History of the Jews in Philadelphia
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- 1 Early history
- 2 Historic Philadelphia synagogues
- 3 Signers of non-importation resolutions
- 4 In the War of Independence
- 5 Isaac Leeser
- 6 Maimonides College and Jews' Hospital
- 7 Gratz College
- 8 Other Synagogues
- 9 Literary activity
- 10 Newspapers
- 11 Federation of Jewish Charities
- 12 Jewish Politicians in Philadelphia
- 13 Eastern European Immigration (1881-1924)
- 14 Institutions
- 15 See also
- 16 Bibliography
- 17 Notes
- 18 References
- 19 Further reading
- 20 External links
Jewish traders were operating in southeastern Pennsylvania long before Penn. The first Jewish resident of Philadelphia on record was Jonas Aaron. His name appears in 1703 ("American Historical Register," April, 1895). Isaac Miranda, the first Jew in the English colonies to hold a judicial position, owned property in the town at an early date; he arrived in Philadelphia about 1710 and at once engaged in trade with the Indians. That there were several Jewish families in the city in 1734 as is proved by the fact that the German traveler Von Beck enumerates them among the religious sects of the town. One of the earlier inhabitants was Nathan Levy (1704–53), who applied in 1738 for a plot of ground to be used as a place of burial for his family. He obtained this grant September 25, 1740, and the plot was thenceforth known as the "Jews' burying-ground"; it was the first Jewish cemetery in the city, and was situated in Spruce street near Ninth street; it has been the property of the Congregation Mickvé Israel for more than a century.
David Franks (1720–94) was another prominent Jewish resident. He went to Philadelphia early in life and engaged in business with Nathan Levy, under the firm name of Levy & Franks, this being the first Jewish business-house in the city. Part of their business consisted of the importation of slaves. Along with Joseph Marks, Jewish merchants from Rhode Island, Jacob Rivera and Aaron Lopez, they brought in about 650 or over half the slaves that arrived in the region. In 1748, when The City Dancing Assembly, the city's most famous social organization, was founded, among the names on the subscription list were those of David Franks, Joseph Marks, and Samson Levy.
Historic Philadelphia synagogues
Congregation Mikveh Israel, the first Jewish congregation in Philadelphia, had its beginnings about 1745 and is believed to have worshiped in a small house in Sterling Alley. In 1761, owing to the influx of Spanish and Portuguese Jews from England, the Netherlands and the West Indies, the question of building a synagogue was raised, but nothing was then accomplished in that direction. In 1773, when Bernard Gratz was parnas and Solomon Marache treasurer, a subscription was started "in order to support our holy worship and establish it on a more solid foundation." The number of Jewish residents in Philadelphia was suddenly increased at the outbreak of the American Revolution by the influx of Jewish patriots from New York, which had been captured by the British (Sept., 1776). The congregation removed from the house in Sterling Alley and then occupied quarters in Cherry Alley, between Third and Fourth streets.
The building in Cherry Alley, which had sufficed for the few families in the city, became inadequate, and steps were taken to secure a more commodious building. Gershom Mendes Seixas, who had fled from New York to Connecticut, was requested to act as the first rabbi of the reorganized congregation. The estimate for the new building was £600, and the subscription being inadequate, Haym Salomon, the banker and financial agent of the Continental Congress, agreed to pay one-fourth the cost. A lot was purchased in Cherry street, near Third street, and a suitable building erected. The governor of Pennsylvania and his official family were invited to attend the dedication ceremonies, which were held on September 13, 1782. At this time the congregation had over 100 members; its officers were Jonas Phillips (president), Michael Gratz, Solomon Marache, Solomon Myers Cohen, and Simon Nathan. On November 25, 1783, New York was evacuated by the British, and many of the members of the congregation returned to their former homes. The congregation also started Mikveh Israel Cemetery.
After Congregation Shearith Israel recalled the Rev. Gershom Mendez Seixas to New York, Congregation Mickvé Israel elected the Rev. Jacob Raphael Cohen in his stead. The latter had officiated as Chazzan of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Montreal and had served in a like capacity in New York during the British occupation. He ministered to the Congregation Mickvé Israel until his death in Sept., 1811. As a result of the departure of its members, in 1788 the congregation encountered financial difficulties. A subscription list was started to meet the existing debts, and among those who contributed to it were Benjamin Franklin and David Rittenhouse. From this time on the congregation was ceaseless in its religious and charitable activities, and when Isaac Leeser's incumbency began, in 1829, it was, perhaps, the best-known synagogue in the United States. In 1815 Emanuel Nunes Carvalho was elected minister and continued in that capacity until his death in 1817; he was succeeded in 1824 by Abraham Israel Keys.
