Gershom Mendes Seixas
Gershom Mendes Seixas (1745-1816) was the first American-born spiritual leader of Shearith Israel, having been raised and educated in our community. He began service as Hazan in 1768, and quickly showed himself to be an adept synagogue functionary, beloved by the Congregation. When British troops took control of New York City in 1776, Rev. Seixas and many congregants fled New York rather than live under British rule. He became Hazan at Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia through the war years. In 1784, he returned to New York to continue his service to Shearith Israel as Hazan, mohel, and communal leader. Aside from his many responsibilities as the religious head of New York’s Jewish community, he was active in a wide range of civic organizations. He was a Trustee of the Humane Society; a member of the Board of Regents of the University of New York; and a regent and Trustee of Columbia College. In 1943, the Jewish Studies Society of Columbia University became known as the Seixas Society.