Note for: Albert Jacob Cardozo, 21 Dec 1828 - 8 Nov 1885 Index
In 1863, the New York Leader, a newspaper allied with Tammany Hall, commented, "Albert Cardozo is one of the rising men of New York. He is a well-read lawyer, and one of the workers in his profession. He is peculiarly gifted as a speaker. His speeches are marked by conciseness of language, closeness of reasoning and practical good sense. He will shine especially at nisi prius [the trial level]. He is withal a gentleman of cultivation and elevated social relations." In the November balloting, Albert Cardozo was elected to the Court of Common Pleas over the incumbent, Judge Henry Hilton, brother of his former mentor, Archibald Hilton. He took his seat the following January.
On election day, 1867, Cardozo participated in the general Democratic sweep, rolling up a margin of fifty-seven thousand votes over his Republican opponent, with 76 percent of the vote. In January 1868, Cardozo took his seat as Justice of the New York Supreme Court.
Note for: Abraham Mendes Seixas, - Apr 1738 Index
No one expresses the contradictions of his age more clearly than Abraham Mendes Seixas. He was, on the one hand, a patriot in the American Revolution, a city magistrate, president of Charleston’s congregation Beth Elohim, and brother of America’s most prominent Jewish religious leader, Gershom Mendes Seixas. On the other hand, Seixas was a merchant who dealt in slaves and a warden of the workhouse, where criminals and runaways were punished.
New York-born Abraham Seixas had come south in June 1774. Banished from Charleston for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to the British crown, he sailed to Philadelphia in May 1782.
Seixas returned to Charleston when the war ended and made a living as a “venue master,” or auctioneer. The city directories alternately describe him as merchant, tallow chandler (candle supplier), and broker. He handled a wide variety of goods: Negro slaves, both men and women; land “all o’er the State”; and any articles “of beaux and belles” consigned to him to sell. At the time of his death in April 1799, he was city magistrate, warden of the work house, and president and trustee of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
Note for: Gershom Mendes Seixas, 15 Jan 1746 - 2 Jul 1816 Index
In 1768, Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in New York City, appointed 23-year-old Gershom Mendes Seixas as its hazzan, or reader. Seixas was one of six children of Isaac Mendes Seixas, a Portuguese converso whose family had to flee to London after Isaac's father was accused, in 1725, of secretly continuing to practice his ancient faith. In 1730, Isaac left London for New York, where in 1741 he married Rachel Levy, an Ashkenazic Jew. Their son Gershom was the product of this "mixed" Sephardic-Ashkenazic marriage common to the New York Jewish community in the 1700s.
New York City in the 1760s had fewer than 300 Jews, and one synagogue, Shearith Israel, which followed the ancient Sephardic minhag despite having a majority of Ashkenazic members. The congregation was a kehillah, or synagogue community, the center of Jewish life for this tightly knit group. The community gathered at Shearith Israel to celebrate holidays and life events together: marriages, births and deaths. As hazzan of the congregation, Gershom Mendes Seixas was at the center of the community's effort to live Jewishly while immersed in the relatively tolerant atmosphere of America -- a setting much less hostile than the one that drove Seixas' family, one generation earlier, from Portugal.
In 1787, when George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States, Seixas was one of three clergymen who participated a sign of respect for Seixas and the role that Jews had played in the founding of the new nation, and a reflection of Washington's own ecumenical views.
Seixas devoted much of his time and prestige to encouraging charity toward the poor. He preached that riches were no sign of grace, nor poverty a sign of disgrace. Each status was a challenge from God: for the poor to endure and overcome hardship, and for the wealthy to grow virtuous by acts of charity. Seixas believed that the very purpose of a fortunate person's life was to help others, regardless of whether they were rewarded for their generosity.
When he died, Seixas was mourned throughout New York City. The trustees of Columbia College commissioned a medal with his likeness, shown here. His friend, Dr. Jacob de la Motta, noted that, during the last seven years of his life, "his sufferings were beyond the ken of human conception," yet Seixas served his congregation until near the very end. The first American-born hazzan of Shearith Israel, Seixas still serves as a model for the contemporary American rabbi.
---- Source: American Jewish Historical Society