Moses (Raphael) Levy

Is your surname Levy?

Research the Levy family

Moses (Raphael) Levy's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Share

Moses (Raphael) Levy

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Niedersachsen, Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany
Death: Died in New York, New York, NY, USA
Place of Burial: New York, New York County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Chief Rabbi Yeshua Halevi and Beila Levy
Husband of Rycha/Rachel Asher Levy and Grace Levy
Father of Bilhah Abigail Franks; Asher Levy; Nathan Levy; Isaac Levy; Michael (Jechiel) Levy and 10 others
Brother of Joseph Levy and Samuel Zanvil Levy

Occupation: Freeman NY 6/1695; merchant-trader, landowner, businessman, & pres. Congreg. Shearith Israel; 5 children by m1 (Lon. 1695). Richea Asher (d. 9/29/1716); 7 by m2. Grace Mears Levy (London, 1718); portrait attrib. Gerardus Duyckinck, Museum City of NY
Managed by: Nate Hoffman
Last Updated:

About Moses (Raphael) Levy

Levy was born in Germany in 1665 and arrived in NY from England in 1695. He was a successful merchant with a fleet of ships that sailed between the colonies, the Caribbean, England and North Africa. He owned 70 acres of land in NY and was a successful real estate investor. In 1718, Moses Raphael Levy, widowed in 1716, married Grace Mears, with whom he had seven children. When he died in 1728, he was considered one of NY's wealthiest citizens. He was buried at Chatham Square in NY, the oldest Jewish cemetery in America. Abigail Levy Franks, eldest of five children Moses had with first wife Richea Asher Levy, despised her stepmother and spared no insult in her prose. But when Grace Levy, left a widow with many young children in 1728, made a bad remarriage to David Hays in 1735, Abigail’s assessments of her shifted. Through Abigail’s letters a rare portrait of a widowed colonial Jewish woman emerges—of Grace Mears Levy Hays as female shopkeeper who single-handedly supported and raised her young family, survived a deeply unhappy second marriage, and died brokenhearted, too young, and finally admired by her oldest stepdaughter. Both Moses Rafael Levy and Grace Mears Levy were active in establishing the Jewish community in NY and were contributors to the first synagogue on Mill St., in the area commonly referred to today as Wall Street.


Moses was born in London in 1665.

This was also the year in which the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) arrived in London killing 75,000 to 100,000 people. One year later in 1666 the Great Fire of London occurred. The fire lasted 4 days and destroyed 4/5 of the city, including 87 churches. Ironically, it was the fire, which helped to control the spread of the plague. It was into these turbulent times that Moses was born and grew to adulthood. At the age of twenty-nine Moses left London and traveled to New York, where his parents had already settled. This was the same year in which his father Isaac died in New York. Moses and his wife Rycha had several young children as well as a large extended family in London. Rycha who was probably pregnant at the time stayed behind in London with their children when Moses left for America in 1695. (Rycha‘s great-grandfather was another Levy, Benjamin Levy, born before 1599.) Moses became a Freeman in New York in 1695. His mother Beila passed away in 1697. Moses returned to London in 1703 and brought his wife and family over. The merchant ship that carried Moses Levy, his wife, Rycha Levy, and their three young children docked in New York harbor around 1703. The long sea voyage separated them from a large clan of Levy relatives in London. By comparison with the metropolis that they had abandoned, New York was a mere provincial village. However, a small Jewish community had been long-settled in New York, and there in the midst of familiar tradition, they would establish their new home. New York boasted a population of 5000 of which only 250 were Jewish. Moses was a merchant and settled down to make his fortune. He soon became a pillar of the Jewish community and a wealthy merchant, as well as the owner of a fleet of trading ships.

Moses had 5 children with his first wife Rycha. They were Bilhah (Abigail), Asher, and Nathan (born in London in 1696, 1698 and 1704 respectively), and Isaac and Michael (born in New York). Rycha died in 1716, thirteen years after immigrating. Moses remarried and had 7 more children with his second wife Grace Mears. Moses died in 1728 at the age of 63. He is buried in New York City.

"Find A Grave Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/QVK6-1FPZ : accessed 23 August 2015), Moses Raphael Levy, 1728; Burial, Chinatown, New York (Manhattan), New York, United States of America, First Cemetery of Congregation Shearith Israel; citing record ID 40191685, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.


For centuries Jews believed America to be a land of freedom and financial opportunity. One such Jew was Moses Raphael Levy (1665 – 1728) who achieved tremendous financial success as an American colonial merchant.

