Chief commercial city of the state of Texas; on Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It was founded in 1836, and has a population (1903) of 32,745. Jews settled in Galveston in 1840. In 1852 the Jewish Cemetery Association was organized, a plot of ground for burial-purposes being donated by the late Isadore Dyer. In 1856 the first Jewish services were held at the home of Isadore Dyer in a room dedicated to that purpose. In 1866 the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Galveston, Texas, was organized and chartered. A burial- plot was purchased in 1867, and another in 1897. The charter members of the Benevolent Society were J. W. Frank, J. Rosenfield, I. C. Levy, I. Fedder, Isadore Dyer, Leon Blum, J. Lieberman, and L. Block, the last three of whom are still (1903) living.
Congregation B'nai Israel (Reform) was organized in 1868 and chartered in 1870. The temple was dedicated in the latter year, and has been enlarged twice, now having a seating capacity of 764 persons. The congregation has had four rabbis: Alexander Rosenspitz, 1868-71; Abraham Blum, 1871-85; Joseph Silverman, 1885-88; Henry Cohen, 1888.
The Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent Society was organized in 1870, Mrs. Caroline Block (d. 1902) serving as president for thirty years; the Harmony Club was organized in 1870, Zacharias Frankel Lodge I. O. B. B. in 1874, and the Ladies' Auxiliary Society in 1887.
In 1894, under the title of "Young Men's Hebrew Association," the Orthodox Jews, the large majority of whom settled there after the Russian persecution of 1891, established a congregation. Orthodox services have been held since 1887, first in private houses and later in a building acquired for the purpose. The Y. M. H. A. has a charitable society—Bikur Cholim—and a Ladies' Auxiliary (established 1903). B'nai Zion Lodge (founded 1898) represents the local Zionists.
Galveston was visited by a terrific storm on Sept. 8, 1900, which left destitution, wide-spread misery, and death in its wake. The dead numbered about 8,000, and property to the value of many million dollars was swept away. Forty-one members of the Jewish community perished. Of the twenty-eight places of worship in the city, but five remained standing, and two of these were very badly damaged. Of the other three, Temple B'nai Israel was one. The sum of $26,427.33 was contributed by Jewish organizations and individuals for distribution among the Jewish sufferers, and was disbursed by a local committee made up of representatives of each of the communal institutions.Prominent Citizens.
The Jews of Galveston have always been prominent in civic as in business life. A number of them have served as aldermen, and in 1853 Michael Seeligson was elected mayor, resigning a few months thereafter. Upon the commission controlling the affairs of the city at the present time the governor of the state appointed former City Treasurer I. H. Kempner. I. Lovenberg has been a member of the Galveston school board for seventeen years, and one of its most active workers. He is also president of the Galveston Orphans' Home, a non- sectarian institution, and for fourteen years was president of the Hebrew Benevolent Society.
- H. Cohen, Settlement of the Jews in Texas, in Pub. Jew. His. Soc. No. 2;
- idem, The Jews in Texas, in Pub. Jew. Hist. Soc. No. 4;
- C. Ousley, Galveston in 1900, Atlanta, Ga.;
- Reports Hebrew Benevolent Society, Galveston;
- Reports Congregation B'nai Israel, Galveston.