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
: 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 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 history.com 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 That organization has, since 1998, been posting texts of historical documents that only had been available to the public in historical society and other archives or on microfilm.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: http://bit.ly/NunezSavannah
Mordecai Sheftall was a descendant of one of the Jewish families that arrived with the Nunezes in
The Jews who came to
from Savannah 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. London
The “Israelites who came to
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.” Savannah
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 14706
Lee Highway, Amissville, Virginia. Info: 540- 937-4869. Or go to
- Tuesday, May 5 –talk on Saving Monticello for a Historic Preservation class at the
, Universityof Maryland College Park, Md.
- Thursday, May talk on the Marquis de Lafayette and book signing at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial,
. Sponsored by the Alexandria, Virginia Committee. Open to the public. Wine and dessert reception follows the talk. Info: http://herolafayette.eventbrite.com Alexandria-Caen Sister City
- Saturday, May 16 – talk on
Lafayettefor the , Eleanor Wilson Washington, D.C. DARChapter, Middleburg, Virginia
- Friday, May talk on
Lafayetteand book signing at the , Free-Lance Starr Building , sponsored by the Fredericksburg Sister City Association. Fredericksburg, Virginia 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va.Free, open to the public.
- Sunday, Mar 24 – 3:00 p.m. talk on
Lafayetteand book signing at York Hall, , sponsored by the York County Historical Committee. Yorktown, Virginia 301 Main St., Yorktown, Va.Info: 757-890-3508. Free, open to the public.