1782 First Building — An increase in membership as well as financial help from those who sought refuge in Philadelphia, allowed the congregation to establish a permanent religious home. A lot was purchased on Cherry Alley. A carpenter and bricklayer were hired to build a two-story brick building, hardly distinguishable by style from those around it. Space on the lot was approved for a home for the Hazan, a school and a mikvah, in addition to an oven for Matza baking for Passover. Close by were the Old Reformed Church of the United Church of Christ and the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. A commemorative marker stands at that place.
1825 Second Building — When the 1782 building became inadequate, the Board of Adjuntos (Managers) voted to build a larger synagogue on the same site. William Strickland, leading architect, designed a structure of white stone from the "Falls of the Schuylkill," one of the most dignified buildings of its kind in the country. The interior and exterior of the building are portrayed on the right side of the tapestry.
1860 Third Building — Prior to the Civil War (1861-1865) as the Jewish population grew and prospered, an elegant building was constructed on 7th Street, north of Arch. It was designed by John McArthur, Jr. (later, architect of City Hall of Philadelphia). The interior and exterior of the building are portrayed on the left side of the tapestry.
1909 Fourth Building — Many Jews moved to the area between Broad and 16th Streets, north of Girard Avenue. A new building was constructed at Broad and York Streets, flanked by Gratz and Dropsie Colleges. Samuel Elkin and Henry G. Freeman, Jr. donated $100,000; $40,500 for the site, $59,000 for the building in memory of Abraham and Eve Elkin. The interior and exterior of the building are portrayed in the center of the tapestry.
1976 Fifth Building — The congregation moved to Independence Mall, close to its original site, together with the National Museum of American Jewish History. The building opened on July 4, 1976, the Nation's Bicentennial.
2010 A New Beginning — In August 2010, the National Museum of American Jewish History moved to new building at 5th and Market Streets. The synagogue is now the sole inhabitant of the current building. The former exhibit space is now the Social Hall, decorated with paintings dating from the 1700s to the present from the Archives. There is also an exhibit in the lobby.
Historic Congregation B'Nai Abraham
Historic Congregation B'Nai Abraham is located in the Society Hill section of Center City Philadelphia, and is supported by a lay led leadership board who act as stewards of the historic building. The congregation was established in 1874 as the "Russian Shul" following a wave of immigration to the Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia at the time, fleeing from Czar Alexander II. It moved into present space around 1910's, making it historically significant as the oldest building in Philadelphia that was originally constructed as a synagogue and has been in continuous use as such. With the departure of much of the neighborhood's Jewish population in the mid-twentieth century, the congregation was no longer able to support a full-time rabbi and frequently lacked a minyan for Shabbat services. In the early 21st century, it became affiliated with the Chabad movement and is now one of its two Center City synagogues.
Congregation Rodeph Shalom
Congregation Rodeph Shalom was founded in 1795, and is the first Ashkenazic congregation established in the Western Hemisphere. In the last decade of the 18th century, a small group of Orthodox Jews from Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland formed a minyan to worship in a manner consistent with their shared religious background. At first, services were held in various locations in Olde Philadelphia. In 1866, the congregation built its first sanctuary. Frank Furness, considered the most talented and exciting Philadelphia architect of his time, designed a Moorish-style synagogue on Broad and Mt. Vernon Streets.
The congregation soon outgrew its building and replaced it with the current structure, completed in 1928. Inspired by the great synagogue of Florence, Italy, Rodeph Shalom is one of the few synagogues in this country that retains the Byzantine-Moorish style. It was designed by the firm of Simon and Simon, which built the Fidelity Building on Broad Street. The sanctuary seats 1,640 people below star burst skylights. Its stained glass windows are one of the few remaining collections from the renowned D'Ascenzo Studio. The majestic bronze-and-enamel doors of the Torah ark grace the bimah. The D'Ascenzo Studio also designed the sanctuary's walls, ceiling, and dome, along with the carpet and ornamentation. The Broad Street Foyer houses the Leon J. and Julia S. Obermayer Collection of Jewish ritual art. More than 500 objects of Jewish ceremonial art from around the world dating back to the 18th century are on display. The Philadelphia Jewish Museum gallery, dedicated to Jacob Gutman, sponsors three to four exhibits of contemporary Jewish art each year, and is open for public viewing.
Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel
The Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel was organized March 21, 1847. Its first Reader was B. H. Gotthelf, who held services in a hall at No. 528 N. Second street. The Reform movement, which had originated in Germany, soon extended itself to America, and L. Naumberg, Solomon Deutsch, and David Einhorn (1861–66) furthered its progress in this congregation. The first marked change in the character of the liturgy took place in 1856. Samuel Hirsch succeeded to the rabbinate in 1866; he introduced many changes in the service. In 1887 Joseph Krauskopf was elected rabbi; and contributed much to the success and standing of this congregation. It was during his incumbency that the Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel became the largest in Philadelphia. It had about 700 members in 1904. Its synagogue was situated on Broad Street, above Columbia Avenue from 1892 to 1957. In 1893 Joseph Leonard Levy was elected associate rabbi, but he resigned in 1902 to take up a rabbinical position in Pittsburg. The congregation supported a free public library and a reading-room prior to the opening of Philadelphia's Free Library. Senior Rabbis of Keneseth Israel since 1923 when Krauskopf died include William Fineshriber, Bertram W. Korn, Simeon Maslin and Lance J. Sussman.
