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Jacques Judah Lyons papers

Identifier: P-15

Scope and Content Note

The Jacques Judah Lyons Collection is a valuable source for researchers interested in Jewish History in early America, and in the West Indies. The collection primarily consists of material concerning the Shearith Israel Congregation, New York Jewish community, Touro Synagogue, Newport Jewish community, Philadelphia Jewish community, and West Indies Jewish communities. The collection also includes material relating to Jews who served in wars or military missions for the United States, correspondence of the Jewish leaders with George Washington, information concerning Haym Salomon, and a detailed log book of the Ship "Sansom."

The Jacques Judah Lyons Collection is composed of manuscripts, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, notebooks, log book and photographs. Materials are in fragile condition and must be handled very carefully. Certain items may be restricted from use due to fragility.

The collection is stored in a total of 14 manuscript boxes and three oversize boxes. Manuscripts are organized numerically:

Notebook Extracts Relating To:

  1. Congregation Shearith Israel, New York
  2. Gomez Family, New York
  3. Hays Family, New York
  4. Moses and Levy Families, New York
  5. Seixas Family, New York
  6. Simson Family, New York
  7. Solomons Family, New York
  8. Jews in New York
  9. Newport Synagogue
  10. Newport Cemetery
  11. Masonry in Newport
  12. Touro Family, Newport
  13. Gould Family
  14. Jews of Newport
  15. Jews in Philadelphia
  16. Haym Salomon
  17. Jews in South America and the West Indies
  18. Jews in North America
  19. Jews in Wars of the United States and Correspondence with Washington
  20. Scrapbooks of Rev. J.J. Lyons
  21. Pamphlets in the Collection (Note: These pamphlets are located in the Rosenbach Rare Book Collection, and have not been microfilmed as part of the J.J. Lyons Collection)


  • undated, 1705-1885, 1908, 1911-1914, 1917-1919, 1933, 1950


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Dutch, Hebrew, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Researchers Please Note: The Jacques Judah Lyons Collection is available on microfilm only.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

For reference questions, please email:

Biographical Note

Jacques Judah Lyons (1813-1877)

Jacques Judah Lyons, hazan, rabbi, and community leader, was born in Surinam, Dutch Guiana on Menahem 25, 5573 (August 25, 1813). His parents, Judah Eleazar and Mary Asser Lyons, emigrated to Surinam from Philadelphia in the early 1800s. Jacques' education was limited to the institutions the Dutch colony could afford; however, he spoke several languages in addition to Dutch, including Hebrew, English, German, and French and possessed a strong understanding of Spanish.

Jacques began his career as a hazan in Surinam in Congregation Nevie Shalom, a synagogue founded by Spanish-Portuguese Jews. In 1836 he left for Philadelphia, his parents' home state, and was hired within a few months by Congregation Beth Shalome of Richmond, Virginia. He served Beth Shalome for two years, winning the high esteem of the congregation. In 1839, following the death of Rev. Isaac B. Mendez Seixas, he was elected Seixas' successor as minister of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City. He married Grace Nathan, daughter of Seixas Nathan and Sarah Mendes Seixas in 1842. Jacques and Grace had three children: Julius J., Sarah, and Alfred.

During his thirty-eight years of ministry, he became highly active in Jewish welfare and advocacy for Orthodox Judaism. He served as superintendent of the Shearith Israel's school, Polonies Talmud Torah; president of its benevolent society, Hebra Hased va-Emet; director of the Sampson Simson Jewish Seminary and Scientific Institute; and one of the founders of Jews Hospital, later renamed The Mount Sinai Hospital.

Jacques possessed a deep interest in Jewish history. In 1854, Jacques and Rabbi Abraham de Sola of Montreal collaborated in writing A Jewish Calendar for Fifty Years, a book that contained a comprehensive Jewish calendar, an essay on the Jewish calendar system, as well as historical information concerning Jewish communities in the United States, Canada, and the West Indies. Prior to 1861, and continuing to the end of his life, Jacques painstakingly gathered sources and information on United States Jewish history in the hopes of publishing his findings. He made copies of some of the documents he found, and also obtained papers from old families, such as Naphtali Phillips, Isaac Phillips, Joshua Phillips, Horatio Gomez, Joseph Nones, the Pesoa, and Judah Families. His family later destroyed a portion of his papers.

Jacques died at the age of 63 on August 15, 1877, shortly before Rosh Hashanah. His funeral services were held on August 15, 1877 in Shearith Israel, and were conducted by his successor, Rev. Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, Rev. Dr. Abraham De Sola of Montreal, Rev. Samuel M. Isaacs of Congregations Shaarai Tefilla of New York, and Rev. Sabato Morais of Congregation Mikve Israel of Philadelphia. His niece through marriage, Emma Lazarus, wrote the poem "Rosh Hashanah, 5638" in his memory. He is buried in the congregation's cemetery in Long Island.


De Sola Pool, David and Tamar. An Old Faith in the New World: Portrait of Shearith Israel 1654-1954. New York: Columbia University Press, 1955, 178-182.

Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (PAJHS), vol. 21 (1913), xxiii-xxviii; and vol. 27 (1920), 144-9.

Encyclopaedia Judaica. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1972. vol. 11, 626.


12.05 Linear Feet (14 manuscript boxes; 3 oversize boxes (11.5 x 18 x 3.25), (16.5 x 20.5 x 3), (23 x 31.5 x 3)


Jacques Judah Lyons, hazzan, rabbi and community leader, was born in Surinam and emigrated to Philadelphia in the early 1800s. Minister of the New York Congregation Shearith Israel for 38 years, he gathered extensive materials on early Jewish history in the United States, Canada and the West Indies. His papers include manuscripts, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, notebooks, photographs, and a Sansom ship's log book. Contains material relating to Jews in North and South America generally and more specifically to Congregation Shearith Israel and the Jews in New York, the Touro Synagogue and cemetery and the Jews in Newport, Rhode Island, Philadelphia and the West Indies. Also contains material relating to Jews in the wars of the United States, correspondence of the Jews with George Washington and items relating to Haym Salomon. Collection consists of manuscript material and five notebooks and three scrapbooks of Lyons. Contains material not listed in calendar consisting of sermons by Lyons, a manuscript prayer book used in Surinam and a guide for religious ceremonies at Congregation Shearith Israel, as well as letters written during the Civil War period and correspondence relating to the personal life and career of Lyons.

Acquisition Information

The Lyons collection was donated to the American Jewish Historical Society in 1908 by Jacques Judah Lyons' children: Julius J. Lyons, Sarah Lyons, and Alfred Lyons.

Guide to the Papers of Jacques Judah Lyons (1813-1877), undated, 1705-1885, 1908, 1911-1914, 1917-1919, 1933, 1950   P-15
Processed by AJHS Staff
© 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Conservation and Microfilming for this collection has been made possible through a generous grant from the New York State Library, Division of Library Development. Digitization of the manuscripts within the collection has been made possible through a generous grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council.

Revision Statements

  • March, June 2020: EHyman-post-ASpace migration cleanup

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States