Moses Raphael Levy was born in Germany in 1665 , he was the son of Isaac Levy and Beila (---). In London, England in 1695 he married and his first wife, Richea (Rycha) Asher, born in England. Together they had five children born between 1696-1709 in London. He and his second wife, Grace Mears, had seven children born between 1719-172? in London and New York. Their children intermarried with those bearing surnames: FRANKS, PUE, MICHAL, SEIXAS, HART, THOMPSON, ISAACS. Some removed to Philadelphia and Baltimore.

On 3 June 1695, Moses was made a freeman in NY. Moses Levy was at one time president of Shearith Israel, the first congregation in the thirteen colonies.

The merchant ship that carried Moses Levy, his wife, Richa Asher Levy and several of their young children, including their eldest daughter, then called Bilhah Abigaill, docked in the New York harbor around 1703. It was a long sea voyage-as many as eight weeks-far from their clan of numerous Levy relatives in London. While the population of London was then approaching one million people, New York could count a mere five thousand souls, fifteen percent of whom were blacks, some free but mostly slaves. There were perhaps only 250 Jews in New York at the time. More than any other British colony, New York attracted a heterogeneous population. In addition to the Dutch and the English, a sizable group of Huguenots had settled there in the late seventeenth century, followed by Palatine Germans, Swedes, Scots, Irish, and persons of many backgrounds who arrived from the West Indies. It was said that as many as eighteen languages could be heard on the streets of New York. But even then, in 1703, New Yorkers were densely crowded into a small area, for the largest portion of the population lived below Wall Street, fearing to venture northward into the area still occupied by (perhaps) hostile Indians. The locus of local government was the Fort. Built originally by the Dutch, it changed its name with each reigning British monarch, so that it was called Fort Anne during Moses Levy’s time.

From the age of seven, Bilhah Abigaill, who in New York shed the marked name of Bilhah to become just Abigaill which she always wrote with two l’s, grew to womanhood. Her childhood, for which no reference survives, can only be inferred. In addition to the two brothers, Asher and Nathan, who had also immigrated to New York in 1703, two more Descendants of Moses Raphael brothers were born, Isaac and Michael. Richa died in 1716; two years later Moses remarried a much younger woman, Grace Mears, who in turn, bore him seven children, half-siblings to Bilhah Abigaill who retained life-long affectionate relationships with the older children.

But Abigaill married young, leaving her father’s house before most of the younger Levy children were born. Her husband, Jacob Franks, had arrived in New York in 1707, also from London, also from a large and successful Jewish merchant family. He, too, came to New York to make his fortune and possibly within the Levy orbit, for he resided in the Levy household. Five years later, Jacob and Abigaill married, she barely of age at sixteen. Naphtali’s return to England marked the commencement of the correspondence that would be the sole surviving written record of his mother’s life.

“Taking full advantage of business and family connections in London and the West Indies, Moses soon became so successful in exporting beaver pelts and grain and importing a variety of manufactured goods that he controlled a fleet of ships, one of which he named after his daughter, Abigail. With the emergence of a thriving American export economy of grains, furs, and hides, Moses became ever more involved in commerce and trade. Business was so good that in 1711 Levy joined several other wealthy Jewish merchants in contributing to a fund for the completion of a spire on Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street, making the church the tallest man-made structure in the city. It was an investment that paid off. Four years later, the New York Assembly passed a bill naturalizing all resident landowners of foreign birth, regardless of religion. This law entitled Moses and his heirs to the same rights and obligations their Gentile neighbors enjoyed.

Some of Moses’s twelve children “became the ancestors of very distinguished Jews in the generations to follow. One of his sons was the real founder of the Philadelphia Jewish community, another was one of the first Jews in Baltimore. A grandson of his, likewise named Moses Levy, was considered by Jefferson for a cabinet post.” The Liberty Bell was transported to America on the ship Myrtilla which belonged to Nathan Levy, Moses’ eldest son.

Moses did suffer the ups and downs of the business world in his many financial endeavors. “That the merchant-shipper of that generation only too frequently suffered reverses is eloquently demonstrated in his relations with Isaac Napthaly, a Rhode Island butcher who also aspired to be a merchant.

By 1705, Napthaly, now in New York, had been granted the freedom of the city; the following year, while engaged in litigation of some sort, he succeeded in inducing Moses to become his bondsman. Two years later Napthaly ran up a debt with him in a commercial deal and then fled the country.   He was probably hopelessly bankrupt and ran away to escape imprisonment for debt.   Moses was now compelled to pay the bond and the costs of the suit, and he lost what he himself had advanced in goods and credits.   All told, the fugitive cost him over £ 176, to say nothing of incidental expenses in the affair.   Years later he heard that Napthaly had passed away, ‘in parts remote ... beyond the seas, intestate,’ but he also heard that he did leave some small effects in New York. Accordingly, Moses petitioned Governor William Burnett for letters of administration as principal creditor, and received them; he probably salvaged very little of the original credits now due for almost fifteen years.”