Philadelphia's lost Egyptian-style synagogues
Philadelphia Jews built two of the very small number of synagogues ever constructed in the Egyptian Revival style, the 1824 Cherry Street synagogue, for Congregation Mikveh Israel, and the 1849 Crown Street synagogue, for Congregation Beth Israel. Drawings of the buildings survive, although the buildings themselves no longer do.
Signers of non-importation resolutions
In 1765, the Non-Importation Resolutions were drawn up. By these resolutions, adopted October 25, 1765, the merchants and other citizens of Philadelphia agreed "not to have any goods shipped from Great Britain until after the repeal of the Stamp Act." The Jewish signers included Benjamin Levy, David Franks, Samson Levy, Hyman Levy, Jr., Mathias Bush, Moses Mordecai, Michael Gratz, and Barnard Gratz. The last two were brothers who had left Upper Silesia in Germany about 1755 and settled in Philadelphia. In 1777, just after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, the following Jews agreed to accept the colonial paper money sanctioned by the king in lieu of gold and silver: Solomon Aaron, Joseph Solomon Kohn, Solomon Marache, Moses Mordecai, Barnard Soliman, and David Franks. Of these, Moses Mordecai and David Franks had signed the Non-Importation Resolutions.
In the War of Independence
The Jews in Philadelphia took a prominent part in the War of Independence. David Franks was conspicuous for his loyalty to the British cause, being the English agent in charge of the prisoners; his daughter, Rebecca Franks, took part in the "Mischianza," the famous fête given in honor of General Howe during the British occupancy of Philadelphia. The majority of the Jews of the city, however, supported the American cause. Col. David Salisbury Franks was aide-de-camp to General Benedict Arnold at Philadelphia in 1779; Solomon Bush was major of the Pennsylvania militia; Col. Isaac Franks served with distinction in the war, as did Philip Moses, Russell and Benjamin Nones. Haym Solomon made loans to individuals in Congress, which were never repaid; his services as a financial agent during the war were invaluable. Another creditor of the Continental Congress was Aaron Levy, and his loans, like nearly all the others, were never fully repaid. At the close of the war the Jewish population of Philadelphia amounted to almost 500. When Washington was elected president of the United States the Congregation Mickvé Israel, together with the congregations of New York, Charleston, and Richmond, sent a congratulatory address, to which Washington replied (1790).
Although the majority of the early Jewish residents were of Portuguese or Spanish descent, some among them had emigrated from Germany and Poland. About the beginning of the 19th century, a number of Jews from the latter countries, finding the services of the Congregation Mickvé Israel unfamiliar to them, resolved to form a new congregation which would use the ritual to which they had been accustomed. On November 23, 1801, Leon van Amringe, Isaiah Nathan, Isaac Marks, Aaron Levi, Jr., Abraham Gumpert, and Abraham Moses took title to a plot of ground to be used as a place of burial for members of the newly formed congregation. On October 10, 1802, the "German Hebrews formed themselves into a society in the city and county of Philadelphia, which was denominated the 'Hebrew German Society Rodef Shalom'"; it was one of the earliest German Jewish congregations in America. The society was reorganized and chartered in 1812. Among the earlier rabbis were Wolf Benjamin, Jacob Lipman, Bernhard Illowy, Henry Vidaver, Moses Sulzbacher, and Moses Rau. In 1849 Jacob Frankel (1808–87) was elected Chazzan, and about this time the congregation grew in numbers and importance. Frankel acted as chaplain of hospitals during the Civil war. On September 8, 1847, when Naphtali Kahn was Chazzan, the congregation removed to its new building in Julianna street, where it remained until September 9, 1870, when in 1904, the structure at Broad and Mt. Vernon streets was dedicated. Marcus Jastrow, elected in 1866, served the congregation as rabbi until 1892, when he was elected rabbi emeritus (died 1903); during his ministry Rodef Shalom became one of the leading congregations in the United States. In 1892 Henry Berkowitz was elected rabbi.
