Israel DeLieben

Exchange Street

Scholar, merchant, and mason

Israel DeLieben (1748–1807) successfully combined scholarship, business acumen, and a lively fraternal life. Born in Bohemia, he had immigrated to Charleston by 1788, when he and Israel Myers served on an ecclesiastical court (bet din) convened by the hazanA cantor or prayer leader in a synagogue. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when there were few ordained rabbis in the United States, congregations often were led by hazanim, who were commonly referred to as “Reverend.” of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Abraham Azuby, to decide a divorce action brought by Mordecai Lyon against his wife. DeLieben became a merchant, and, in 1792, he married Hannah (née Levy) Hart (1761–1850), the widow of Hyman Hart, who had himself been a leading merchant in post-Revolutionary Charleston.

DeLieben maintained close ties to the Hart family and, in 1801, joined Daniel Hart (Hyman Hart’s brother) and John Stewart, a Protestant and a Mason, in the vendue (auction sales) and commission business. Located on Exchange Street, the firm was succeeded in 1803 by a new partnership that DeLieben formed with Aaron Moïse. At about the same time, DeLieben allowed his wife, Hannah, to become a feme sole. She could now conduct business independently of her husband and is listed in the Charleston directories, under her own name, as a shopkeeper.

Charleston was home to several lodges affiliated with the Masonic order (York rite). Israel DeLieben became the Grand Lodge’s Hospitaller in 1797, accepting responsibility to visit sick or distressed members, and extend the lodge’s financial relief as appropriate. In May 1801, he was one of four Jews, along with Abraham Alexander, Emanuel de la Motta, and Moses Clava Levy, who joined seven other men to found the Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Masonry.

Several years after Israel DeLieben’s death, his widow, Hannah Levy Hart DeLieben, was married a third time, to Moses Davis (1759–1843). She retained her feme soleA married woman who had the legal right to manage her own commercial affairs. Otherwise, women in this era were the virtual property of their husbands. status, continued her business as a shopkeeper, and bought and sold several slaves. In 1822, she offered a reward for a runaway slave, a “Negro Fellow named Jacob, about 21 years of age, thin made; had on brown jacket, striped waistcoat, black hat. Lately employed by Mr. Miott and the Merchant’s Hotel (King and Society); generally very talkative. Lately the property of Dugald Campbell, and lived at Cheraw the last year.” It is not known if her notice bore fruit.

Honoring Jewish founders, Scottish Rite Masonry

Honoring Jewish founders, Scottish Rite Masonry

Plaque on inner wall of Coming Street Cemetery memorializing the four Jewish men who were among the founders of the Supreme Council, Mother Council of the World, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.