Congregation Shangarai Chasset

Shangarai Chasset (Shaarei Chesed) was a nineteenth-century see picture of plaque, at site of original structure).

The congregation was founded by Jacob Solis on December 20, 1827. The synagogue’s members were primarily Jews of German background. Around the same time the synagogue was founded, a related benevolent society was established with the same name, "Shaare Chessed," (the first interment therein was that of a Hyam Harris on June 28, 1828). In 1881, the congregation merged with the Nefutzot Yehudah, (the Portuguese Sepharadic Synagogue), to form the present day Touro Synagogue.

Far from established Jewish communities, the congregation’s membership attempted to create a semblance of Jewish life and community in the new territory opened to them as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Upon its founding, most Jewish people were reportedly indifferent and not affiliated with the synagogue. Of those affiliated with the congregation, their level of observance was minimal. Jacob Rader Marcus, a noted historian, comments that the lack of affiliation to the synagogue may have in part resulted in many of the Jewish men in the Louisiana Territory taking non-Jewish wives and having non-Jewish children. However, the high intermarriage rate did not preclude the congregation from appointing men with gentile wives to leadership positions in the synagogue. Despite shortcomings in their religious observance, their love of their religion, and service to their community was nonetheless noteworthy, as it paved the way for future generations of Jewish life in New Orleans.

Synagogue leadership

Some of the rabbis to lead the congregation were considered the greatest rabbis in their era. Among them:

  • Albert "Roley" Marks, (1839 - 1845)
Eli Evans in The Provincials writes that Marks was a "fake rabbi..." and a "ludicrous but likable part-time comic actor and fireman." It appears that Marks was appointed to lead the congregation primarily due to his ability to lead services. Historians Jonathan Sarna and Jacob Rader Marcus noted in various works that during that era most U.S. "rabbis" were not ordained; calling him a fake may have been too strong a critique of his pastoral abilities. Nonetheless, he is usually noted negatively, as sources cite that Marks was known to run out of services to assist his fire brigade, was not particularly careful with kosher laws or observance of Passover, and was married to a Catholic woman. Multiple sources including Evans cite a story about an incident in synagogue in which he argued with a congregant displeased with his conduct, during the High Holiday services. (Although not cited elsewhere, it is possible that the congregant objected to Marks' being appointed to lead the services, as halachic sources recommend a respectable individual represent the congregation for High Holiday services.) In response to the congregant, Marks reportedly "banged on the podium and screamed" unpleasantries at the congregant, asserting his "... right to pray!"
Marks appears to have died sometime around 1850. Sources differ about his burial, but again, neither were favorable from a traditional Jewish standpoint. Some record the story that the rabbi’s widow, a Catholic, was restrained only with difficulty from putting a crucifix in (or on) his grave. Other sources cite that he returned to the northeast before his death, living in Philadelphia. Upon news of her father falling gravely ill, Marks’ daughter, Sarah Marks Stockton, living in Princeton, New Jersey had him baptized by her Episcopalian minister. His grave is located in Princeton, New Jersey.
  • Ferdinand Hirsch, (1845 - ?)
  • Joseph Levin, (1855 - 1859)
December, 1855: Reverend Jos. Levin is elected Rabbi. One Hundredth Anniversary of Touro Synagogue, 1828-1928
  • Solomon Jacob (also referred to as Jacobs), (1859-1860)
A native of London, England, Jacob was the rabbi and cantor through his death in 1860. Jacob also published a Jewish newspaper called the Cornerstone until his death.
The Occident notes a rabbi with a similar name as having been a leader of the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Kingston, Jamaica in various editions, (August 1846 and January and February 1851 to name a few) and it is possible that this was the same individual. It is interesting to note that the community members that later approached Rabbi Jacob's successor, Rabbi Illowy to determine the kosher status of the Muscovy duck, cited that the duck had been ruled to be a kosher bird by the rabbinic authorities in Jamaica.
In the "One Hundredth Anniversary of Touro Synagogue, 1828-1928", it is noted that in August, 1860, "Rev. Solomon Jacobs dies. Burial conducted by Rev. Herman Kohlmeyer."
  • Isaac Leucht, (1868 - 1872, 1879-1881, when congregation merged with the Nefutzot Yehudah)

See also


  • Benjamin, Israel Joseph. Three Years in America, 1859-1862. (Arno Press 1975). ISBN 0-405-06693-7.
  • Evans, Eli N. The Provincials. (Atheneum 1973) ISBN 0-684-83412-X
  • Hill, Samuel S. On Jordan's Stormy Banks: Religion in the South: a Southern Exposure (Mercer University Press 1983) ISBN 0-86554-035-7
  • Kahn, Catherine C. and Lachoff, Irwin. The Jewish Community of New Orleans. (Arcadia Publishing 2005) ISBN 0-7385-1835-2
  • Rader Marcus, Jacob. United States Jewry, 1776-1985 (Wayne State University Press 1989) ISBN 0-8143-2186-0
  • Rader Marcus, Jacob. The Dynamics of American Jewish History: Jacob Rader Marcus's Essays on American Jewry (UPNE 2004) ISBN 1-58465-343-4
  • Wiernick, Peter History of the Jews in America: From the Period of the Discovery of the New World to the Present (The Jewish Press Publishing Company 1912)
  • Zivotofsky, Rabbi Ari Z. Ph.D. and Amar, Zohar Ph.D. The Halachic Tale of Three American Birds: Turkey, Prairie Chicken, and Muscovy Duck The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society. (Rabbi ( reprint of article)
  • Roley Marks mentioned in Princeton Packet OnlineNews
  • The Occident and American Jewish Advocate
  • International Jewish Cemetery Project - Louisiana detail.
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