Data relating to the earlier Jewish charitable organizations are very meager. It is natural to suppose that the Congregation Mickvé Israel, in the absence of any other organization for that purpose, looked after the wants of the poorer Jewish residents. In 1784, there was a society for the relief of destitute strangers, but the records of this organization have disappeared. In October 1813, a Society for the Visitation of the Sick and for Mutual Assistance was organized, with Jacob Cohen as its first president. It existed for over fifty years. In 1819, several ladies organized the still-existing Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, the first Jewish charitable organization in Philadelphia and the first one in the United States controlled exclusively by women. In 1820, it elected its first board of officers, consisting of Mrs. Rebecca J. Phillips (first directress), Mrs. Belle Cohen (second directress), Mrs. S. Bravo (treasurer), Miss Rebecca Gratz (secretary). Mrs. Abraham S. Wolf has acted as its president starting in the early 1860s. In 1822, the United Hebrew Benevolent Society was organized. The oldest Hebrew Sunday-school in America was formed in Philadelphia. On February 4, 1838, a number of ladies met and resolved "that a Sunday-school be established under the direction of the board" of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society; the school was formally opened on March 4, 1838; and it was about this time that the Ladies' Hebrew Sewing Society was founded.
These facts attest the early activity of the women of Philadelphia in the cause of religion and education. Rebecca Gratz (1781–1869) was, perhaps, the best-known American Jewish woman of her day. Not only was she one of the organizers of the Hebrew Sunday-School Society, but she was identified with nearly all the charitable organizations in the city. Another woman prominent in the life of the city at this time was Louisa B. Hart, who was untiring in her devotion to the religious education of the young. Others prominently identified with the Hebrew Sunday-School Society were Simha C. Peixotta, Ellen Phillips, and Isabella II. Rosenbach. The attendance at the various schools of the society, of which Mrs. Ephraim Lederer was president, numbered over 3,000 in 1904.
The most virile force in the community when these organizations were founded was Isaac Leeser. He had succeeded Abraham Israel Keys, in 1829, as rabbi of the Congregation Mickvé Israel. He was essentially an organizer, and his name is connected with the inception of nearly every charitable and educational institution of his time. In 1843, he issued "The Occident and American Jewish Advocate," which he edited for twenty-five years. He provided text-books and catechisms for the use of the young; he made a masterly translation of the Bible; and he rendered into English the Hebrew prayers. In 1848 he was the moving spirit in the organization of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia. The first suggestion toward the establishment of a school for the higher education of Jewish youth came from Mordecai M. Noah, the well-known journalist of New York. In 1843, he advocated in the "Occident" the formation of such an institution, the plan receiving the warm support of Leeser. In 1847, a ball was given for the purpose of raising funds for the "establishment of a Hebrew school in this city." Later a public call resulted in the meeting of twenty-five supporters of the plan, Zadoc A. Davis being elected chairman, and on July 16, 1848, the Hebrew Education Society was formally organized, with Solomon Solis as its first president. On April 7, 1851, the school was opened with twenty-two pupils, and since that time the attendance has steadily increased.
Maimonides College and Jews' Hospital
On December 4, 1864, a meeting was held which resulted in the establishment of the first Jewish theological seminary in America. The need of such an institution was strongly felt, as there were numerous synagogues in the country, but few persons capable of filling the rabbinical office. The seminary was established under the joint auspices of the Hebrew Education Society and the Board of Delegates of American Israelites, and was named "Maimonides College"; it was opened October 28, 1867, with Isaac Leeser as its provost. Sabato Morais, Marcus Jastrow, Aaron S. Bettelheim, L. Buttenwieser, William H. Williams; and the provost comprised the faculty. At a later date Hyman Polano and George Jacobs were added to this number. Abraham Hart was president, and Mayer Sulzberger secretary, of the board of trustees. Moses A. Dropsie and Isidore Binswanger acted successively as president of the college. After an activity extending through six years the work of Maimonides College was discontinued owing to lack of support (Dec., 1873). The work of the Hebrew Education Society had met with great success during the 1880s and 1890s. In 1892 the society received $15,000 (today $400,000) from the estate of Ellen Phillips. Louis Gerstley acted as its president for many years, and David Sulzberger had been its secretary since 1876. It is largely owing to the latter's activity that the society has greatly extended its work to meet the new conditions due to the growth of the population and the Russian immigration.
The first Jewish hospital in Philadelphia originated in a suggestion of Abraham Sulzberger, who insisted in 1864 that a hospital was an urgent necessity in the community and that steps should be taken at once to secure the funds necessary to establish one. The first officers were Alfred T. Jones (president), Isidore Binswanger (vice-president), Samuel Weil (treasurer), Mayer Sulzberger (secretary), Henry J. Hunt (corresponding secretary). The association was incorporated September 23, 1865. The first site of the hospital was at Fifty-sixth street and Haverford road. Within a decade the needs of the first hospital had outgrown its accommodations, and in 1873, during the presidency of Abraham S. Wolf, it removed to Old York road. In 1901 Meyer Guggenheim presented to the association $80,000 (today $2,300,000) for the purpose of erecting a private auxiliary hospital. Mrs. Sarah Eisner has recently built a Home for Nurses. Among other buildings on the hospital grounds are the Home for Aged and Infirm Israelites, the Loeb Operating Building, the M. A. Loeb Dispensary, and the Lucien Moss Home for Incurables. The Jewish Hospital is one of the best-equipped and best-managed institutions in the United States. William B. Hackenburg succeeded Abraham S. Wolf as president in 1878, and has served in that capacity ever since. To them is due, in a great measure, the success of the hospital. The Jewish Maternity Association was founded November 3, 1873. In addition to the maternity hospital there is a training-school for nurses, of which Mrs. S. Belle Cohn is president.
