Calvert, Texas, Jewish Pioneers, 1873 – 1880


Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger,later years in San Francisco, WS 26/3762

Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger, later years in San Francisco,
#WS 26/3762

Jewish Pioneers of Calvert Texas, 1883 – 1880


Calvert, Texas is located somewhat east of the geographical center of Texas.

The Jewish community of Calvert first came to national attention in 1874, when the Jewish Benevolent Society of Calvert sent an article to The American Israelite of Cincinnati in 1874, thanking the Jewish Benevolent Society of Galveston for sending physicians, nurses, and other necessities to aid them during an 1873 yellow fever epidemic.

The committee of the Calvert’s  Hebrew Benevolent Society included A. Eppstein, E. Keifer, H. Bergman, and H. Weiss.

In October 1880, Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger of Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, and later of Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco, visited Calvert and wrote a report for The American Israelite.

Later that year, another article was sent to The American Israelite by a Calvert resident, who signed his name as “Socher.” The letter described an “informal congregation” of Jews. 

R. Oscar was President of the informal congregation, as well as a member of the City Council.

A. Eppstein was also a member of the Calvert City Council and had been President of the Hebrew Benevolent Society.

Mr. & Mrs. H. Morris were hosts to Rabbi Voorsanger during his visit in 1880.

There was also a Calvert Hebrew Sabbath School, which surprised Rabbi Voorsanger with its high level of learning. Mr. Leon Strauss was its leader and teacher. Mr. Strauss also started a private school with  40 pupils, of which 16 were Jewish.

During an evening address to the people of Calvert, Rabbi Voorsanger recommended that a physical synagogue was needed. Money was pledged and a building committee formed.

The following day, Mr. R. Oscar, President of the Congregation, pledged that if the committee could find him land and fifteen hundred dollars, he would build the synagogue, regardless of its additional cost.

“Socher” sent his article to The American Israelite 2 months later, noting that there were about twenty Jewish families in Calvert, all “highly esteemed by the gentile townsmen.”

Jewish life was apparently well on its way in the 1870s in Calvert, Texas. However, the community never constructed a synagogue.

In 1900, the Jewish Publication Society listed just twelve active members of the Jewish community in Calvert.