Da Costa, Isaac

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DA COSTA, ISAAC (1721–1783), merchant and shipping agent of colonial Charleston, South Carolina. Da Costa was born in London, scion of an eminent Anglo-Jewish family of Spanish-Portuguese origin. He received religious training from Isaac *Nieto, haham of the Sephardi congregation of London. Da Costa immigrated to Charleston in the late 1740s. He helped found Congregation Beth Elohim in 1749, serving as ḥazzan for some years. In 1764 he deeded a plot of land to the congregation for use as a communal cemetery, which exists today as Coming Street Cemetery, the oldest Jewish burial ground in the South. Da Costa is the earliest recorded Jewish Mason in South Carolina. He was in partnership with Thomas Farr, Jr., for about five years from 1758, handling exports of rice, indigo, lumber, and pitch, and imports and coastal shipments of European and Indian goods, rum, spermaceti, and slaves. An ardent partisan of the patriot cause, Da Costa was banished and his property seized by the British when Charleston fell in 1780. He took refuge with his family in Philadelphia, where, in 1782, he helped establish Congregation Mikveh Israel. Returning after the Revolution, he died in Charleston.


B.A. Elzas, The Jews of South Carolina (1905), index; C. Reznikoff and U.Z. Engelman, The Jews of Charleston (1950), passim; J.R. Marcus, Early American Jewry (1953), index; J.R. Rosenbloom, A Biographical Dictionary of Early American Jews (1960), 28–29.

[Thomas J. Tobias]