In 1855, the ladies of the various congregations of the city, "deeply impressed with the necessity of providing a home for destitute and unprotected children of Jewish parentage," organized the Jewish Foster Home. Its first building was in Eleventh street, near Jefferson street, and was dedicated in May, 1855. Mrs. Anna Allen was its first president. In 1874 the control of the home was transferred to a board of male directors, aided by a ladies' associate board. The home was moved in 1881 to Mill street, Germantown, its present quarters. Isidore Binswanger was president for fifteen years, and during his term of office the home became one of the best institutions of its kind in the country. Mason Hirsh was president for a number of years; Leo Loeb now fills that position, and S. M. Fleischman is superintendent. The Orphans' Guardians, or Familien Waisen Erziehungs Verein, an institution with a mission similar to the foregoing, was organized March 26, 1868, chiefly through the efforts of R. Samuel Hirsch of the Congregation Keneseth Israel. Instead of keeping the children together in one institution, this society endeavors to find homes for them among respectable Jewish families.
Isaac Leeser retired from the Congregation Mickvé Israel in 1850, and was succeeded by Sabato Morais, who exerted a lasting influence upon the Jewish institutions of the city. He was greatly opposed to the Reform movement and was the champion of traditional Judaism. Perhaps the greatest monument of his life is the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, which he founded in 1886. He served the congregation until his death in 1897; Leon H. Elmaleh was the rabbi 1904. The Gratz College, the most liberally endowed institution of Jewish learning in the city, is controlled by a board of trustees elected by the congregation. It was founded under a deed of trust executed by Hyman Gratz in 1856, which became operative in 1893; Moses A. Dropsie was president of the board of trustees. The college had a faculty of three, and 25 students in 1904. The amount of the endowment was nearly $200,000 (today $5,300,000).
Many synagogues were founded in the city after 1840, when the Congregation Beth Israel was founded (June 12), the first rabbi being Simon E. Cohen Noot. It now worships in Eighth street, above Master street, and Menahem M. Eichler is the officiating rabbi. The Congregation Beth El Emeth was founded in 1857, and Isaac Leeser, who had left the Congregation Mickvé Israel, became its rabbi, remaining so until his death (1868). This synagogue became influential in the affairs of the community; Joseph Newhouse, Morris Rosenbach, and Alfred T. Jones served at various times as presidents. George Jacobs was elected rabbi in 1869, and remained with the congregation until his death in 1884. The congregation, failing to secure a suitable successor after several attempts, disbanded a few years later. The Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Seventh street and Columbia avenue, was founded in Aug., 1859, S. B. Breidenbach being its first rabbi; Henry Iliowizi held the office from 1888 until 1901 (resigned), when B. C. Ehrenreich was appointed in his stead. Both the Jewish Foster Home and the Jewish Hospital Association have synagogues, that of the latter being the gift of Mrs. Rose Frank, as a memorial to her husband, Henry S. Frank.
The earliest publication relating to the Jews was issued in 1763 from the press of Andrew Stewart; it was a sermon by Moses Mendelssohn delivered by his preceptor David Hirchel Frankel, and translated from the German. The first Hebrew Bible that appeared in the United States was published in Philadelphia in 1814 by Thomas Dobson, the printer being William Fry. The best-known printer of Hebrew books in the country was Charles Sherman, who imported matrices from Amsterdam; Abraham Hart was one of the best-known general publishers, Thackeray's first published book being issued with his imprint. The first dealer in the United States who dealt exclusively in rare books was Moses Polock (1817–1903); at his death he was the oldest bibliophile in the country. The original Jewish Publication Society was established in Philadelphia November 9, 1845, Abraham Hart being its first president. The society owed its existence to Isaac Leeser. It published eleven works, including two by Grace Aguilar. The present Jewish Publication Society of America, a national organization, with headquarters at Philadelphia, was formed June 3, 1888; Morris Newburger was its first president. The society has published many works of value, including Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto; a new translation of the Bible was started in the early 20th century, the Book of Psalms having already been issued by 1904. In 1904, Mayer Sulzberger was chairman of the publication committee; Edwin Wolf was president.
In 1904 the best collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the city, that of Mayer Sulzberger, was transferred to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America at New York.
There have been several Jewish newspapers in Philadelphia, of which The Occident was the first; it was founded by Isaac Leeser in 1843, who edited it until his death in 1868; it was edited for one year thereafter by Mayer Sulzberger. The "Jewish Index" was issued in 1872, but it lasted only a year. In 1875, the "Jewish Record" appeared, under the editorship of Alfred T. Jones. The "Jewish Exponent" was first issued April 15, 1887; its present editors are R. Charles Hoffman, Ephraim Lederer, and Felix Gerson. There were several daily papers published in Yiddish, the most important being the "Jewish Evening Post."
