The foundations for the Shearith Israel Congregation was laid by the 23 Jewish refugees who came to New Amsterdam from New Holland in 1654 (Click here to access the prior post detailing struggle of these original 23 refugees). By 1847, the congregation was located on Crosby Street between Broome and Spring Streets in today's SOHO section of New York City (Its current location is at 8 West 70th Street). As history had recorded it, the fates of the congregation of Shearith Israel and the Irish were forever linked on March 8, 1847.
Leading the charge to help those in need across the Atlantic was the minister of the congregation Jacques Judah Lyons (1813-1877). Born in Surinam, Dutch Guiana on August 25, 1813, Lyons' family emigrated to Philadelphia and made his way to New York City where he was elected the minister of the congregation of Shearith Israel in 1839 serving as said minister for 38 years until his death in 1877. Lyons' saw the need to aid the victims of the terrible famine in Ireland and he called upon his congregation to provide necessary aid. Here is part of his speech to the congregation on March 8, 1847:
By the end of the sermon, the congregation combined to collect $200 dollars ($80,000 in today's dollars) to aid in the relief of the victims of the famine. So how is this relevant to today aside from the parallels to today's fundraising for worldwide victims of natural disasters? The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese (who was in the city for a four day tour commemorating the Irish Potato Famine) visited the congregation Shearith Israel this past Sunday May 23, 2010 to give thanks from the people of Ireland to the congregation who so generously gave aid during a dark time in Ireland's history.
For Further Reading:
- Click Here for the New York Times article by Jim Dwyer about the President of Ireland's visit to Congregation Shearith Israel
- Click Here for the Irish Independent article by Caitriona Palmer on President McAleese's visit to Congregation Shearith Israel
- Click here to visit the official webpage for the Congregation Shearith Israel
- Click here for the entire sermon given by Jacques Judah Lyons on March 8, 1847 from the Occident and American Jewish Advocate April 1847
- Click here for the guide to the papers of Jacques Judah Lyons located at American Jewish Historical Society which has a biographical note for Reverend Lyons
- Click Here for a history of the Irish Potato Famine from The History Place