Friday, May 1, 2015

May 1, 2015

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XII, Number 5                                                             May 1, 2015

THE JEWS IN SAVANNAH:  One thing that continues to fascinate me is the story of Uriah Levy’s great-great grandfather Dr. Samuel Nunez and his escape from the Inquisition in Portugal with his family first to England, and then to Savannah, Georgia, in 1733. I covered that in Saving Monticello, citing several sources, including “The Jews in Savannah,” an article in the November 1843 issue of The Occident and Jewish Advocate written by Mordecai Sheftall, a descendant of one of the families that came to Savannah with the Nunez family.

I dug that article out of one of the archives I visited when doing the research for the book. It’s now on line on the Jewish website. That organization has, since 1998, been posting texts of historical documents that only had been available to the public in historical society and other archives or on microfilm. Here’s the link to the article:

 Mordecai Sheftall was a descendant of one of the Jewish families that arrived with the Nunezes in Savannah in 1733. His article was based on the records of his grandfather Benjamin Sheftall and his father, Levi Sheftall, who recorded “every important event connected with the condition of the Israelites: arrivals, departures, marriages, births, deaths, &c., to the first of July in the year 1808.”

The Jews who came to Savannah from London were a mixture of Sephardic and Ashkenasic. They “brought with them a Safer Tora, with two cloaks, and a Circumcision Box, which were given to them by Mr. Lindo, a merchant in London, for the use of the congregation they intended to establish,” the article notes.

The “Israelites who came to Savannah paid their passage,” the article says, “laid in all necessary supplies for their intended voyage, and were in nowise dependent on the favour or charity of the British crown for one dollar to facilitate their emigration.”

The passage across the Atlantic on The William and Sarah, Mr. Shaftell wrotes, “was a disagreeable and boisterous one; gale succeeded gale, and the ship came near being wrecked off the coast of North Carolina, and was forced to seek safety in ‘New Inlet,’ where she was necessarily detained for some weeks. She again set sail, and arrived and landed her passengers in Savannah on the 11th day of July, 1733.”

The first English settlers, led by James Oglethrope, had arrived at Yamacraw Bluff on the Savannah River just five months before, on February 13, 1733. That’s when they formed Georgia, the last of the original thirteen British North American colonies. The city’s lots were apportioned just days before the Jewish families arrived.

Soon after they arrived, in July of 1733, the Sephardic families decided to start a synagogue in a rented house on Market Square. They named it Kahal Kadosh Mickve Israel, “Holy Congregation, Hope of Israel.” That congregation, since 1878, has had its home in an imposing neo-Gothic building on Monterey Square (above). It was the first Jewish congregation in the American South, and is the third-oldest in the United States. The congregation still uses the 1733 torah in its annual Shabbat anniversary service.

Thanks to Shannon Foley Slaughter of the Descendants of Dr. Samuel Nunez Facebook Group for pointing me to the article.

EVENTS:  Here’s a rundown on my May events, four of which deal with my book, Lafayette: Idealist General, in preparation for the visit in June of the replica ship L’Hermione, which Lafayette sailed on his second trip to the U.S. in 1780.
·       Saturday, May 2 – Book signing at the Gray Ghost Vineyards Civil War Authors Day, beginning a 11:00 a.m. 14706 Lee HighwayAmissvilleVirginia. Info: 540- 937-4869. Or go to  
  • Tuesday, May 5 –talk on Saving Monticello for a Historic Preservation class at the University of MarylandCollege ParkMd.
  • Thursday, May 14 – 7:00 p.m. talk on the Marquis de Lafayette and book signing at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, AlexandriaVirginia. Sponsored by the Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee. Open to the public. Wine and dessert reception follows the talk. Info:
  • Saturday, May 16 – talk on Lafayette for the WashingtonD.C., Eleanor Wilson DAR Chapter, MiddleburgVirginia
  • Friday, May 22 – 7:00 p.m. talk on Lafayette and book signing at the Free-Lance StarrBuildingFredericksburgVirginia, sponsored by the Fredericksburg Sister City Association. 616        Amelia StreetFredericksburgVa. Free, open to the public.
  • Sunday, Mar 24 – 3:00 p.m. talk on Lafayette and book signing at York Hall, YorktownVirginia, sponsored by the York County Historical Committee. 301 Main St.YorktownVa.Info: 757-890-3508. Free, open to the public.