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

Rauh Jewish Archives

By 1656 New Amsterdam Jews traded along the Delaware River on Pennsylvania's eastern border, and by 1681 several Jews probably settled in the southeastern area. While most of these Jews were of Spanish-Portuguese origin, during the 18th century many came from Central Europe.

Isaac Miranda' (d. 1732) of Tuscany, a prominent Philadelphia landowner and public official, was the first Jew to settle in Lancaster , where he died a convert to Christianity. His son George traded with the Shawnee Indians along the Allegheny River.

By 1747 – when ten Jewish families lived in Lancaster – a cemetery was purchased by Isaac Nunez Ricus (Henriques) and Joseph Simon, the leading merchant who had a trading outpost at Fort Pitt (later Pittsburgh). An early Jewish resident of Lancaster, Isaac Cohen, was Pennsylvania's first physician.

Jews settled at an early date in the port of Philadelphia, where many of them, such as the traders David Franks and Nathan Levy , engaged in shipping by the 1750s.

Michael Gratz arrived in 1759 from London and joined the mercantile enterprises of his brother Barnard.

David Franks, Barnard Gratz, and Aaron Levy were among the purchasers of land from the Illinois Indians in 1773. Levy became a landowner in nearly every county and founded Aaronsburg, which he named for himself, in 1786.

Congregation Rodeph Shalom of Philadelphia, founded in 1795, is the oldest Ashkenazic synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, it was founded informally as a minyan of ten worshipers in 1795 by Orthodox Jews from Germany, Holland, and Poland,

Another early Jewish settlement was at Easton, north of Philadelphia on the Delaware. The merchant Myer Hart de Shira (Texeira) was among its founders.

Rebecca Gratz founded the Hebrew Sunday School Society (1838) and other organizations in Philadelphia.

  • 1830's - Jews arrived in Pittsburgh, Reading, Pottsville, and
  • 1840's - they arrived in Wilkes-Barre in Harrisburg, Scranton , Erie, and Allentown
  • 1849 - in Honesdale
  • 1860's - Jew arrived in Hazelton, Altoona, and Uniontown

There were only nine congregations in Pennsylvania in 1856, which grew by 1877 to 26 for approximately 17,000 Jews. Daughters of Israel, the first national Jewish women's organization, was founded in Pittsburgh in 1872.

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Philadelphia - Mikvah Israel Cemetery

Many distinguished Americans are buried in Mikveh Israel Cemetery. They include:

  1. Nathan Levy (1704–1753) Prominent merchant.
  2. Haym Solomon] (1740–1785), patriot and financier of the American Revolution, arrived in New York in 1772, joined the Sons of Liberty, one of George Washington's personal friends, captured and sentenced to death by the British in 1776, used his knowledge of German (he spoke eight languages) to convince his Hessian jailer to escape with him to Philadelphia, where he arrived penniless
  3. Michael Gratz (1740–1811), signed the Non-Importation Resolutions of 1765 to protest the Stamp Act, encouraged the opening of the West to settlement
  4. Jacob Gratz] (1790–1856), son of Michael Gratz, served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and State Senate.
  5. Rebecca Gratz] (1781–1869), daughter of Michael Gratz, noted for her philanthropy, regarded as the model for the character Rebecca in Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, and the first Jewish female college student in the United States (at Franklin College, later part of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
  6. Aaron Levy], founder of Aaronsburg, Centre County, Pennsylvania in 1786. Named for him, Aaronsburg is the first town in Pennsylvania (and probably in the entire United States) that was planned by and named after a Jew. A pioneer and fur trader, he was a close friend and financial supporter of Haym Salomon
  7. Benjamin Nones] (1757–1826), born in France, he served on the staffs of both General Washington and General Lafayette. While still a private under Count Pulaski, he received a letter of commendation in 1779 written by Captain Verdier, a splendid testimonial to his courage. He fought in almost every action in the Carolinas. Nones became a Major of the Hebrew Legion of 400 men attached to DeKalb’s command. Several years after the war, he was appointed an interpreter of Spanish and French for the United States government.
  8. Phillip Moses Russell], surgeon’s mate to General Washington
  9. Isaac Djerassi] (1925-2011), member of the first graduating class of the Hebrew University and an Oncologist from the Philadelphia area who advanced cancer therapy.

