The Jews of Charleston
Original year of publication: 1950
The small group of Jewish inhabitants of Charles Town, in the Colony of South Carolina, met in 1750 to organize themselves permanently into a religious community. This book tells that community’s story down to the present day. It describes the process of adjustment both of the Jews and their religion. It recounts the participation of the Jews in the fortunes of the wider Charleston community and in the events which constitute the history of the South. It places before the reader a two-hundred-year record of loyalty to Jewish tradition and service to South Carolina as colony and state.
Of special interest is the fact that Charleston’s was the first Jewish community in the United States to begin experimenting with reform in the Jewish ritual. The authors raise the questions why religious experimentation should have begun there rather than in other cities and to what extent the American Reform movement rose out of the American environment rather than in imitation of Reform in Europe. The subsequent history of Judaism in Charleston is, in view of these early tendencies, equally instructive for Jews and for all students of cultural survival. No less important is the evidence presented throughout the volume of the friendly relations which have obtained between the Jews of Charleston and their Christian neighbors.
The spirit of freedom and equality inherent in the American tradition has made for the development of unusual individuals whose activities have transcended their community. Among such men and women connected with the Jews of Charleston were: Moses Lindo, an early example of the supersalesman; Francis Salvador, the Revolutionary her who died all to soon; Isaac Harby, who was born to soon to succeed as a journalist; Penniah Moise, the blind poetess.
In the preparation of The Jews of Charleston, the Bicentennial Committee, for the celebration of the community’s two-hundredth anniversary, had the cooperation of a number of notable historians who formed an Editorial Board under the chairmanship of Professor Salo W. Baron. They selected two men of known ability in the field of historical writing and research and commissioned them to prepare the volume. Charles Reznikoff will be remembered for his novels, By The Waters of Manhattan, and The Lionhearted, and for the poetry and essays which he has contributed to various periodicals. His collaborator, Dr. Uriah Z. Engelman, is the author of The Rise of The Jew in Western World. He has done a great deal of research in Jewish community life in the United States and was a Director of the Department of Research of the American Association for Jewish Education. The two authors, under the general supervision of the Editorial Board, produced this readable and reliable history of one of the most interesting Jewish communities in the United States. It is a contribution to Jewish as well as American history, to the study of acculturation as well as of the survival powers of Judaism. The scholar and the layman alike will find it interesting and instructive.
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this province further service in that article (indigo), if he is willing to ascertain the same and to grant his Certificate for the First Sort.” Mr. Lindo was willing. But if, on the one hand, there was no obligation upon any merchant or planter to submit indigo to his inspection, on the other hand, there was none upon him “to take that trouble for nothing.” He would inspect any parcel and give his certificate of “the first sort,” if merited, for “the small consideration of one per cent. on the
from Charleston that year was over fourteen million dollars: included was the value of almost 65,000 barrels of rice and more than eight million pounds of cotton.5 After the War of 1812, the total exports of the united States in 1818, for example, were valued at almost eighty-two million dollars; of this, the exports of South Carolina were valued at almost eleven million, and 66 New Doctrines, Prosperity and Tribulations only the State of New York’s were greater, with exports valued at about
by Isabel Cohen Doud David Lopez (1809–1884) New Doctrines, Prosperity and Tribulations Othello by Edwin Booth, playing lago (1859), was not forgotten by the community. The rich of Charleston, as of Charles Town, had little of that virtue common to farmers and merchants of the North—thrift. They spent freely and gave freely. Benevolence was esteemed and so was sociability. The benevolent societies met at dinners and became fraternal; the fraternal societies practised benevolence. Immigrants of
Nathan and Symond. Valentine, Deceased, being Joyn purchers (that is, joint purchasers, with title to the survivor), whom the said Mordecai has survived.” This, it is said, is the earliest record of a Jew holding land in South Carolina.15 The will of Abraham Isack of New York was recorded in 1710: the oldest Jewish will on record in South Carolina.16 The name of Joseph Tobias (d. 1761, aged seventy-six) is on the list of those who paid quit-rent in 1739; in a volume of mortgages; as one who had
nor Boston but Savannah. However, the limits of Charleston have not been extended for a century and the legal area of the city is only 5.9 square miles. Within this area, the 1940 census shows an increase of 9,010 in Charleston’s population over that in 1930 (14.5%). According to a special census in 1944, Charleston’s population was then 81,347. But just beyond the legal limits of Charleston, for the most part on the west bank of the Cooper River where the United States navy-yard and the new port