac Harby and Jacob N. Cardozo were newspaper editors; Joshua Lazarus headed the utility company, which introduced gas lighting to the city; Mordecai Cohen, a peddler, became at one time the second richest man in South Carolina and was noted for his philanthropies. In 1854, the Ashkenazi congregation Berith Shalome was formed, one of the oldest in continuous existence in the United States; Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, a National Historic Landmark, in Charleston, SC, is the country's second oldest synagogue and the oldest in continuous use.

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Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785−1851)

was possibly the most influential Jewish figure in the United States during the early nineteenth century. He was a lawyer, journalist, playwright, politician, judge, editor, and surveyor. As a patriot, he supported America’s war with Britain in 1812, and became the United States consul to Tunis. He studied law in South Carolina, and passed the New York bar in 1823. He was also an ardent Zionist and in 1825 purchased Grand Island in the Niagara River to create Ararat, a ​“Jewish Homeland.” Noah later pursued a career in journalism that included editing the National Advocate, founded by the Tammany faction of the Democratic Party. After he renounced their corrupt practices, he founded the New York Enquirer, and later the New York Evening Star. Noah developed a serious interest in the theater and wrote numerous plays, and was a founder of New York University.


Discourses on the Evidences of the American Indians Being the Descendants of Lost Tribes of Israel - by Mordecai Manuel Noah


"Proves American Indians to have been originally Jews, and a part of the lost tribes." -History of Long Island, 1839

"Noah being a Jew himself, gives him great advantage from his personal acquaintance with Jewish opinions, ceremonies, and usages." - Select Circulating Library, 1841

"Proves that the 'ten lost tribes' were the progenitors of the races and ideas found in the New World." - Western Literary Messenger, 1849
"Most interesting." - Viewpoint, 1917

"Perhaps the most distinguished Jew of his time in America." -Israel: The Jewish Magazine 1901

Prior to the 20th Century, it was the opinion of many writers such as James Adair, Elias Boudinot, Timothy R. Jenkins, Thomas Thorowgood, William Penn, and Ethan Smith that the American Indians were descended from the lost tribes of Israel; and this certainly is a very plausible way of accounting for the peopling of the new world, and for some circumstances, such as customs and traditions remarked among its inhabitants.

In 1837, Mordecai Manuel Noah published "Discourses on the Evidences of the American Indians Being the Descendants of Lost Tribes of Israel." The fact that Major Noah was a Jew himself, familiar with Jewish customs and practices, gives him perhaps greater credibility than other well-known pre-20th Century writers on this topic.

It is supposed that these lost tribes marched from the banks of the Euphrates to the northeast of Asia, some remaining by the way in Tartary and China. From the various parts of Asia it is believed that the more enterprising and persevering went on gradually advancing by degrees to its northeastern extremity, till they arrived at Behring's Straits, where, during the winter, it would be perfectly easy to cross over to the nearest part of the Continent of America, a distance of about than fifty miles.

In support of his theory, Noah notes that in the apocryphal book of Esdras, of great antiquity, it is said that "the ten tribes...were carried away prisoners out of their own land, led away captives, and...carried... over the waters, so they came into another land."

Noah argues that the following similarities between [some] American Indians and Israelites prove their kinship:

1st, Their belief in one God.
2nd, Their computation of time by the ceremonies of the new moon.
3nd, Their division of the year into seasons corresponding with the Jewish festivals, of the feast of flowers, the day of atonement, the feast of the tabernacle, and other religious holydays.
4th, The erection of a temple after the manner of the Jews, with an ark of the covenant and altars,
5th, The division of their nation into tribes, with a chief or grand sachem at their head.
6th, Their laws of sacrifices, ablutions, marriages, ceremonies in war and peace, the prohibition of certain food, according to the Mosaic rule, their traditions, history, character, appearance, affinity of their language to the Hebrew.

Regarding Jewish temples in the New World, Noah writes: "Take, for example, the description of the temple at Palenque, which Lord Kingsborough, in his travels, not only declares was built by Jews, and is a copy of Solomon's temple, but which, no doubt, is precisely the model of the temple described by Ezekiel."

Noah was convinced that their similarities, along with the opinions of other authors such as McKenzie, Bartram, Beltrame, Smith, Penn, Menassah Ben Israel, the Earl of Crawford, Lopez de Gamara, Acosta, Malvenda, Major Long, Boudinot and Catlin, all eminent writers and travellers, all go to prove that the "ten lost tribes" were the progenitors of the Indians.

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William A. Brown

*The birth of William A. Brown is celebrated on this date [10-25] in 1790.  He was a Black playwright and theatrical producer.  

