Adolphus Sterne de Nacogdoches, Albert Moses Levy, Jacob and Phineas De Cordova, Simon Mussina, Henri Castro, and Michael Seeligson are just a few of the renowned Jewish Texans who have left an indelible mark on the Lone Star State. According to a report, 90 percent of Jewish households in the Houston area are actively engaged in some way, whether through home celebrations, synagogue memberships, or other forms of participation. The trunk of Shapiro, which today welcomes visitors to the recently opened Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans, is part of a lesser-known history of Jews in the United States, in which Texas plays a pivotal role. While some smaller towns that characterized the beginning of Southern Jewish life may have experienced a decline, other cities are in the midst of a revival. Prominent Texan Jews include the late retailer Stanley Marcus, who was a longtime CEO of Dallas-based Neiman-Marcus, and Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computer.
The well-known story of American Jews is a journey from Central and Eastern Europe to Ellis Island, and then to New York or to a large urban center in the north. Organized Judaism in Texas began in Galveston with the establishment of the first Jewish cemetery in Texas in 1852. With each new anti-Jewish incident in Texas, the Jewish community is sandwiched between two symbols. In 1856, the first organized Jewish services were held at the home of Isadore Dyer, a Galveston resident. Temple Beth-El is known as one of the state's most progressive Reform Jewish congregations due to its open support for the LGBT Jewish community, while B'nai Abraham, currently led by Rabbi Leon Toubin, is the oldest Orthodox synagogue in the state.
Annual kosher chilli preparation activities reflect how those Jewish families created a new community and a new home here in Texas. Despite their vulnerability to anti-Semitism, some white Jews also participated in struggles for labor rights, civil rights, prison reforms, and more. Leaders such as Jacob Schiff from New York devised a plan to redirect the flow of Jewish immigrants to another part of the country both to alleviate the burden of host communities and to subtly force newcomers to assimilate instead of crowding into impoverished enclaves. Today's Jewish Texans are proud to be part of this rich history and continue to make their mark on Texas culture. From prominent business leaders like Stanley Marcus and Michael Dell to religious leaders like Rabbi Leon Toubin and activists like Jacob Schiff, Jews have been an integral part of Texas history for centuries. The story of Jews in Texas is one that is often overlooked but is nonetheless an important part of our state's history. From their humble beginnings as immigrants seeking refuge from persecution to their current status as respected members of society, Jews have played an important role in shaping Texas into what it is today. The legacy left by these famous Jewish Texans will continue to be remembered for generations to come.