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  • Dr. Henry J. Heimlich (1920 - 2016)
    Henry Heimlich From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Henry Heimlich Born Henry Judah Heimlich February 3, 1920 Wilmington, Delaware Died December 17, 2016 (aged 96) Cincinnati, Ohio Education M.D., Cor...
  • Daniel da Silva Solis (1784 - 1869)
    1820 census: Wilmington Hundred, New Castle, Delaware * Enumeration Date: August 7, 1820* Free White Persons - Males - 26 thru 44: 1* Free White Persons - Females - Under 10: 2* Free White Persons - Fe...
    Jacob da Silva Solis (1780 - 1829)
    "In 1826, having business in New Orleans, Jacob went thither about the time of the Passover festival; finding that city without either a matzoh bakery or a synagogue, he procured the establishment of b...
  • Jacob Solis (deceased)
  • Daniel da Silva Solis (1840 - 1909)

This is an umbrella project for all projects related to Jews from Delaware.

Although Jewish fur traders were in the territory that became Delaware as early as 1655, only a handful of Jews, including Jacob Fiana, Abraham Judah, and Jacob and Daniel Solis, settled in the area before the middle of the 19th century when Jewish retailers from families in Philadelphia and Baltimore began opening stores in Wilmington. In 1879, 18 Jewish merchants formed Delaware's first Jewish organization, the Moses Montefiore Society, as a religious, educational, and charitable organization. Delaware became the last of the original colonies to have an organized Jewish community and worship services for the High Holidays. There are no Kosher restaurants in the state.

Given Wilmington's prosperity and the influx of Jews from Eastern Europe, the Jewish population of Wilmington grew quickly reaching some 4,000 by 1920. The Jews formed numerous service organizations, including the Young Men's Hebrew Association (today's JCC), the Hebrew Charity Association (today's Jewish Family Service), and the Bichor Cholem Society (today's Kutz Home). By 1929, they had established three Orthodox synagogues, Adas Kodesch, Chesed Shel Emeth, and Machzikey Hadas; a Reform synagogue, Temple Beth Emeth; and a Conservative synagogue, Congregation Beth Sholom. These organizations and synagogues (Adas Kodesch and Chesed Shel Emeth merged in 1957) continued to serve the Wilmington population in 2005. Chabad-Lubavitch began conducting Sabbath services and educational activities in Wilmington and Newark in 1987.

A few Jewish students attended Delaware College, today's University of Delaware, at the end of the 19th century, but Jews did not settle in the college town of Newark until the early 20th century. The Hillel Foundation began activities at the university by 1948. In the early 21st century Hillel served some 800 students a year. The Newark Jewish Community, later known as Temple Beth El, the state's only Reconstructionist synagogue, was organized in 1954.

In the mid-19th century, a small number of Jewish retailers opened businesses in Dover, the state capital, and in several towns in southern Delaware. Jewish growth in the area was slower than in Wilmington, but by the early 20th century, Jewish retailers, peddlers, canners, distillers, and hotel-keepers lived in many towns of southern Delaware including Dover, Lewes, Georgetown, Milford, Millsboro, Seaford, and Smyrna. In 1897, with the aid of HIAS, the Isaac Benioff family settled in Kent County, becoming Delaware's first Jewish farmers. The Jewish Agriculture Society helped an additional 24 Jewish families establish farms in southern Delaware, primarily in Kent County, between 1912 and 1929. Religious services were held informally in homes until 1939 when the Jewish Congregation of Lower Delaware, a predecessor of today's Conservative synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom, was incorporated.

In 1997, Jewish vacationers and retirees from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and Wilmington along with Jews from Lewes, Rehoboth, and the surrounding Delaware beach communities formed the Seaside Jewish Community. The group, which numbered more than 150 families in 2005, held religious services, educational programs including a Hebrew school, and social events.

Throughout the 20th century, most Delaware Jews continued to live in the Wilmington area, the focal point of Jewish life in Delaware. One Jewish federation, located in Wilmington, served the entire state. However, by the end of the 20th century, the demographics had shifted. A 1995 study estimated that 56% of Delaware's Jews lived in the Wilmington area, 32% in the Newark-Hockessin area, and 12% in southern Delaware.

Jews have become an integral part of life in all parts of the state. They have contributed to the arts, science, business, medicine, journalism, law, and public service. Irving *Shapiro became CEO of the Dupont Company in 1973 and chair of the Business Roundtable in 1976, Roxana Arsht became Delaware's first female judge in 1971, Daniel Herrmann became chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court in 1973, and Jack Markell was Delaware's state treasurer in 2005.

Henry Heimlich, a Jewish surgeon born in Wilmington in 1920, invented the heimlich maneuver.

The oldest Synagogue in the state is Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth, located in Wilmington.

As of 2015, Delaware's Jewish population was approximately 15,100.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved. Ukeles Associates, Inc., 1995 Jewish Population Study of Delaware, Summary Report; T. Young, Becoming American, Remaining Jewish: The Story of Wilmington, Delaware's First Jewish Community 1879–1924 (1999); D. Geffen, Jewish Delaware 1655–1976: History, Sites and Communal Services (1976); T. Young (ed.), Delaware and the Jews (1979).