At least 21 Jewish soldiers of the Revolutionary War, and others from the War of 1812 and the Civil War, are interred in the burial grounds

The cemetery ceased to be a regular place of burial in 1886 except for the interment of Josephine Etting in 1913, Fanny Polano Elmaleh, wife of Reverend Leon H. Elmaleh, in 1966, and Reverend Leon H. Elmaleh in 1972.

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Bibliography

 

  1. By Myself I'm A Book: An Oral History of the Immigrant Jewish Experience in Pittsburgh – Ailon Shiloah, Waltham, MA, Am. Jewish Historical Soc., 1972
  2. Consider the years; the story of the Jewish community of Easton, 1752-1942 – Joshua Trachtenberg, place and date not known
  3. Continuity and change: 75th anniversary exhibit, the Federation of Jewish Agencies of Greater Philadelphia, the Museum of the Philadelphia Civic Center, November 1-28, 1976: catalog – Ruth A. Corson, exhibit director., Philadelphia, PA, The Federation, 1976
  4. Deeds of love: a history of the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum of Philadelphia-- America's first Jewish orphanage – Jules Doneson, New York, NY, Vantage Press, 1996
  5. Fiftieth anniversary, Temple Beth El, Front & Wisconsin Sts. – Harrisburg, PA, The Temple, 1976
  6. From ghetto to emancipation: historical and contemporary reconsiderations of the Jewish community – 7edited by David N. Myers and William V. Rowe, Scranton, PA, University of Scranton Press, Buffalo, New York, NY, Distribution, University of Toronto Press, 1997. Related Names: Myers, David N. Rowe, William V., 1951
  7. Guide to Jewish Philadelphia: everything Jewish in the Philadelphia area – Lillian Youman, Philadelphia, PA, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, 1994
  8. Guidebook to Jewish Philadelphia: history, landmarks, donors of the Jewish community for the life of Philadelphia, 1703-1965 – Esther M. Klein., Philadelphia, PA, Philadelphia Jewish Times Institute, 1965
  9. Insecure Prosperity: Small-Town Jews in Industrial America, 1980-1940 (story of the Jewish community in pre-World War II Johnstown) – Ewa Morawska, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1996
  10. Jews of Harrisburg – Michael Coleman
  11. Lancaster's first Jewish community, 1715 to 1804: the era of Joseph Simon – David Brener. Lancaster, PA, Lancaster County Historical Society, 1976
  12. Lancaster's gates of heaven: portals to the past: the 19th century Jewish community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Congregation Shaarai Shomayim, 1856-1976 – Lancaster, PA, Congregation Shaarai Shomayim, 1976
  13. Listen to our words: oral histories of the Jewish community of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania – general editors, Richard David Wissolik, Jennifer Campion, Barbara Wissolik; editors, Erica Wissolik..., et al.; introductory remarks by Ronald E. Tranquilla..., et al.. Latrobe, PA, Saint Vincent College, 1997
  14. North of Society Hill and Other Stories (Jewish Philadelphia, 1900-1950) – William B. Richter, North Quincy, MA, The Christopher Publishing House. 1970
  15. Pittsburgh and beyond: the experience of the Jewish community: a guide to the NCJW Pittsburgh Section oral history collection – Emmet J. Devine, with contributions by Elizabeth Ann Roberts and Richard J. Smith. Pittsburgh, PA, National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section, 1993
  16. Pittsburgh-Direct. The Pittsburgh Jewish society book; comprising the names and addresses of members and the history of Jewish organizations, also a history of the Jewish community of Pittsburgh – no date shown
  17. Rebecca Gratz: Women and Judaism in Antebellum America – Dianne Ashton, Wayne State Univ. Press, 1997
  18. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel; its first 100 years, 1847-1947 – Philadelphia, PA, 1950
  19. Statistical data of the Jewish religious schools of Baltimore, Maryland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA, 1909
