Early Beaumont Jewish Community 4
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W. Bluestein was an enigmatic personage of rare talents. By the time of his death, his personal fortune equaled $75,000, a sizeable sum for that era. According to his obituary of May, 1896, he could neither read nor write, yet his competence at mental arithmetic, fractions, and compounding interest knew no peer. In his eagerness to learn to write his name, he once paid $100 to a teacher who failed his task, but Bluestein’s crude “BBX” on drafts and checks was honored by banks from Galveston to New York.

So far as is known, Bluestein and Lederer were the only early Jews of Beaumont to engage in agriculture, the latter operating a rice farm south of the city in 1900, and Bluestein being one of the first commercial rice growers of Orange County., On December 1, 1892, he shipped 100 barrels of rough rice, a part of the first boxcar of rice ever shipped from Orange.16

Leon R. Levy became fully immersed in community affairs. In October, 1886, he was one of a Beaumont committee of four who raised $20,000 nation-wide to succor hurricane sufferers at Sabine Pass. During the 1890’s, he was a director of the Beaumont Improvement Company and the First National Bank; sat on committees or served as a delegate to nominating conventions; officered fraternal orders; and won an enviable reputation as financier and philanthropist.17

In 1881 it appears that Miss Julia Loeb was the only Jewish student among the 103 pupils at the Beaumont Academy.18 By 1893, at least 35 students of the Jewish faith were enrolled in the Beaumont schools.19

The earliest Jewish services were conducted in private homes, in the Bluestein or Crosby opera houses, and later in Lederer’s grocery store, Deutser’s Furniture Company, or in the Harmony Club, located above the Central Fire Station.

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In lieu of a trained rabbi, S. Feinberg, W. Bluestein, and probably others, acted as lay leaders for the Jewish assemblies, the lat-

16Unpublished manuscript, W. T. Block, “The Growth of the Jefferson County, Texas, Rice Industry, 1849-1910,” p. 7; Galveston Daily News, July20 and Dec. 7, 1892; Jan. 1, 1900; Block, “Emerald of the Neches,” pp. 552-553; Sabine Pass News, May 5, 1900; Port Arthur Herald, January 6, 1900; Feb. 11, 1902. See also biography of Wolf Bluestein, “A Remarkable Man,” Galveston Daily News, May 24, 1896.

17Galveston Daily News, Oct. 17, 1886; “Emerald of the Neches,” p. 369; Blum at al., “Founders and Builders,” pp. 4, 8; biography and photos, L. R. Levy, person and store, Oil Exchange and Board of Trade, Advantages and Conditions of Beaumont and Port Arthur Today, 1902, p. 81; B.C. C., Souvenir, Beaumont, Texas, 1903, p.32; standard Blue Book of Texas, 1908-1909 (A. J. Peeler, Houston: 1908), pp. 99, 139, 183.

18Beaumont Enterprise, June 25, 1881; Block, “Emerald of the Neches,” p. 207.

190n the date of the enrollment of the Beaumont schools in Sept., 1893, authorities estimated that 35 or more Jewish children were absent because celebration of the Jewish high holy days was in progress. See Galveston Daily News, Sept. 13, 1893.

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