The Young Men's Hebrew Association, an outgrowth of a former institution—the Hebrew Association—was organized May 12, 1875, with Mayer Sulzberger as president. The object of the association is "to promote a higher culture among young men"; its membership in 1904 numbered over 1,000, under the presidency of Adolph Eichholz. Its building is situated in North Broad street. The Young Women's Union was originally a branch of the Hebrew Education Society, and was organized through the efforts of Mrs. Fanny Binswanger Hoffman on February 5, 1885; the object of the union is to educate the younger children of immigrant Jews. It maintained a kindergarten, day-nursery, sewing-school, etc. Mrs. Julia Friedberger Eschner was president.
There are several Jewish social organizations. The Mercantile Club was established November 10, 1853, and incorporated April 17, 1869. Louis Bomeisler was its first president. The club occupies a building in North Broad street; Clarence Wolf was its president in 1904. The Garrick, the Progress, and the Franklin are other Jewish clubs.
In 1876, in commemoration of the centennial of American Independence, the Order B'nai B'rith and Israelites of America erected in Fairmount Park a statue representing Religious Liberty. It was designed by Moses Ezekiel, and was the first public monument erected by Jews in the United States.
Federation of Jewish Charities
From a period immediately after the Revolutionary war efforts have been made to collect money for the charitable organizations by appealing to the general public. Lotteries were held early in the 19th century; subscription lists were constantly being formed. A ball was given in 1843 in aid of three societies. In 1853 and in 1854 dinners were given in aid of the Hebrew Charitable Fund, at which many noted citizens were present. The year following, a ball was given instead of a dinner, and it proved such a success financially that it was thought expedient to continue this form of entertainment; the Hebrew Charity-Ball Association was formed in consequence of this determination, and annual balls were given with great success until 1901, when they were discontinued owing to the establishment of the Federation of Jewish Charities. The United Hebrew Charities, a union of six institutions, was organized in 1869, with Simon W. Arnold as its first president. Max Herzberg is president. The combination of the principal charitable societies of Philadelphia was formed on March 17, 1901; Jacob Gimbel was its first president. The federation as originally formed embraced nine institutions—the Jewish Hospital Association, Jewish Foster Home, Society of United Hebrew Charities, Hebrew Education Society, Orphans' Guardians, Jewish Maternity Association, Jewish Immigration Society, Young Women's Union, and Hebrew Sunday-School Society. Later, the National Farm School, the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives (at Denver), and the Alliance Israélite Universelle became beneficiaries. The income of the Federation (1903) was $123,039, with a membership of 1,916.
In 1901, Lewis Elkin bequeathed $2,000,000 (today $57,580,000) to the city of Philadelphia for the support of superannuated female school-teachers. This is the largest bequest for a charitable object yet made by a Jewish resident of the city. Simon Muhr among other benefactions left a bequest for general educational purposes. The Simon Muhr Work Training School, built in 1899, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
In 1882, the great exodus from Russia took place; thousands of Jews forced to emigrate took up their residence in Philadelphia; at the present time they constitute a majority of the Jewish population. A society for the protection of immigrants arriving from the Slavonic provinces was organized October 5, 1884, and called the "Association of Jewish Immigrants"; Louis E. Levy was president. In 1903, 5,310 Jewish immigrants arrived at the port of Philadelphia. In general, they quickly became prosperous; many had entered the learned professions, and they built synagogues and hospitals in the southern portion of the city, where most of them resided. They had many synagogues and ḥebras, the most important being the Congregation B'nai Abraham, founded in 1882; Bernard Louis Levinthal was rabbi of this and the associated congregations in 1904. The Society Hachnasath Orechim, or Wayfarers' Lodge, was organized November 16, 1890, and chartered April 29, 1891; it is one of the most active charitable associations in Philadelphia. The Hebrew Literature Society, founded in 1885, has opened a new building at 310 Catherine street. The Home for Hebrew Orphans, The Jewish Sheltering Home for the Homeless and Aged, the Mount Sinai Hospital Association, the Pannonia Beneficial Association, and the Talmud Torah were all situated in the southern portion of the city. In addition, the newcomers have many social, political, and literary organizations.
In Philadelphia there were in 1904, not including lodges, over 160 Jewish organizations, of which over 50 are synagogues; the remainder consisting of hospitals, foster homes, Sunday-schools, benevolent associations, colleges, young men's Hebrew associations, social clubs, literary societies, etc. (A list of local organizations was published in the "American Jewish Year Book" for 5661 [1900-1].) The income of the synagogues was about $90,000; the income of the charitable organizations, about $160,000.
