Dr. Jacob Canter DeLaMotta
A doctor and religious traditionalist
This building housed the medical dispensary of Dr. Jacob Canter DeLaMotta (b. 1789), which he operated from 1825 until his death in 1845. Born in Savannah, DeLaMotta moved to Charleston at age eleven or twelve and, in 1810, at twenty-one, graduated from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania—most likely the first Jew to earn a medical degree from an American institution of higher learning. He served as a regimental surgeon in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812, and practiced medicine in New York and Savannah before returning to Charleston in 1823 as a working physician. He was a leading member of the Medical Society of South Carolina and the Medical College of South Carolina and founded the South Carolina Institution for Correcting Impediments of Speech on Wentworth Street in 1826. In 1835, he married Charlotte Lazarus (1804–1894), the youngest of Marks and Rachel Benjamin Lazarus’ seventeen children.
DeLaMotta was active in civic life, serving as grand commander of the Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Masonry (Grand Lodge), and remained a staunch traditionalist in Jewish life. After Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim voted in 1840 to install an organ in the synagogue, he was among those who left to found their own congregation, Shearit Israel (Remnant of Israel). DeLaMotta served as president of the congregation and, for its first two years, as acting hazan, but he faced opposition within his own family: his brothers-in-law Benjamin D. Lazarus and Michael Lazarus were both ardent reformers, and, according to his obituary, “his female relatives were attached to the new order of things.”