Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


The Jews in Ohio.

Cincinnati, December 25th, 1843.

Rev. Isaac Leeser,

Dear Sir—In accordance with the request to furnish you "with a history of the settlement of the Jews in Ohio," with much pleasure I attend to that subject, and shall probably be more minute than many would consider necessary: you must indulge me in this my weakness, as every thing connected with the settlement of our nation, and the establishment of our holy religion in this city and state renews within me feelings of gratitude and veneration to the great Author of our being, who from a single individual, alone adoring his Unity, has in a few years assembled in this noble city two considerable congregations; numbering more than eighteen hundred souls.

It was in the month of October, 1816, that a young man arrived in New York from the shores of Great Britain, to seek a home and a residence in the New World. This individual's name was Joseph Jonas, from Plymouth, in England. He had read considerably concerning America, and was strongly impressed with the descriptions given of the Ohio river, and had therefore determined to settle himself on its banks, at Cincinnati. This he was encouraged in by a relative he met with in New York. On arriving at Philadelphia, he was persuaded to settle in that city, and took up his residence for, a short time with the amiable family of the late Mr. Samuel Joseph, (peace be unto him.) He here became acquainted with the venerable Mr. Levi Philips, who took a great interest in him, using many persuasive arguments not to proceed to Ohio. One of them was frequently brought to his recollection: "In the wilds of America, and entirely amongst gentiles; you will forget your religion and your God."

But the fiat had gone forth, that a new resting place for the scattered sons of Israel should be commenced, and that a sanctuary should be erected in the Great West, dedicated to the Lord of hosts, to resound with praises to the ever-living God. The individual solemnly promised the venerable gentleman never to forget his religion nor forsake his God: he received his blessing, and, taking leave of the kind friends with whom he had resided, departed for Pittsburg on the 2d of January, 1817. On his arrival, he found the navigation of the Ohio stopped by being frozen over. He procured profitable employment during the winter, being a mechanic, and at the breaking up of the ice was wafted on the bosom of this noble river to the then rising city of Cincinnati, where he arrived on the 8th day of March, 1817. The city then contained about six thousand inhabitants, but the only Israelite was himself. With the assistance of the God of his ancestors, he soon became established in a lucrative and respectable business, and his constant prayer was, that he might be a nucleus around whom the first congregation might be formed, to worship the God of Israel in this great western territory. Solitary and alone he remained for more than two years; and at the solemn festivals of our holy religion, in solitude was he obliged to commune with his Maker.

Some time in December, 1818, his heart was delighted with the arrival of his lamented and ever-valued friend, David Israel Johnson, (from Portsmouth, England,) with his wife and infant child. But they were bound for Brookville, Indiana, and again for a while solitude was his portion. In the month of June following, three members of our nation arrived, viz., Lewin Cohen, of London; Barnet Levi, of Liverpool; and Jonas Levy, of Exeter, England; and the following ימים טובים were duly solemnized in Cincinnati, and probably in the western country, for the first time,

My friend, D. I. Johnson, being summoned from Brookville, and joined us on the occasion. A few days afterwards the solitary sojourner was joyfully recompensed by the arrival of his brother, Abraham Jonas, his sister and her husband, Morris and Sarah Moses: there also came with them Philip Symonds, his wife and child; all from Portsmouth, England. We began from this time to form a community of Israelites. In 1820 arrived Solomon Buckingham, Moses Nathan and Solomon Minken, all from Germany, and the ימים טובים of 1820 were solemnized in due form with the legal number and a Sepher Torah. In 1821 arrived Solomon Moses, from Portsmouth, England. In 1822 arrived Phineas Moses, and Samuel Jonas, another brother of the solitary and now were our hearts rejoiced, for the prospects of a permanent congregation were near at hand. During the ensuing year, 1823, arrived Simeon Moses, from Barbadoes, and Morris and Joseph Symonds, from Portsmouth, England. We are now arrived on "terra firma," and have official records for reference. On the 4th of January, 1824, a majority of the Israelites in Cincinnati assembled at the residence of Morris Moses, who was called to the chair, and Joseph Jonas appointed secretary; when the following proceedings took place, and the subjoined preamble was adopted: "Whereas, it is the duty of every member of the Jewish persuasion, when separated from a congregation, to conform as near as possible to the worship and ceremonies of our holy religion, and as soon as a sufficient number can be assembled, to form ourselves into a congregation for the purpose of glorifying our God, and observing the fundamental principles of our faith, as developed in the laws of Moses:—with these impressions, the undernamed persons convened at the residence of Morris Moses, in the city of Cincinnati, state of Ohio, on the 4th day of January, 1824, corresponding to the 4th of Shebat, 5584."

"Present, Morris Moses, Joseph Jonas, David I. Johnson, Jonas Levy, Solomon Moses, Simeon Moses, Phineas Moses, Samuel Jonas, Solomon Buckingham, and Morris Symonds."

Sundry preparatory resolutions were adopted, a committee on constitution and by-laws appointed, and the chairman authorized to summon every member of the Jewish persuasion. We then find the following proceedings officially recorded:

"In accordance with a resolution of a convention which met at the residence of Morris Moses, in the city of Cincinnati, state of Ohio, on the 4th of January, 1824, corresponding with the 4th of Shebat 5584, a full convention of every male of the Jewish persuasion or nation was convened at the house of the aforesaid Morris Moses, in the said city and state, on the 18th of January, 1824, corresponding with the 18th day of Shebat, 5584.

"Present, Joseph Jonas, Morris Moses, David I. Johnson, Philip Symonds, Abraham Jonas, Jonas Levy, Solomon Buckingham, Solomon Minken, Solomon Moses, Phineas Moses, Samuel Jonas, Simeon Moses, Morris Symonds, Joseph Symonds. Morris Moses being in the chair, and Joseph Jonas secretary, a constitution and by-laws were adopted, and the following officers duly elected: Joseph Jonas, Parnass; Phineas Moses and Jonas Levy, vestrymen. Resolutions were then passed to procure a room, and to fit it up as a temporary place of worship.

(To be continued.)