From the earliest times the Jews of Philadelphia have been prominent in the learned professions. As stated above, the first Jew to hold a judicial position was Isaac Miranda (1727). One of the earliest Jewish lawyers was Moses Levy, who was admitted to the bar in 1778. Isaac Franks was prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Among other distinguished Jewish lawyers were: Zalegman Phillips, Samson Levy, Joseph Simon Cohen, Jonas Altamont Phillips, Henry M. Phillips, Moses A. Dropsie, Simon Sterne, Stephen S. Remak, Joseph G. Rosengarten, Edward H. Weil, S. M. Hyneman, Jacob Singer (at one time registrar of wills), Ephraim Lederer, D. W. Amram. Mayer Sulzberger is president judge of the court of common pleas.
The most prominent of the early Jewish physicians of Philadelphia was Isaac Hays (1796–1879), who took over editing the American Journal of the Medical Sciences in 1827; among other physicians of distinction are: Jacob de Solis-Cohen, Lewis W. Steinbach, Solomon Solis-Cohen, A. A. Eschner, and David Riesman.
Many have achieved distinction in literature, science, and journalism: Michael Heilprin, his son Angelo Heilprin (geologist), Leon Hyneman, Simon A. Stern, Felix Gerson, Henry S. Morais, Milton Goldsmith, Leo S. Rowe, Morris Jastrow, Jr. (librarian of the University of Pennsylvania), Bunford Samuel (librarian of the Ridgway Library), Isaac J. Schwatt, Charles Henry Hart, J. G. Rosengarten.
The roll of Jewish officers, Philadelphians, who served with distinction during the Civil war includes the names of Morris J. Asch, Israel Moses, Alfred Mordecai, Jr., Frank Marx Etting, Justus Steinberger, Jonathan Manly Emanuel, Jacob Solis-Cohen, Max Einstein, Aaron Lazarus, Max Friedman, Joseph L. Moss, William Moss, Lyon Levy Emanuel, Isaac M. Abraham, Adolph G. Rosengarten, John Trencher, Joseph G. Rosengarten, and Benjamin J. Levy.
The Jews of Philadelphia have been influential in finance as well as in music and the fine arts, and have been identified in every way with the growth of the municipality.
Members of the Etting family have taken a prominent part in public life from the first. Lewis Charles Levin (1808–60) was thrice elected to the national House of Representatives; Leonard Myers and Henry M. Phillips also were members of the Lower House. In the domain of art the names of Katherine M. Cohen, Herman N. Hyneman, Max Rosenthal, and Albert Rosenthal may be mentioned; and in the field of music, those of Simon Hassler, Mark Hassler, Samuel L. Hermann, Henry Hahn, and Frederick E. Hahn.
Jewish Politicians in Philadelphia
In 1904, the total population of Philadelphia was about 1,420,000, including about 75,000 Jews. Ed Rendell was the first Jewish Mayor of Philadelphia. Mayor Bernard Samuel was born of Jewish parents, but converted to the Episcopalian faith as a young man. Unsuccessful Philadelphia Jewish mayoral candidates include Joseph Sharfsin, who lost to Joseph S. Clark for the 1951 Democratic Mayoral nomination, Arlen Specter, the unsuccessful 1967 Republican nominee against Mayor James H. J. Tate, David Cohen, who withdrew for the Democratic mayoral nomination in 1971 after trailing future mayors Frank L. Rizzo and William J. Green, Sam Katz (Philadelphia), unsuccessful against Frank Rizzo for the Republican mayoral nomination in 1991 and the Republican nominee against Mayor John F. Street in 1999 and 2003, and Martin Weinberg, unsuccessful for the Democratic mayoral nomination against John Street in 1999.
Eastern European Immigration (1881-1924)
In the early years of Eastern European Jewish mass immigration in the 1880s, a sizeable Jewish quarter was established in a well-defined area of old Philadelphia, today known as Society Hill and Queen Village. In The Presbyterian, a weekly journal published in Philadelphia in 1889 for the Presbyterian community, the editor wrote: “In Philadelphia we are likely to have a Jewish section, where emigrants from Eastern Europe will congregate. From Fifth Street to the Delaware River and south of Lombard Street these foreign Jews are crowding in, and being very poor, the Hebrew Charities are drawn upon heavily.” The Jewish press saw a more confined quarter, extending from Spruce Street in the north to Christian Street in the South and from 3rd Street to 6th Street east to west. This was at a time when sweatshops were moving south from Kensington to Northern Liberties and then south of Market Street to Bank and Strawberry Streets. At this time, German-Jewish wholesale clothiers, like Snellenberg’s, had their businesses on N. 3rd Street between Market and Arch streets. Many of these buildings stand today.
