Way Back When... 1742
Published 11:14 am, Friday, December 2, 2016
The first Jewish family to move to Westport was the family of Michael Judah in 1742. “Judah” means “Jew” in many languages. A map of Westport from 1867 shows Judah Place in the Saugatuck area, which is one of the early settlements of the Judah family. Today that area is known as Judy Point and Judy Point Lane.
The Judahs were Sephardic Jews who, though they had known bigotry since their flight from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition, had never been set apart in ghettos like the Ashkenazi Jews and the rest of Europe. There was no anti-Semitism in Colonial America, and they fit right in with everyone else.
Michael Judah was a merchant and a trader. He married Martha Raymond, the daughter of a local family. It was quite common for Jews and gentiles to intermarry in Colonial America.
Judah kept his religion and was a member of Shearith Israel in New York City, which was founded in 1654 and was the first synagogue to hold services in America.
Judah’s son, David, fought in the American Revolution. Other descendants included the Rev. Henry Raymond Judah, of the Episcopal Church in Fairfield; Henry R. Judah, an early graduate of Columbia University; and Henry Moses Judah, a West Point graduate and a classmate of Ulysses S. Grant, a hero of the Mexican War and a brigadier general in the Civil War.
Margaret Mazer wrote this for the Westport Historical Society. For information on its upcoming Gala, Holiday House Tour and membership, visit westporthistory.org. The Remarkable Gift Shop offers unique gifts about Westport. Mazer can be reached at 203- 571-8704.