Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Jews of South Carolina

« Back to Projects Dashboard

Project Tags

view all


  • Joseph Burke (1801 - d.)
    Source for below: BURKE* M, #I469, b. 1801 * Father: Baruch WIZANSKI * Mother: Sara B SZMOYL * GIVN: Joseph * SURN: BURKE * GIVN: Joseph WIZANSKI * SURN: * Birth: 1801 * Death: Y * Resided: In the 1820...
  • Abraham Cohen LaBatt (1802 - 1899)
    Prominent pioneer of Reform Judaism in the United States in the 19th century, founding several early congregations. Second Oldest Mason in America, Last Original Member of the Firemen's Charitable Asso...
  • Isaac Cohen Labatt (1804 - 1870)
    In Columbia SC in 1825
  • Marx Maÿer Iseman (1826 - 1889)
    "[Actor Madison Iseman]'s paternal grandfather was James Marx 'Jim' Iseman (the son of Isaac Iseman and Mary Cora Cato/Catoe). James was born in South Carolina. Isaac was born in South Carolina, to Ger...
  • Rabbi Barnett Abraham Elzas (1867 - 1936)
    Barnett Abraham Elzas* England & Wales, Marriage Index, 1837-2005* Marriage date: Apr-May-June 1890* Marriage place: Paddington, London, England* Spouse (implied): Annie SamuelR. Barnett Abraham Elzas ...

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

By 1800 there were about 2,000 Jews in South Carolina (overwhelmingly Sephardic and settled in Charleston), which was more than in any other U.S. state at that time,[1] and more than any other town, city, or place in North America.

The first synagogue established at Charleston was that of the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded in 1749. Several of its founders had come from Georgia, migrating after that colony was invaded by Spanish forces, as they feared another Inquisition.[6] Its first hazan or cantor was Isaac da Costa; and among its earliest members were the following: Joseph and Meshod Tobias, Moses Cohen, Abraham da Costa, Moses Pimenta, David de Olivera, Michael Lazarus, and Abraham Nuñez Cardozo. The DaCosta family was prominent in London and sponsored the emigration of Jews to South Carolina, where it had bought much land.

R' Barnett Abraham Elzas (1867-1936) authored one of the best historical studies of a Jewish community, Jews of South Carolina (1905) where he had a pulpit in Charleston. He would later hold pulpits in New York City and Long Branch, NJ. He also served as president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

Among the earliest Ashkenazi Jews to arrive in South Carolina were a group of related families from Suwalki - Visanska, Winstock, Margolis (changed to Levine), and Rosenberg. As early as 1852, these eastern European Jews began meeting under the leadership of Rabbi Hirsch Zvi Levine (1807-1887), himself recently arrived from Poland. In 1855, they formally organized as Berith Shalome (now Brith Sholom) or “Covenant of Peace”—the first Ashkenazic congregation in South Carolina and one of the first in the South. The shul became known as the “German and Polish” or simply the “Polish” synagogue, to distinguish it from the earlier downtown congregations.

Born in 1807, son of Chaim Laib and Soreh Margolis, Levine was one of the first trained and ordained rabbis to come to America. His notebook demonstrates an excellent command of Hebrew and a high degree of learning. Hirsch Zvi was instructed first by his father, a descendant of a long line of rabbis and learned teachers, including Rabbi Yomtov Lipman Heller (1579 - 1654), the famous "Tosfos Yomtov," who produced a well-known commentary and other works, and led the Jewish communities of Prague, Vienna, and Krakow. Soon after his marriage the young Margolis attended a Lithuanian yeshivah (school for Talmudic study), received his semikhah (ordination), and settled in his wife's hometown of Wirbalin.


  • A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life. Edited by Theodore Rosengarten and Dale Rosengarten. Preface by Eli N. Evans. The University of South Carolina Press. 2002.
  • B.A. Elzas, The Jews of South Carolina, From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1905, reprint, 1972)
  • Wikipedia article on History of the Jews in Charleston, South Carolina