William Alexander Brown, also known as William Henry Brown, was born in the West Indies. After he retired from working at sea, he had been a ship's steward; he settled in a community of free Blacks in the lower Manhattan district of New York City.  In 1816 he opened a summer tea garden in New York called the African Grove Theatre to cater to the community of free Blacks.  This first resident all-Black theatre company featured music, theatrical, and occasionally outdoor entertainment.  They presented a program of classical plays, popular plays, ballet, music, and opera.  

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Mordecai Manuel Noah was the most influential Jew in the United States in the early 19th Century. He was an editor, journalist, playwright, politician, lawyer, court of appeals judge, New York Port surveyor, a major in the New York military and, foremost, an ardent utopian Zionist.

Noah was born July 19, 1785, in Philadelphia of Portuguese Jewish ancestry. His father, Manuel M. Noah, served with General Marion in the Revolutionary War and contributed a considerable sum of money to the cause.

When Noah was 10, his mother died and he went to live with his maternal grandfather. He stayed with that family until he became old enough to go to Charleston, South Carolina, where he studied law and he became involved in politics.

He was an ardent patriot and, at the age of 26, he wrote forceful editorials in a Charleston newspaper advocating war (of 1812) with England. As a result of his editorials, he was appointed the U.S. Consul to Tunis. In 1815, he returned and settled in New York to engage in journalism and politics. He published the National Advocate and edited several other newspapers.

Noah broke off his relationship with the powerful political machine of the Tammany Society and opposed them by publishing the New York Enquirer from 1826 to 1829. He was a prolific playwright, which reflected his patriotic fervor. He wrote Fortress of Sorrento (1808), She Would Be A Soldier (1819), and Siege of Tripoli (1820), which was produced many times under different titles.

Noah supported education and medical care. He was a founder of New York University and he projected the idea of a Jewish hospital - Mt. Sinai - which was to come into being after his death. In 1825, Noah helped purchase a tract of land on Grand Island in the Niagara River near Buffalo, where he envisioned a Jewish colony to be called Ararat. This project elicited interest and discussion, but it turned into a failure. After this disappointment, he realized that Palestine was the only answer for a homeland for Jews. He lectured and wrote on the need for such a homeland, expressing ideas that preceded those of Leo Pinsker and Theodor Herzl. Noah was very active and supportive of the congregations of Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia and Shearith Israel in New York. He was the best-known Jew in America when he died of a stroke in 1851.



Mordecai Manuel Noah was born with America in the city of our nation's birth, Philadelphia, on July 19, 1785, halfway in time between the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. in his person, Noah mirrored the new nation-willful, brash, adventurous, creative, combative, yet good-natured and generous. Similarly, his personal life reflected the Jewish community to which he belonged, patriotic and philanthropic, reverential of the religious tradition, respectful and supportive of its institutions yet growing ever more lax in religious observance, and desirous of changes in ritual and liturgy.

Mordecai was the first-born son of Manuel Noah, an immigrant from Mannheim, Germany, who had served in the Revolutionary War, and Zipporah Phillips, daughter of Jonas Phillips and Rebecca Machado, whose father had served as hazzan of the Shearith Israel Congregation of New York. Though three of his grandparents were Ashkenazi, Noah stressed his Sefardi identity, for it gave him deeper roots in America and a more aristocratic status in the Jewish community. His association with the rapidly increasing Ashkenazi community grew closer through his marriage into one of that community's leading families and through his leadership, in the 1840s, of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the united charity organization of a Jewish community now overwhelmingly Ashkenazi.

To Mordecai M. Noah, journalism and politics were one career. Journalism he practiced in the service of his political pursuits: political activity he was involved in to reinforce his journalistic enterprises. In the early Republic press and party were in symbiotic relationship. His consulship to the Kingdom of Tunis, his positions as sheriff of New York, surveyor of its port, and judge in its court of General Sessions, and his editorship of half a dozen newspapers were for him all of a piece-a career of public service. In the Jewish community, Noah served as its chief orator, delivering the major addresses at its important communal gatherings. As an accepted interpreter of Judaism to the general community, he informed his audience in newspaper articles and from the lecture platform about various aspects of Jewish religion and history, about Jewish concerns and aspirations. To Americans he was the representative Jew; to Jews, he was the quintessential American; Noah gained from both roles.

