Benjamin A. Rodriguez
Benjamin A. Rodriguez (1817–1891) graduated from the Medical College of South Carolina in 1834 and the next year was listed as a “Surgeon Dentist” with an office on Meeting Street. He was elected a member of the American Society of Dental Surgeons at its first meeting in 1840. Active in Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Rodriguez often loaned the congregation money. In 1839, he was fined by the board for officiating at a marriage, contrary to a by-law that allowed only 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.” to fulfill such duties. In 1850, he hosted Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819–1900), the organizational genius behind the rise of American Reform Judaism in the late 19th century, on his visit to Charleston. Wise referred to his host’s “splendid rooms” and felt he “was the guest of American aristocrats.”
Rodriguez married Cecilia Solomons (b. 1816) in 1835. Their daughter Helen Rosalie (1843–1866) married journalist and writer Daniel Ottolengui (1836–1918); their son Benjamin A. Rodrigues Ottolengui (1861–1937) later gained fame in his grandfather’s field of dentistry. Also an acclaimed mystery writer, B. A. R. Ottolengui has been compared by some critics to the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In one of Ottolengui’s novels he suggested the premise that led to the field of forensic dentistry.