Delaware Jewish History

adas kodesch1941 (14K) Adas Kodesch Congregation 1941 Lookin up 6th St. from French St. Adas Kodesch First Synagogue First Adas Kodesch Synagogue

In 1654 the Portuguese took control of Brazil from the Dutch. The few Jewish traders who had lived there since 1631 fled to New Amsterdam to avoid persecution. Peter Stuyvesant tried to harass them and prevent them from earning a living, but the Dutch East India Company ordered Stuyvesant to give them full rights.

By 1655 two of these Jewish traders were operating on the Delaware River and were mentioned in a document signed at Fort Casimir. Two Jewish men are among the signers of a 1778 oath renouncing the King of England and asserting fidelity to the new state of Delaware. Until the 1870s there was a small Jewish presence in Wilmington, Milford, and Dover. However, there were never enough adult men to meet the requirement for organizing a religious congregation.

After 1870, their ranks were swelled by German and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who settled mostly in Wilmington. The Sir Moses Montefiore Beneficial Society was formed. The first formal religious service was conducted on Rosh Hashanah in 1881. The Orthodox Adas Kodesch Congregation was incorporated in 1889. (See Shortly afterward, a congregation called Ahavath Achim was formed. It merged with Adas Kodesch about 1890. A reform congregation, Oheb Sholom, was formed in 1895.

The Jewish population of Delaware in 1900 was 1,200. (It is about 10,000 today.) Religious, fraternal, social, youth, and charitable organizations were founded. The Wilmington community mounted a very successful fund raising effort after World War I to aid displaced European Jews. The program became a model for similar drives throughout the United States. It was not until after World War II that the first synagogue was dedicated below the canal.


There are a number of books, pamphlets, and serial publications dealing with local Jewish life and history in Delaware. A newspaper and several cook books are included in the list for interested collectors.

"The Jewish Community: Here and There." Chapter 8 of Bill Frank's Delaware by Bill Frank. Wilmington 1987. Includes seven articles by Frank from News-Journal papers. Three deal with Israel and the Holocaust, but four describe local events and people.

Delaware and the Jews edited by Toni Young. Printed by Cedar Tree Press, Wilmington 1979. This is a basic reference. Chapters cover the American Jewish experience, establishment of Judaism in Delaware, four generations of Jewish life in Wilmington, congregations in Newark and Dover, and a Delaware Jewish hall of fame. Chapter authors include Dr. Carol Hoffecker and William P. Frank. It includes a listing of the holding of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware. (See next item.)

jhsd logo Archives of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware. This collection is housed by the Historical Society of Delaware, 505 Market St., Wilmington DE 19801. It includes manuscripts, photographs, slide presentations, and oral history recordings. The Jewish Historical Society of Delaware has a Web site.

Jewish Delaware 1655-1976, History Sites, Communal Services. Wilmington 1976. 51 pages. Contains several articles, including "A Concise History of the Jews in Delaware" by Rabbi David Geffen (founder of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware.

Delaware Jewry: The Formative Years 1872-1889 by M. David Geffen. A 28-page offprint from Delaware History vol. XVI, no. 4 (Fall-Winter 1975). A mimeographed errata sheet listing nine corrections should accompany this pamphlet.

"The Jews of Delaware" by Elihu Schagrin. Chapter 32 of Delaware, A History of the First State edited by H. Clay Reed. New York 1947.

History of the Jew in Delaware by Samuel Saretsky. Wilmington [1922]. A large pamphlet, apparently published in celebration of the opening of the Jewish Community Center in Wilmington. It includes a history as well as an account of contemporary activities. There are many pages of local advertisements.

Balick, Marvin S. A Social History of the West Second Street Jewish Community, Wilmington, Delaware, 1930-1940. Wilmington, DE: Jewish Historical Society of Delaware, 1997.

Toni Young. Becoming American, Remaining Jewish The Story of Wilmington Delaware's First Jewish Community, 1879-1924, published by University of Delaware Press, 1999.

Congregation Histories

Temple Beth Emeth. 1955. This appears to be a hard cover binding of a number of pamphlets and programs related to the 50th anniversary celebration of the congregation and the dedication of a new synagogue. Includes a history of the congregation and a detailed description and pictures of the building.

Golden Jubilee, Adas Kodesch Congregation 1890-1940. Wilmington [1940]. A congregation history with excellent full-page photographic illustrations. A number of biographies of members with portraits. Indexed. Very nicely printed but the synthetic fabric boards do not wear well.


Off the Capes of Delaware by Benjamin W. Blandford. 1940. Historical fiction for young adults, telling of Jewish-American heroes, the first of whom is a Delawarean.

Grapes of Canaan by Mrs. Elma Levinger. 1930. A novel set in the Wilmington Jewish community.


Jewish Voice. A serial publication since 1943. "The Only Jewish-English Monthly in the State of Delaware." It was founded by Rabbi Simon Krimsky and later sold to the Jewish Federation of Delaware. A collection of this publication would give an excellent picture of recent Delaware Jewish history.

Cook Books

A Book of Favorite Recipes compiled by the Wilmington Chapter of Hadassah. 1979. Includes names of recipe contributors.

Dishes Delicious compiled by the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Emeth. No date but it appears to be before 1950. Some traditional recipes and names of local contributors.

Collecting Delaware Books welcomes additions or corrections to this list.