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LEVY, NATHAN:

Founder of the first Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia; born in Feb., 1704; died in Philadelphia Dec. 23, 1753. He probably went there from New York, for in 1730 a merchant of his name was a member of the Shearith Israel congregation of the latter city. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia he engaged in the general commission business with David Franks under the firm name of Levy & Franks, and continued in that business until his death. According to a letter of Richard Peters dated Sept. 20, 1738, there was laid out by Mr. Thomas Penn ("proprietary governor of Pennsylvania"), "for a burying-place for Mr. Nathan Levy and family," a plot of ground on Spruce street near Ninth street. Peters was evidently mistaken in the date, for it was on Sept. 25, 1740, that Nathan Levy obtained the first grant of thirty feet square; on June 27, 1752, he secured from the proprietary government the adjoining lot, thirty feet wide and sixty feet in depth. It was evidently the intention of Levy to permit the cemetery to be used by the Jews of his adopted city, and not to retain it for the use of his family alone. He had the ground boarded in. In 1751 he complained to the "Pennsylvania Gazette" that "unthinking persons had fired several shots against the Jews' burying-ground"; he had therefore enclosed it with a brick wall. At his death, two years later, his remains were interred in the cemetery he had founded. It is now the property of the Congregation Mickvé Israel (see Philadelphia).

Bibliography:
  • Morais, in Publications Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. 1893, i. 20-21;
  • Rosenbach, The Jews of Philadelphia Prior to 1800, pp. 8-9, Philadelphia, 1883.
A. A. S. W. R.
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