  20. Statistical data of the Jewish religious schools of Philadelphia for 1906-1907 – collected by Julius H. Greenstone. Philadelphia, PA, 1907
  21. Strawberry mansion : the Jewish community of North Philadelphia – Allen Meyers, Charleston, SC, Arcadia Publishing, 1999
  22. The Changing Pattern of the Distribution of the Jewish Population of Pittsburgh from Earliest Settlement to 1963 – Leonard Irvin Kuntz, Ann Arbor, MI, University Microfilms, 1973
  23. The Har Zion Temple, Philadelphia, PA, 1924-1949 =, Bet ha-keneset Har Tsiyon, 684-709: a quarter century of service – Samuel Sussman, Philadelphia, PA, The Temple, 1949
  24. The history of Jewish education in Philadelphia, 1782-1873: from the erection of the first synagogue to the closing of the Maimonides College – David Uriah Todes. Washington, DC, D.U. Todes, 1990
  25. The history of the Jews of Philadelphia from colonial times to the age of Jackson – Edwin Wolf, 2d, and Maxwell Whiteman, Philadelphia, PA, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1957
  26. The History of the Jews of Western Pennsylvania – Jacob Feldman
  27. The Jewish community of Pittsburgh, December, 1938; a sample study – Maurice Taylor, Pittsburgh, PA, 1941
  28. The Jewish community of Pittsburgh: a population study – Pittsburgh, PA, United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, 1963
  29. The Jewish community of South Philadelphia – Allen Meyers, Charleston, SC, Arcadia, 1998
  30. The Jewish community of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania: a collection of oral histories, 1991-1992 – general editor, Richard David Wissolik; associate editors, Michelle Howatineck..., et al.; consulting editor, Erica Wissolik; interviewers and editors, Michelle Howatineck..., et al.. Latrobe, PA, Saint Vincent College Center for Northern Appalachian Studies/Oral History Program in cooperation with the Westmoreland Jewish Community Council of the United Jewish Federation, 1993
  31. The Jewish experience in western Pennsylvania: a history, 1755-1945 – Jacob S. Feldman. Pittsburgh, PA, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, 1986
  32. The Jewish quarter of Philadelphia: a history and guide, 1881-1930 – Harry D. Boonin, Philadelphia, PA, Jewish Walking Tours of Philadelphia, 1999
  33. The Jews in Philadelphia prior to 1800 – Philadelphia, PA, E. Stern & co., 1883
  34. The Jews of Lancaster, Pennsylvania: A Story with Two Beginnings – David A. Brener, Congregation Shaarai Shomayim, Lancaster, PA, 1979
  35. The Jews of Philadelphia: their history from the earliest settlements to the present time; a record of events and institutions, and of leading members of the Jewish community in every sphere of activity – by Henry S. Morrais, Philadelphia, PA, The Levytype Co., 1894
  36. The Jews of Wilkes-Barre: 150 years (1845-1995) in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania – edited by Marjorie Levin, Wilkes-Barre, PA, Jewish Community Center of Wyoming Valley, 1999
  37. The Philadelphia Group and Philadelphia Jewish history: a guide to archival and bibliographic collections – Dianne Ashton., Philadelphia, PA, Center for American Jewish History, Temple University, 1993
  38. Traditions in transition: Jewish culture in Philadelphia, 1840-1940: an exhibition in the Museum of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, April 24-October 21, 1989 – edited by Gail F. Stern. Philadelphia, PA, The Institute; Lanham, MD, Distributed by AASLH Library, 1989
  39. Voices from Marshall Street: Jewish life in a Philadelphia neighborhood, 1920-1960 – Elaine Krasnow Ellison and Elaine Mark Jaffe. Philadelphia, PA, Camino Books, 1994
  40. Voices of Hazleton: a century of Jewish life – Jeannette F. Miller, Hazleton, PA, J.F. Miller, 1993
  41. When Philadelphia was the capital of Jewish America – edited by Murray Friedman. Philadelphia, PA, Balch Institute Press; London, Associated University Presses, 1993

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