Brandeis, Louis D.
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader
Lehman, Herbert H.
Levy, Uriah P.
Magnes, Judah L.
Santangel, Luis de
Seixas, Gershom M.
Singer, Isaac B.
Straus, Isidor & Ida
Torres, Luis de
by Gerta Ries Wiener (1975), Gershom Mendes Seixas, Patriotic
Mendes Seixas (1745-1816)
August, 1776, when news came that the British were approaching
New York, Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas of Congregation Shearith
Israel (The Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue) decided to close the
synagogue rather than keep it open under British rule. There were
many men in the congregation (America's oldest) who had been so
outspoken against the Crown that their lives would have been in
jeopardy. Seixas saw to it that all of the ceremonial objects
- the scrolls, prayerbooks and candlesticks -- were taken away
for safekeeping. At the close of the Revolutionary War, Reverend
Seixas returned all of these items to the congregation, where
they can be seen to this day.
only fought the British, but fought intolerance as well. In 1783,
he successfully sought revisions in a constitutional clause newly
adopted by the Pennsylvania legislature requiring a religious
examination for office seekers. He was one of fourteen clergymen
participating in George Washington's first inaugural (1787), and
continued to be one of the most vigorous defenders of the much-maligned
James Madison administration during the War of 1812.
Mendes Seixas, the first native-born Jewish minister in the United
States, was also active as a trustee in the Humane Society and
as one of the first Regents of the New York State University.
He was also the only non-Episcopalian to serve as a trustee of
Columbia University, from 1787 to 1815.
family has contributed many prominent Americans - Gershom's brother,
Abraham Mendes (1751-99), was an officer in the Revolutionary
Army; another brother, Benjamin Mendes (1748-1817), was one of
the founders of the New York Stock Exchange; and a third brother,
Moses Mendes (1744-1809), was one of the organizers of the Bank
of Rhode Island and the president of the historic Newport Synagogue.
Gershom's son, David, established the Deaf and Dumb Institute
in Philadelphia, and was among the first to discover efficient
ways of burning anthracite coal. Today, members of the Seixas
family are still leaders of the American Sephardic community.
Here to Take Gershom Seixas Quiz
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