Moses Michael Hays

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Moses Michael Hays

Birthdate:
Birthplace: New York, New York, New York, United States
Death: Died in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Judah Hays and Rebecca Hays
Husband of Rachel Hays
Father of Judith Myers; Rebecca Hays; Judah Hays; Sarah Myers; Solomon Hays and 2 others
Brother of Bertha Hays; Phila Nunes; Reyna Touro; Meleg Hays; Caty Jacobs and 3 others

Managed by: Judith Ann Berlowitz
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Moses Michael Hays

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Hays.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Michael_Hays

Moses Michael Hays (1739-1805)

While some colonial Jews experienced difficulty living both as Jews and Americans, Boston's Moses Michael Hays created a different experience. Boston's most prominent 18th-century Jewish citizen, Hays set a high standard for civic leadership and charity. Without the companionship and support of an organized Jewish community and without legal guarantees of religious freedom, Hays thrived in the "first circles" of Boston society while publicly practicing his Judaism.

Moses Michael Hays was born in New York City in 1739 to Dutch immigrants Judah Hays and Rebecca Michaels Hays. Judah Hays took his son into his shipping and retail business and, upon his death in 1764, left him the business and largest share of his assets.

Judah Hays left Moses Michael Hays something else as well: a firm grounding in his Jewish faith and responsibilities. Moses served New York's Congregation Shearith Israel as second parnas (vice-president) in 1766 and parnas in 1767. Even after moving to Boston, Moses retained an attachment to Shearith Israel, appearing on its donor list throughout his life.

In 1766, Moses married Rachel Myers, younger sister of famed New York silversmith Myer Myers. In 1769, the couple moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Hays continued his shipping business. Business reverses landed Hays in debtor’s prison but, under a 1771 reform law, Hays liquidated his assets, gave them to his creditors and was set free. He immediately reestablished himself in the trans-Atlantic trade.

The American Revolution brought Hays a new challenge as a Jew. In 1775, seventy-six men in Newport were asked to sign a declaration of loyalty to the American colonies that included the phrase, "upon the true faith of a Christian." Hays publicly objected to the phrase and refused to sign, instead offering a letter affirming his belief that the Revolution was a just cause. When, after much wrangling, the Christian portion of the oath was omitted, Hays affixed his name.

Hays and his family left Newport for Boston ahead of the British occupation in 1776. Hays opened a shipping office in Boston and was among the first merchants there to underwrite shipbuilding, trade and insurance to newly opened Far Eastern markets. In 1784, Hays became a founder and the first depositor of the Massachusetts Bank, still doing business today as Fleet Bank Corporation. With his close friend Paul Revere and fourteen other Boston businessmen, Hays formed several insurance companies.

Hays helped establish the New England Masonic movement. When Hays was accepted into the Massachusetts Lodge in November 1782, he was the only Jew, the first signal that Hays had won acceptance in Boston’s elite society. In 1792, the lodge members elected Hays their Grand Master. Paul Revere served as his Deputy.

The Hays family filled a large brick home with 15 rooms and 31 windows in Boston's fashionable Middle (now Hanover) Street. The Hayses had seven children and, when Moses's widowed sister Reyna Touro died in 1787, Moses and Rachel raised his young nephews and niece.

Samuel May, Louisa May Alcott's grandfather, was a close childhood friend of the Hays and Touro children and recalled "Uncle and Aunt Hays" for their pride in their Judaism.

"If the children of my day were taught among other foolish things to dread, if not despise Jews, a very different lesson was impressed upon my young heart. … [The Hays] house … was the abode of hospitality. … He and his truly good wife were hospitable, not to the rich alone, but also to the poor. … I witnessed their religious exercise, their fastings and their prayers. … [As a result] I grew up without prejudice against Jews---or any other religionists."

As Boston lacked a synagogue, Moses Michael Hays conducted regular worship services at home. The household library contained dozens of Hebrew books. The Jewish commandment to dispense charity directed much of what the Hays family did for Boston and its citizens. Moses Michael Hays provided financial support to beautify Boston Common, establish theaters and endow Harvard College. His children and nephews went on to distinguished and charitable lives. Son Judah Hays was the first professing Jew elected to Boston public office. Hays descendants helped found the Boston Athenaeum and the Massachusetts General Hospital. Nephews Judah and Abraham Touro learned to be successful merchants from their uncle and Judah went on to become America’s first great national philanthropist.

Moses Michael Hays died in 1805. His obituaries in the secular press remembered him as "a most valuable citizen . . . now secure in the bosom of his Father and our Father, of his God and our God." Hays lived his life successfully as an American and a Jew, accepted by the Boston community with respect as both.

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Moses Michael Hays's Timeline

1739
March 9, 1739
New York, New York, New York, United States
1766
August 13, 1766
Age 27
New York, New York, New York, United States
1767
September 2, 1767
Age 28
New York, New York, United States
1769
February 1, 1769
Age 29
New York, New York, NY, USA
1770
April 16, 1770
Age 31
Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, United States
1772
May 14, 1772
Age 33
Newport, Newport, RI, USA
1775
January 11, 1775
Age 35
Newport, Newport, RI, USA
1776
October 3, 1776
Age 37
Newport, Newport, RI, USA
1779
June 29, 1779
Age 40
Kingston, St Andrew Parish, Jamaica
1805
May 9, 1805
Age 66
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States