Abraham Moïse II

College Street

A lawyer, lover of literature, and lay leader of reform

The son of immigrants who fled from the slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) in 1791, Abraham Moïse II (1799–1869) was the eighth of nine children and the younger brother of poet Penina Moïse. (Abraham’s older brother, Hyam Moïse, also married a daughter of I. C. Moses.) The Moïse family lived here (house is no longer standing).

Abraham Moïse, a successful attorney, worked in the office of Thomas S. Grimké; he also served as a justice of the peace from 1827 to 1840, and as magistrate from 1842 to 1859. Thomas S. Grimké was a brother of the famous abolitionist Grimké sisters, and Moïse gained fame himself as the friend and protégé of Isaac Harby (his wife’s first cousin). Moïse helped to lead the first sustained effort to reform Judaism in America. He wrote the petition the reformers presented in 1824 to the adjunta of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, which was promptly rejected, and he is credited with drafting the constitution of the Reformed Society of Israelites. In 1825, he was elected the society’s orator and became a member of its correspondence committee. He delivered the society’s second anniversary address in 1826, served as vice president in 1827, and was president from 1828 to 1832. Finally, in 1833, Moïse oversaw the dissolution of the Reformed Society, sadly returning funds to those who had contributed for the construction of a new sanctuary. After Isaac Harby’s death in 1828, Moïse had co-edited and published his friend’s collected works and compiled the Reformed Society’s Sabbath Service and Miscellaneous Prayers. Printed in Charleston in 1830, this was the first reform prayer book produced in America.

Abraham Moïse II (1799–1869), ca. 1860

Abraham Moïse II (1799–1869), ca. 1860

Carte de visite by George S. Cook (1819–1902), Charleston, SC. Moïse helped to lead the first sustained effort to reform Judaism in America.