From the Collections of the American Jewish Historical Society

American Jewish History, January 2013 | Go to article overview

From the Collections of the American Jewish Historical Society


1. Items Relating to the Rebellion of the Southerners

2. Jewish Ladies Assisting the Defenders of the Union

Part of the Jacques Judah Lyons Papers (*P-15)

The Finding Aid prepared by the AJHS for this important collection tells us that "Jacques Judah Lyons (1813-1877), hazan, rabbi, and community leader, was born in Surinam; his parents, Judah Eleazar and Mary Asser Lyons, had emigrated there from Philadelphia in the early 1800s. Jacques' education was limited to the institutions the Dutch colony could afford, however, he spoke several languages in addition to Dutch, including Hebrew, English, German, and French, and possessed a strong understanding of Spanish.

Lyons began his career in Surinam in Congregation Nevie Shalom, a synagogue founded by Spanish-Portuguese Jews. In 1836 he left for Philadelphia, his parents' home state, and was hired within a few months by Congregation Beth Shalome in Richmond, Virginia. He served Beth Shalome for two years, winning the high esteem of the congregation. In 1839, following the death of Rev. Isaac B. Mendez Seixes, he was elected Seixas' successor as minister of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York. He married Grace Nathan, daughter of Seixas Nathan and Sarah Mendez Seixas, in 1842. Jacques and Grace had three children, Julius J., Sarah, and Alfred.

During his thirty eight years of ministry, he became highly active in Jewish welfare and in advocating orthodox Judaism. He served as superintendent for Shearith Israel's school, Polonies Talmud Torah; president of its benevolent society; director of the Sampson Simson Jewish Seminary and Scientific Institute; and was a founder of the Jews' Hospital, now The Mount Sinai Hospital. …

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