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Jewish Texans have been a part of the history of Texas since the first European explorers arrived in the region in the 1500s.[1][2] In 1990, there were around 108,000 adherents to Judaism in Texas. [3] More recent estimates place the number at around 120,000. [4]

History of Jewish Texans

1870 Congregation B'nai Israel Temple & Henry Cohen Community House in Galveston, Texas
Hebrew Benevolent Cemetery (Established 1852)Spanish Texas did not welcome easily identifiable Jews, but they came in any case. Jao de la Porta was with Jean Laffite at Galveston, Texas in 1816, and Maurice Henry was in Velasco in the late 1820s. Jews fought in the armies of the Texas Revolution of 1836, some with James Fannin at Goliad, others at the Battle of San Jacinto. Dr. Albert Levy became a surgeon to revolutionary Texan forces in 1835, participated in the capture of Bexar, and joined the Texas Navy the next year. [5] The first families were conversos and Sephardic Jews. Later settlers such as the Simon family, led by Alex Simon, came in the 1860s and contributed to the construction of synagogues and monuments such as the Simon Theatre. B. Levinson, a Jewish Texan civic leader, arrived in 1861. [6] Today the vast majority of Jewish Texans are descendants of Ashkenazi Jews, those from central and eastern Europe whose families arrived in Texas after the Civil War or later. [7]

Organized Judaism in Texas began in Galveston with the establishment of Texas' first Jewish cemetery in 1852. By 1856 the first organized Jewish services were being held in the home of Galveston resident Isadore Dyer. These services would eventually lead to the founding of Texas' first and oldest Reform Jewish congregation, Temple B'nai Israel, in 1868. [8]

The first synagogue in Texas, Congregation Beth Israel of Houston, was founded in Houston in 1859 as an Orthodox congregation. However, by 1874 the congregation voted to change their affiliation to the fledgling Reform movement. The ensuing years were accompanied by the spread of Judaism throughout Texas. Temple Beth-El was founded in San Antonio in 1874, followed by Temple Emanu-El of Dallas in 1875 and Brenham's B'nai Abraham in 1885. Temple Beth-El is known as one of the state's more contemporary Reform Jewish congregations due to their very open support of the Jewish GLBT community while B'nai Abraham, currently led by Rabbi Leon Toubin, is the state's oldest existing Orthodox synagogue. [9] [10]

Between 1907 and 1914 a resettlement program, known as the Galveston Movement, was in operation to divert Jews fleeing Russia and eastern Europe away from the crowded East Coast cities. Ten thousand Jewish immigrants passed through the port city of Galveston during this era, approximately one-third the number who migrated to Palestine during the same period. Rabbi Henry Cohen, the rabbi of B'nai Israel at the time, is credited with helping to found the Movement. [11]

List of Jewish Texans

  • Henri Castro
  • Rabbi Henry Cohen
  • Danciger family
  • Jacob De Cordova
  • Kinky Friedman
  • Martin Frost
  • Anna Hertzberg
  • Isaac Herbert Kempner
  • Mayer Halff
  • Jean Laffite
  • Dr. Albert Levy
  • David Spangler Kaufman
  • Jimmy Kessler
  • Olga Bernstein Kohlberg
  • Haymon Krupp
  • Abraham Cohen Labatt
  • Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff
  • Stanley Marcus
  • Levi Olan
  • Rosanna Osterman
  • Jao de la Porta
  • Lois Roisman
  • Hyman Judah Schachtel
  • Simon family
  • Samuel M. Stahl
  • David E. Stern
  • Adolphus Sterne
  • Babe Schwartz
  • Peter Tarlow
  • Leon Toubin
  • Anthony Wolf
  • Marvin Zindler

Jewish Communities in Texas
Temple Beth-El (San Antonio, Texas)
Congregation Beth Jacob (Galveston)
B'Nai Abraham Synagogue, Brenham
Temple B'nai Israel (Galveston)
Temple Emanu-El of Dallas
Temple Freda (Bryan-College Station)
Congregation Shearith Israel (Texas)
Congregation Beth Israel of Houston
Temple Beth-El, Corsicana

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