Friday, March 18, 2011

Jews of the Historic South, March 24

Beth Elohim, Charleston
The Jewish communities in the southern United States tend to be overshadowed by the ones in the northeast, but in the 18th century and early 19th century some of the Southern communities were actually larger.  The first major Jewish settlements in the South were in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia.  Two of the earliest Jewish congregations in the United States were founded in 1735 (Savannah) and 1749 (Charleston), and by 1800 more Jews were living in Charleston than in New York City.  I've actually researched a Charleston Jewish family from the Revolutionary War period (though I still haven't proven the connection I'm looking for).

Felix and Sue Warburg will present a slide show highlighting the history of Jewish life in Georgia and South Carolina.  They will discuss Francis Salvador and the Sheftall, Nunez, Minis, and Keyserling families, all of whom made significant contributions to Southern Jewish history.  Even though none of these is the family I'm researching, I'm still planning on attending, because I know I will gain insight into the Jewish community of the period I am interested in.  I'm also hoping the Warburgs will discuss what community records still exist and where they can be accessed.

The presentation will be at 7:00 p.m. at the Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco.  The talk is free and anyone interested is welcome to attend.  For more information, visit the library's Web site.  The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society is cosponsoring the presentation.


  1. For the last 6 years, I have been researching my sister-in-law's family who are all Jews from Bavaria that came to the U.S. in the 1840's. Her 2nd great grandfather is Martin Heller. Martin and his brother Moses came to the US in 1840 but didn't make it to San Francisco until 1855. Guess where I found them? Montgomery County, Alabama! They both became naturalized citizens at the U.S. District Court there in 1852. Alabama was the last place it would ever had occurred to me to look for 2 Jewish merchants. I later discovered it wasn't a fluke - they are tied into the Lehman's & Seligman's who had a cotton brokering business (among other busines ventures)

  2. One family of the SFBAJGS treasurer went to Alabama when they came to the U.S. in the early 1800's (I think they also went to Montgomery). If I remember correctly, one person in the family fought for the Confederacy. They were also a merchant family. Hey, Sheri, maybe you should come to the lecture on March 24!


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