Dr. Jacob Canter DeLaMotta

106 Broad Street

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 organTwo years after the devastating 1838 fire, members of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim circulated a document advocating for the installation of an organ in the new synagogue, then under construction. The move was supported by hazan Gustavus Poznanski and reform-inclined congregants who wanted to enjoy instrumental music in synagogue worship. It was opposed by those who held to the traditional prohibition of instrumental music on the Sabbath. The “organ faction” won the day and the traditionalists left to form their own congregation, Shearit Israel. 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,A 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.” 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.”

106 Broad Street, 2016

106 Broad Street, 2016

Location of Dr. Jacob Canter DeLaMotta's medical dispensary. Photo by Jack Alterman.