When immigrant steamers from Liverpool would arrive, trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad backed down onto the piers of the American Line to whisk away immigrants on their journeys to Chicago and places in the West. A sizeable number of Russian-Jewish immigrants stayed in Philadelphia and settled in the Jewish quarter. Many concentrated around the eastern end of South Street for three primary reasons: rent was inexpensive; housing was near the sweatshops; and the neighborhood was near the Emigrant Depot at the foot of Washington Avenue and the Delaware River. Prior to 1900, few Jews lived south of Washington Avenue. The Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia was bordered by Polish immigrants and Irish to the east, by African-Americans to the west and Italians to the southwest and, to the south, by Irish. Crossing well defined boundaries was dangerous for the immigrants. Curbside and pushcart markets were established; teams of horses flying over cobblestone streets made daily runs to the Dock Street wholesale market. Many Jewish immigrants opened businesses on Dock Street, that continue to operate to the present day including M. Levin & Co, Inc.
Central to the new immigrant neighborhood was South Street, called “the great Street for Polish Jews and huckstering of every variety.” Some writers called it the Russian quarter because so many of the newcomers were from the Imperial Russian Empire. In 1887, the Public Ledger wrote: “On South Street many “neat” stores have been built and indications point to the further improvement of that old down-town avenue of retail trade.” Dock Street, the wholesale food market of its day, “is not a handsome street; it is old, full of crude commercial bustle in the hours of the day, and after night fall or in the early hours of the night until the nocturnal preparations for the next day begin, it is almost wholly deserted.” The first Yiddish theatre was in the center of the quarter, located at the corner of 5th and Gaskill Streets. It was here that actors of the Yiddish theatre performed, Jacob Adler and Boris Thomashevsky. In the 1890s, the S. 4th Street vegetable and meat market was started on the sidewalks; it eventually grew into the fabled S. 4th Street pushcart market, still remembered till this day.
Markets were located along S. 2nd Street, the Washington Market along Bainbridge Street from 3rd to 5th Streets and in the 4th Street pushcart market. Sweatshops in the quarter numbered over one hundred. On the 300 block of Lombard Street alone there were five sweatshops.
After 1900, Jews moved south across Washington Avenue and within just a few years they lived in great numbers south of Washington Avenue and east of Broad Street. Many Jews in the clothing trade prospered during the 1920s and moved to West Philadelphia and Strawberry Mansion. After Congress cut off immigration from Eastern Europe in 1924, the old Jewish quarter began to die out. Although its demise was slowed, first by the Depression and then by the effects of World War II, outward movement from the quarter accelerated after the war ended. Today, there are four synagogues operating in the original Jewish quarter. Two buildings originally built as synagogues—Congregation B'nai Abraham, 527 Lombard Street (built in 1910 and still continuing to operate and maintain a congregation), and nearby B’nai Rueben, 6th & Kater Streets (built in 1905 but used for commercial purposes since 1956, and converted residential in 2014) —survive. Society Hill Synagogue, 418 Spruce Street, renovated and uses the historic building previously home to the Roumanian Shul from 1910 until the 1960s. Congregation Kesher Israel, 412 Lombard Street, acquired the former Universality Church building in 1889 and continues as an active Conservative synagogue.
- Jewish American
- Jewish history in the United States (pre-20th century)
- Jewish history in Pennsylvania
- List of Jewish Americans
- H. P. Rosenbach, Hist. of the Jews in Philadelphia Prior to 1800, Philadelphia, 1883;
- H. S. Morais, The Jews of Philadelphia, 1894 (the most complete account);
- Morris Jastrow, Jr., in Publications Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. No. 1, pp. 49–61;
- Henry Berkowitz, ib. No. 9, pp. 123–127;
- A. S. W. Rosenbach, ib. No. 5, pp. 191–198;
- Watson's Annals;
- Westcott, History of Philadelphia;
- Memoirs Hist. Soc. Pennsylvania;
- The Occident;
- The Jewish Exponent:
- American Jewish Year Book, 1901;
- Fifty Years' Work of the Hebrew Education Society, Report for 1899 (containing many portraits);
- Archives of the Congregation Mickvé Israel.
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- The Presbyterian, Vol. LIX, No. 9, March 2, 1889 (Presbyterian Historical Society).
- For a listing of the wholesale clothiers and sweatshops on Bank and Strawberry Streets, see Harry D. Boonin, The Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia (JWT of Philadelphia, Inc., 1999), Appendix B.
- The Life of Michael Valentine Ball (1868-1945), Transcribed and Researched by Edward L. Ball (Warren, PA, June 2003), p. 167. (Privately printed).
- Rudoph J. Walther, Happenings in Ye Olde Philadelphia (Walther Printing House, Philadelphia, 1925), p. 176, and Dock Street from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, January 27, 1919, by Penn (William Perrine).
- David B. Tierkel, History of the Yiddish Theatre in Philadelphia, unpublished Yiddish typescript, 1934, Yiddisher Visnshaftlikher Institute, YIVO, New York.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Philadelphia". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- Peltz, R. From Immigrant to Ethnic Culture: American Yiddish in South Philadelphia. Stanford University Press, 1997.