Early Beaumont Jewish Community 1
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A Brief History of the Early Beaumont Jewish Community

Dedicated to the late Rabbi N. J. Friedman, D.D., D. Th. 1

(Originally published in The Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record in November 1984)

By W. T. Block

As strange as it may seem, not all early American states and colonies treated Jews as their equals. As far back as 1700, there is no record of differential treatment of Jews in South Carolina, whereas the state of Maryland saddled them with legal disabilities until 1825.2 Early Beaumont, Texas, like Charleston, South Carolina, offered an amenable and equitable climate for Jews to compete, and although Jewish settlement here came comparatively late, it quickly flourished.

Those Jews entering Texas during the 1840’s usually remained in Galveston and by 1867 had established a synagogue there. As economic opportunity developed elsewhere in Texas, many migrated from the Island City. Simon Wiess, a Beaumont merchant in the year 1838, is generally credited as having been the first Jew to arrive in Jefferson County. Wiess, however, married a Presbyterian, and apparently abandoned his Mosaic faith after his arrival in Texas.3 Except for itinerant wagon peddlers,4 no other Jews are known to have arrived in Beaumont until 1878, when Morris J. Loeb moved his family here and opened a cigar store.5 Wolf Bluestein and J. Solinsky settled in Orange in 1876.6

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1During the writer’s undergraduate years at Lamar University, Dr. Friedmann assisted him immensely in the fields of Colonial American Judaism, Jewish criminality, and Jewish juvenile delinquency.

The writer wishes to express appreciation to Mrs. Henrietta Galewsky and Mr. Lawrence Blum for checking this manuscript for accuracy of substance.

2O. Handlin, Adventure in Freedom: Three Hundred Years of Jewish Life in America (New York: 1954), p. 18; Lee Levinger, History of the Jews in the United States (Cincinnati: 1930), p. 91; 3. R. Marcus, Early American Jewry (Philadelphia: 1951), II, 67, 231; C. Reznikoff. The Jews of Charleston (Philadelphia: 1950), p.4.

3W. T. Block, “From Cotton Bales to Black Gold: A History of the Pioneer Wiess Families of Southeast Texas,” The Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, Vol. VIII (Nov., 1972), 39-60.

4Apparentiy Simon Goldman and Mordecai Primrose were two Jewish wagon peddlers who sold their wares in the town and countryside between 1845-1850. See Record of Retail Licenses, 1839-1851, Jefferson County, Texas, Archives.

5Unpublished manuscript, Lawrence Blum et al., “Founders and Builders, 1878-1923,” pp.2-3, copy owned by the writer.

6Tenth Census of the United States, 1880, City of Orange, Texas. For a list of some of the early Jews of Orange, see Galveston Daily News, May 24, 1896.

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