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Simson

SIMSON

SIMSON , early American New York family. solomon (1738–1801) was born in New York City. A prominent merchant, he and his family were active throughout their lives in the Spanish-Portuguese Congregation Shearith Israel. He and his brother Sampson (see below) were active in founding the Chamber of Commerce of New York. Simson espoused the U.S. cause during the American Revolution, moving to Connecticut during the British occupation of New York City. After the war he returned to New York City. As head of Congregation Shearith Israel, he was active in having his congregation and those of Philadelphia, Richmond, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina, jointly send a congratulatory letter to President George Washington in 1790. In 1795 he and Alexander Hirsch of New York City addressed a Hebrew letter to the Chinese Jews of Kai Feng Fu in Honan province, China. Active in New York politics, Simson was one of the founders of the Democratic-Republican Party of New York, serving as a vice president of the party and becoming its president in 1797.

Simson's brother, sampson (the elder; c. 1725–1773), was also born in New York and was a prominent merchant there. Some time before the American Revolution he loaned a biblical Hebrew manuscript to Benjamin Kennicott of England for use in the latter's Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum.

Solomon Simson's son, samson (the younger; 1781–1857), who was born in Danbury, Connecticut, was a lawyer and an Orthodox Jew, and was active in Congregation Shearith Israel as well as in philanthropic endeavors. At the Columbia College commencement exercises in 1800, he delivered a Hebrew oration of the "Historical Traits of the Jews from Their First Settlement in North America," which was the first sketch of U.S. Jewish history by a U.S. citizen. He studied law under Aaron Burr and was admitted to the bar in 1802, one of the first Jewish lawyers in New York City. For reasons of health, he gave up the practice of law after a few years, and lived quietly in Yonkers, New York, as a bachelor country gentleman. Simson was interested in prison reform, in Westchester County politics, and in religious and charitable movements in Yonkers, New York City, and Palestine. He aided in the founding of a number of institutions, serving as president of some. He corresponded with Isaac *Leeser and Warder *Cresson on matters concerning Palestine.

Among the agencies he helped establish were the North American Relief Society for the Indigent Jews in Palestine (1853), the Jews Orphan and Indigent Asylum (1852), the Jewish Theological Seminary and Scientific Institution (1852), and the Jews' Hospital of New York (the present Mount Sinai Hospital). He enabled the Russian Jewish congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol of New York to acquire a synagogue building. Simson made a cash bequest to Columbia College, the first of its kind.

bibliography:

I.J. Benjamin, Drei Jahre in America, 1 (1862), 27–29; idem, Three Years in America, 18591862, 1 (1956), 61–64; Hershkowitz, in: ajhsq, 56 (1966), 115–8; 200–2; Isaacs, in: ajhsp, 10 (1902), 109–17; J.J. Lyons and A. de Sola, A Jewish Calendar for Fifty Years from A.M. 5614 to A.M. 5664 (1854), 167; B. Kennicott, Ten AnnualAccounts of the Collation of the Old Testament Begun in 1760 and Completed in 1769 (1770), 161; J.R. Marcus, Studies in American Jewish History (1969), 54–107; Meyer, in: ajhsp, 37 (1947), 430–3; 46 (1956), 51–58; Perlman, ibid., 37 (1947) 434; D. de S. Pool, Portraits Etched in Stone, 16821831 (1952), passim; T. de S. Pool and D. de S. Pool, An Old Faith in the New World, 16541954 (1955), passim; M.U. Schappes, A Documentary History of the Jews in the United States 16541875 (1950), 82–83; Sokobin, in: ajhsp, 49 (1959), 39–52; A.F. Young, Democratic Republicans of New York, 17631797 (1967), 186, 248, 394, 404.

[Isidore S. Meyer]

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