Noah believed that American and Jewish ideals and interests were congruent and that in his political endeavors his Jewishness was more an advantage than a handicap. From the time he petitioned for a consulship in 1811 to the time when he sent a letter to New York's Governor Seward in 1849, Noah relied on his Jewish identity to gain him political advantage, reminding the secretary of state and the governor that the Jewish community would appreciate and reward any favors shown to him, as a member and leader of the community. And as the Jewish community increased in numbers and affluence, so too did Noah's political influence and power. He fully believed that, because he was a Jew, his appointment to a governmental position of trust would be a powerful statement to the world both about the status of Jews in America and the nature of American democracy. As he wrote to Secretary of State James Monroe in 1811, his appointment to a consulship would "prove to foreign powers that our government is not regulated in the appointment of their officers by religious distinction." in a world darkened by bigotry, America was for him a beacon of freedom and equality, but his faith was soon tested.

Noah was appointed Consul to the Kingdom of Tunis, and in his Travels in England, France, Spain and the Barbary States in the Years 1813-14 and 15, New York, 1819, we read of his brief but eventful tenure. In it Noah explains the termination of his tenure by Secretary Monroe in the secretary of state's own words:

At the time of your appointment, as Consul to Tunis, it was not known that the religion which you profess would form an obstacle to the exercise of your Consular functions.

Noah cried "Outrage!" as did others, Jews and gentiles alike. In his Correspondence and Documents . . . , Washington, 1816, Noah complains not so much about the treatment he received, but about the injury to the young nation's freedoms:

My dismissal from office in consequence of religion, has become a document on file in the department of State. This may hereafter produce the most injurious effects establishing a principle, which will go to annihilate the most sacred rights of the citizen.

The Library's holdings also contain the correspondence between Madison and Noah two years later concerning his dismissal. On May 6, 1818, accompanying the Consecration Address, Noah sent a letter to Madison which deserves a wider readership than the few scholars who may seek it out in the Manuscript Division.

Dear Sir,

I take the liberty to enclose to you a Discourse delivered at the consecration of the Jewish Synagogue in this city, under the fullest persuasion, that it cannot but be gratifying to you to perceive this portion of your fellow Citizens enjoying an equality of privileges in this country and affording a proof to the world that they fully merit the rights they possess. I ought not to conceal from you that it afforded me sincere pleasure, to have the opportunity of saying, that to your efforts, and those of your illustrious colleagues in the Convention, the Jews in the United States owe many of the blessings which they now enjoy, and the benefit of this liberal and first example, has been felt very generally abroad and has created a sincere attachment toward this Country, on the part of foreign Jews.

I regret that I have not had the pleasure of seeing you since my return from the Mediterranean. It arose from a belief that my recall was the result of very unfavorable impressions made on your mind; if these impressions have existed, I do sincerely hope that they have been removed by subsequent explanations, for I wish you to be assured, and I have no object in view in making the assertion, that no infamy arose in Barbary to the public service from my religion as relating to myself, on the contrary, my influence and standing abroad was highly creditable and flattering.

I could wish, not only for the sake of my coreligionaires, but for that of your administration, that if my letter of recall cannot be erased from the Books of the Department of State, that such explanations may be subjoined as may prevent any arising from the precedent;-for as my accounts are adjusted, and a balance struck in my favor, the objections in that letter, refers solely to my religion, an objection, that I am persuaded you cannot feel, nor authorize others to feel.

We can now better understand the second part of the previously cited letter from Madison to Noah as a response to the above:

As your foreign mission took place whilst I was in the administration it cannot be but agreeable to me to learn, that your accounts have been closed in a manner favorable to you. And I know too well the justice and candor of the present executive [Monroe] to doubt that an official preservation, will be readily allowed to explanations necessary to protect your character against the effect of any impressions whenever ascertained to be erroneous. It was certain, that your religious profession was well-known at the time you received your commission, and that in itself it could not be a motive in your recall.

Noah made peace with Monroe, for in the Monroe Papers we find a twenty-page letter from Noah, dated June 23, 1823, urging Monroe's support for William Crawford as candidate for the presidency. Crawford's bid failed, and with it Noah's political and editorial influence waned, but it gave Noah time to pursue a plan he had proposed some five years earlier, the establishment of a Jewish settlement on Grand Island on the Niagara River.

As an American and as a Jew, Noah was constantly looking for points where American and Jewish interests might intersect. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, America's greatest need was for immigrants. In his travels in Europe and Africa, Noah learned that Jews in the Old World desperately needed a haven for themselves and their children. To bring such Jews to a welcoming America would be a signal service to both.

