MORDECAI, JACOB (1762–1838), U.S. merchant and educator. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his early formal education was slight, but he studied at home and in the synagogue and later earned a reputation as a scholar and biblical authority. He moved to Richmond, Virginia, in 1782 and became an independent businessman. In 1784 he was in New York, where he formed a brief partnership with Haym *Salomon, but after the death of the latter in 1785, Mordecai's business failed. He returned to Virginia, attempting various commercial ventures, and finally in 1792 moved to Warrenton, North Carolina, where he became a successful merchant. In 1807 Mordecai lost heavily in tobacco speculations and was forced to give up his business. In 1809, encouraged and backed by a group of townspeople, he opened the Warrenton Female Academy, which became famous throughout the South as a school for girls. Mordecai and his family ran the Academy successfully until 1819, when he sold it and moved to a farm near Richmond. He served as president of Beth Shalome, the first synagogue in the city, which he had helped found. He lived in Richmond from 1832.
Mordecai, in: ajhsp, 6 (1897), 39–48; Falk, in: North Carolina Historical Review, 35 (1958), 281–98.
[Stanley L. Falk]