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Jewish Tour of Charleston

If you want to go on a Jewish Tour of Charleston, be sure to visit the sights below! To return to the Discover Jewish Charleston page, click here.

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON YASCHIK / ARNOLD JEWISH STUDIES CENTER

This new three million dollar, 12,000 square foot building at the corner of Glebe and Wentworth streets offers college credit Jewish studies courses serving the entire community. The Robert Scott Small Library houses the largest archives of South Carolina Jewish history. Between these facilities you can access extensive oral history archives, business, institutional and family records; memoirs, scrapbooks, letters and photos; archives of two historic synagogues; the Southern Jewish Historical Society and the Charleston Jewish Federation.

 

CRADLE OF REFORM

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston is the birthplace of Reform Judaism in America and the oldest surviving Reform congregation in the world. Its members have been eminent leaders in the city, state and nation. Among them: Moses Lindo, who helped develop cultivation of indigo, and Joseph Levy, the first Jewish military officer in America. The present beautiful Greek Revival temple at 90 Hasell Street (pronounced Hazel) was built in 1840. The congregation began as a Sephardi group in 1749. George Washington wrote, "May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me rest upon your Congregation..." Guided tours of the synagogue and museum 10am-12pm Monday-Friday and 1:30pm-3:30 Monday-Thursday. Services Friday 8:00pm. Saturday 10:00am.

 

WHERE JUDAH BENJAMIN WENT TO SCHOOL

Judah Philip Benjamin attended the Hebrew Orphan Society school as a boy. The building still stands at 88 Broad Street. High on the front is a Hebrew inscription. The house of Judah Benjamin's father can be seen nearby at 35 Broad Street.

PRE-REVOLUTION CEMETERY ON COMING STREET

The Beth Elohim Coming Street Cemetery is the oldest and largest pre-Revolutionary Jewish cemetery in America. The congregation's first rabbi, Moses Cohen, was the first person buried here, in 1762. Bernard Baruch's great grandfather, Rabbi Hartwig Cohen, is one of several other Beth Elohim rabbis here. Other noteworthy persons at this site are 11 Charleston Jews who took part in the American Revolution, six who fought in the War of 1812, 21 of the 180 Charleston Jews who fought in the Civil War, and four of the Jewish Masons who founded the Scottish Rite here in 1801 (who were honored at the 2001 bicentennial). 189 Coming street. Call Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim 843-723-1090 for guided tour.

 

GEORGE GERSHWIN COMPOSED HERE

A three-story house at 89-91 Church Street in Charleston was the model for Catfish Row, the centerpiece of Porgy and Bess. George Gershwin wrote the opera while living in Folly Beach.

 

HENRIETTA SZOLD IN THE CHURCH WINDOW

Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold is shown teaching arithmetic to Jewish children in a stained glass window at Grace Episcopal Church, 98 Wentworth Street, in Charleston. It is part of the Women's Window displaying biblical and contemporary female leaders.

 

BURIED WHERE HE WAS SCALPED

Francis Salvador was killed and scalped by Tory-led Indians while on a defense mission near the Keowee River. He was the first Jew to hold an important elective office in South Carolina and the first Carolina Jew to die in the cause of American liberty. This tablet honoring Salvador can be seen within City Hall downtown. A plaque on a wall in Washington Park next door also tells his story. A William Halsy mural on the social hall wall of Beth Elohim depicts Salvador's historic death.

 

STAR OF DAVID SHINES IN MAGNOLIA GARDENS

In Magnolia Gardens biblical plants are arranged as a Star of David. A statue of the boy David stands in the center of pomegranates, palms, olives and papyrus. 8am-dusk, 365 days a year. Admission charge. Highway 61 10 miles outside Charleston.

 

CHARLESTON COMMUNITY CENTER

Israeli entertainers, lectures, health club, sports facilities and events for seniors and singles draw Charleston Jews to 1645 Raoul Wallenberg Boulevard. Call 843-571-6565 for schedules. Next door is the Sherman House, built to house Jews and non-Jews with special needs.

KAHAL KADOSH BETH ELOHIM MUSEUM

The history of Charleston Jewry is beautifully documented with ceremonial objects, records, paintings and photographs at the KKBE Archives Museum, 90 Hasell Street.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL ON MARION SQUARE

Next to the John C. Calhoun monument stands a touching memorial to named survivors who resettled in South Carolina. Designed by Jonathan Levy Architecture of Boston. Calhoun Street near Meeting.

M. C. MORDECAI HOUSE

Moses Cohen Mordecai operated a steamship line, served as state senator and sat on countless boards and commissions. His flagship, The Isabel, removed Major Robert Anderson and his men from Fort Sumter as the Civil War began. View his house at 69 Meeting Street. No interior access to this private home.

PHOEBE PEMBER HOUSE

Moses C. Levy was a synagogue leader and one of four Jewish founders of the Scottish Rite of Masonry in Charleston. His granddaughter, Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, grew up in this classic single house at 301 East Bay Street.  As a nurse she treated tens of thousands of wounded Confederate soldiers at Chimborazo hospital near Richmond.  House now a bed-and-breakfast and conference center.

 

JEWISH MASONS HELPED FOUND THE SCOTTISH RITE TWO CENTURIES AGO IN CHARLESTON

The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, largest fraternal organization in the world, was founded in Charleston, SC, May 31, 1801 by twelve Masons, four of whom were Jewish, an extraordinary proportion. But then Masonry was said to have been brought to America by Jews in 1736*.

Many Jewish Masons were among celebrants of the 200th anniversary of the Scottish Rite in 2001. This new monument honors the founders at the Charleston Scottish Rite Temple at 1051 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.

* - Encyclopedia Judaica