The drama Noah staged in Buffalo on September 15, 1825, in dedicating Ararat as "A City of Refuge for the Jews," with men marching, band playing, and "Judge" Noah in regal vestments orating, was for both America and world Jewry. The pageant, the proclamation, and Noah's speech were intended to grab the attention of newspaper editors to whom description and text were sent. Accounts of the Ararat drama appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and in England, France, and Germany as well. The drama presented the Jews as the most desirable citizens a nation could want-able, ambitious, productive, and loyal; to the Jews of the Old World, it portrayed what kind of country America was for the Jews. Political dignitaries, leaders of society, and the general populace joined to celebrate the establishment of a city for Jews, while America's most prominent Jew proclaimed a Jewish state on American soil and welcomed his brethren to settle it.

One of the newspapers which published a full account of the proceedings was the National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C. In its September 29, 1825, issue it described the ceremonies attendant upon the laying of the cornerstone, with its Hebrew quotation and English inscription (the stone survives and is now in a museum on Grand Island) and Noah's address.


One of the newspapers which published a full account of the proceedings was the National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C. In its September 29, 1825, issue it described the ceremonies attendant upon the laying of the cornerstone, with its Hebrew quotation and English inscription (the stone survives and is now in a museum on Grand Island) and Noah's address.

Noah linked American and Jewish interests in two discourses published eight years apart. His Discourse on the Evidence of the American Indians Being the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, New York, 1837, gives a hallowed antiquity to America-biblical origin to its first settlers. To Jews living in an America of rapidly growing nativist sentiments, it provided earlier antecedents than any descendants of the earliest European settlers could claim. Noah restates Jewish nationalist aspirations first sounded in his Consecration address of 1818, where he said:

Never were the prospects for the restoration of the Jewish nation to their ancient rights and dominion more brilliant than they are at present ... They will march in triumphant numbers ... and take their rank among the governments of the earth.

Now in 1837, he calls for action:

The Jewish people must now do something for themselves ... Syria [i.e., Palestine] will revert to the Jewish nation by purchase ... Under the co-operation and protection of England and France, this reoccupation of Syria ... is at once reasonable and practicable.


Seven years later, the return to Zion became Noah's subject in a Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews, delivered twice in 1844 and published a year later. The role formerly allotted to England and France is now given to America. "I confidently believe in the restoration of the Jews ... and believing that political events are daily assuming a shape which may finally lead to that great advent, I consider it my duty to call upon the free people of this country to aid us in any efforts which, in our present position, it may be prudent to adopt." He emphasizes the special affinity between America and Jewish national aspirations:

Where can we plead the cause of independence for the children of Israel with greater confidence than in the cradle of liberty? ... Here we can unfurl the standard, and seventeen millions of people will say, "God is with you; we are with you; in his name and in the name of civil and religious liberty, go forth and repossess the land of your fathers. We have advocated the independence of the South American republics ... we have combated for the independence of Greece ... if these nations were entitled to our sympathies, how much more powerful and irrepressible are the claims of that beloved people, before whom the Almighty ... swore they should be his people, and he would be their God; who for their protection and final restoration, dispersed them among the nations of the earth, without confounding them with any! ...

The liberty and independence of the Jewish nation may grow out of a single effort which this country may make in their behalf ... they want only protection, and the work will be accomplished.

In Noah's proposals we find classic Zionist assertions of future generations:

The Jews are in a most favorable position to repossess ... the promised land, and organize a free and liberal government ...

Every attempt to colonize Jews in other countries has failed ...

The first step is to solicit from the Sultan of Turkey permission for the Jews to purchase and hold land . . .

Those who desire to reside in the Holy Land and have not the means, may be aided by ... societies to reach their haven of repose ...

Ports of the Mediterranean [will be] occupied by enterprising Jews. The valley of the Jordan will be filled by agriculturists from ... Germany, Poland and Russia.

Noah wrote these words a half-century before Theodor Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat, and more than a century before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Newspapers Noah edited, patriotic plays he wrote, addresses he gave are preserved in the Library. Surely the most curious-and rarest-of Noachian items is a large illustrated folio broadside reading:

Mordecai M. Noah ... duly sworn, deposeth and saith, that on the 20th day of June 1828 ... he was most violently assaulted, by Elijah J. Roberts, who attacked him on the steps, and cow-skinned HIM!!

Roberts was a former business associate with whom Noah had a falling out.

More indicative of Noah is his obituary in the Boston Weekly Museum, where the entire front page of the April 26, 1851, issue is devoted to an account of his life and works and a two-column signed portrait of the deceased.

In his determined insistence on being part of America's political, social, and cultural life while at the same time participating in Jewish religious and communal life, Mordecai Manuel Noah demonstrated by example that in America a Jew could be both fully Jewish and fully American. As the first to do so publicly, dramatically, and successfully, Noah might well be called "The first American Jew."

FireShot Capture 137 - Four Founders - Emma Lazarus [Judaic Treasures]_ - www.jewishvirtua
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