Nonetheless, Moses Levy’s immigration to America, the land of opportunity, paid off handsomely, as the following incident shows. Moses took out an ad in the April 14, 1726 issue of the New York Gazette in which he announced that he wanted to sell “a house in the town of Rye, with about sixty or seventy acres of upland and about five acres of meadow, together with part of mansion, formerly belonging to John Heward and now to Moses Levy, in New York, or any part thereof, on reasonable terms to any person that has a mind to purchase the same.” He added that he may be found “over against the Post office.”

Moses Levy took an active interest in New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel and served as its Parnas (President) for several years. Indeed, he was serving that office when he passed away on June 14, 1728 in New York City, NY,

“Moses Levy’s personal stature, civic attainments and early Americanization are best captured in the portraits (all in the collection of the American Jewish Historical Society) not only of himself but also of his daughters Rachel and Abigail, his son-in-law Jacob Franks, and his grandchildren David and Phila Franks. It is by far the most complete visual record we have of an early colonial American Jewish family. Decked out in an imposing powdered wig and a greyhound at his side symbolizing his landowning status (unattainable for a Jew elsewhere in the Christian world) Moses Levy radiates the well-fed comfort and well-bred confidence of a successful merchant-landowner.”

LAST WILL OF MOSES RAPHEL LEVY: In the name of God, Amen. I, MOSES LEVY, of New York, merchant, being sick. All debts to be paid. I leave to my son, Asher Levy, one silver mugg, of the weight of 20 ounces. To my daughter Miriam, £100 when of age or married, over and above her share. I leave to my grandson, Napthalai Franks, one piece of silver plate, of the value of £12. All the rest of estate I leave to my wife Grace, and to my sons, Nathan, Isaac, Michael, Sampson, Benjamin, and Joseph, and to my daughters, Rachel, Miriam, Hester, and Hannah. The shares of Nathan, Isaac, and Michael, are to be paid in 5 years, and the rest when of age or married. But if my wife shall not be contented with her share, but shall insist upon the performance of certain Articles of Agreement, made by my wife, Grace Levy (then Grace Mears), and Jacob Mears, before our marriage, then my executors shall pay to her in 5 years, such sums of money and plate, as by said Articles are agreed. I make my wife and my sons, Nathan and Isaac, and my son-in-law, Jacob Franks, and my brother-in-law, Judah Mears, executors. Dated June 13, 1728. Witnesses, Matthew Clarkson, Richard Nichols, Moses Lopez X Foneca. Proved, December 4, 1728.

Levy was born in Germany in 1665 and arrived in NY from England in 1695. He was a successful merchant with a fleet of ships that sailed between the colonies, the Caribbean, England and North Africa. He owned 70 acres of land in NY and was a successful real estate investor. In 1718, Moses Raphael Levy, widowed in 1716, married Grace Mears, with whom he had seven children. When he died in 1728, he was considered one of NY's wealthiest citizens. He was buried at Chatham Square in NY, the oldest Jewish cemetery in America. Abigail Levy Franks, eldest of five children Moses had with first wife Richea Asher Levy, despised her stepmother and spared no insult in her prose. But when Grace Levy, left a widow with many young children in 1728, made a bad remarriage to David Hays in 1735, Abigail’s assessments of her shifted. Through Abigail’s letters a rare portrait of a widowed colonial Jewish woman emerges—of Grace Mears Levy Hays as female shopkeeper who single-handedly supported and raised her young family, survived a deeply unhappy second marriage, and died brokenhearted, too young, and finally admired by her oldest stepdaughter. Both Moses Rafael Levy and Grace Mears Levy were active in establishing the Jewish community in NY and were contributors to the first synagogue on Mill St., in the area commonly referred to today as Wall Street.

view all 20

Moses (Raphael) Levy's Timeline

1665
1665
Niedersachsen, Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany
1692
1692
Age 27
London, United Kingdom
1696
November 26, 1696
Age 31
London, United Kingdom
1699
February 2, 1699
Age 34
New York, New York, United States
1704
February 18, 1704
Age 39
New York, New York, United States
1704
Age 39
London, United Kingdom
1706
July 19, 1706
Age 41
New York, New York, United States
1709
July 10, 1709
Age 44
New York, New York, United States