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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

David Seixas Stands Accused: 1821

By Michael Feldberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Scandal has clouded David Seixas's place in American Jewish history. The first of twelve children born to Gershom Mendes Seixas (hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York) and his second wife, David Seixas became an inventor, businessman and teacher of the deaf. Yet, none of these undertakings went smoothly. In an 1864 obituary, Isaac Leeser wrote that David Seixas's life "was as varied as the figures of a kaleidoscope, shadow and sunshine alternating with him ceaselessly. . . his biography . . . a picture remarkable for variety and strange vicissitudes."


In 1804, at age 16, David Seixas left New York to work for a family member in New Orleans. Seven years later, David moved to Philadelphia and became an agent for Harmon Hendricks, president of Shearith Israel and pioneer in the importation and manufacture of copper. David then manufactured English-style crockery, the importation of which was interrupted by the War of 1812. Seixas's innovations in the crockery field earned him the label of "father of this art in this country."


Historian Kenneth Libo notes that Seixas's inventiveness made a number of existing products more useful. Seixas created an improved sealing wax and a less costly printer's ink. He built a brewery, pioneered the daguerreotype (early photography) process in America and discovered a method for igniting anthracite coal, which to that point had been considered too dense to burn. This high-intensity coal later became a key ingredient in the mass manufacture of steel.


Like many inventors, Seixas apparently never made a substantial living from his creations. What he lacked in business acumen, however, Seixas made up for in social conscience. Libo speculates that, in 1816, Seixas heard a lecture by Thomas H. Gallaudet on the latest innovations in teaching the deaf. Inspired by Gallaudet's success with sign language, "Seixas became acquainted with a number of deaf waifs on the streets of Philadelphia whose shabby appearance and wild gestures frequently excited laughter and ridicule." Seixas brought eleven of these children to his home, which he shared with his widowed mother and two unmarried sisters. In Seixas's words, these children had been "thrown aside as useless lumber," but it was his "hope to restore [each one] to society as a useful and happy member."


Seixas gave up his businesses to teach the children a sign language he invented. Rebecca Gratz, another Jewish altruist who worked to improve the lives of Philadelphia's poor children, wrote at the time that "David Seixas is distinguishing himself among the benefactors of mankind, and is likely to reap the reward due his talent and humanity." Indeed, Seixas's efforts made such a favorable impression that, in 1820, Philadelphia's leading philanthropists gathered at the American Philosophical Society to establish the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, with Seixas as its headmaster. The school's charter promised that "indigent children, resident anywhere within the State, shall be received into the school and asylum, maintained and educated gratuitously as far as the funds of the institution shall permit."


The school was a great success. Its first graduates included Albert Newsam, who grew up to become a leading lithographer, and John Carlin, who became a successful portraitist and advocate for deaf education. In 1821, the Pennsylvania legislature, much impressed, voted to fund the annual attendance of fifty indigent students at the school.


Rebecca Gratz thought that David Seixas was "likely to reap the reward due his talent and humanity," but she was wrong. In November of 1821, Seixas was ignominiously dismissed from his position. The previous summer, the mother of one of Seixas's female students confided to Mrs. Cowgill, the school's matron, that she had dreamed her daughter was at risk of being molested. Three months later, Mrs. Cowgill somehow got the mother, who could neither read nor write, to pen a note about her dream, which Mrs. Cowgill passed to a school trustee. A committee of trustees, in the presence of Mrs. Cowgill, then met with the girl, who accused Seixas of visiting her in her sleeping quarters and hugging and kissing her. There were inconsistencies in the girl's story, and the mother admitted that she would have forgotten the dream if Mrs. Cowgill had not urged her to record it.


In his defense, Seixas wrote of his feelings toward his students:


Already, before their entrance into the Asylum, I had fed many, clothed some, and instructed all. . . I had raised them to partial habits of mental and physical industry; I beheld them elevated by my own personal sacrifices. Could I contemplate their former state of degradation . . . without experiencing a solemn responsibility . . . for them? Who cultivates a vegetable — who rears an animal — a brute — and yet feels not a kindred like sensation?


After deliberating, the committee found against Seixas.


As in many publicized abuse cases, truth competes with allegations; and we will probably never know the facts of this incident. Some might say that the case against Seixas was based on the prompted testimony of a "suggestible" girl. Isaac Leeser labeled Seixas's removal an act of anti-Semitism. Rebecca Gratz and other prominent Philadelphians, in a vote of confidence, established Seixas as the head of newly created Philadelphia Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, which they funded.


Perhaps the final word belongs to the Pennsylvania legislature, which in 1824 voted David Seixas "the thanks of the people of this Commonwealth for his unremitting zeal and success in improving the children under his tuition."


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Michael Feldberg is the Executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Comment by clicking here.



Previously:

Mordecai Manuel Noah: How Buffalo almost became the gateway to the Promised Land
How the credo of American Jewry took hold
Lincoln's fight for Jewish chaplains
Meet the Orthodox Jew who laid groundwork for scientific development of ordnance that undergirds America's current world leadership
Meet Paul Revere's pal, the Orthodox Jew who played a key role in laying Boston's cultural and business infrastructure
An all but forgotten Colonial doctor who put his Jewish values before his life
‘I am a Jew, I am a Republican and I am poor’
Vindication of an American Jewish Patriot
Mordecai Sheftall and the Wages of War
Haym Salomon: The rest of the story
Francis Salvador: Martyr of the American Revolution
How Hebrew came to Yale
The Making of a Jewish Citizen

© 2006, Michael Feldberg