Consul Noah received the sealed order of his recall aboard an American war ship. He read the order quietly to
himself without expression or acknowledgment as the ship's commander, Stephen Decatur looked on. Noah needed Decatur to
believe that he was still the representative of the American government to pay the promised monies to the Dey for the
release of the American prisoners. Noah had borrowed the funds from another diplomat to free the American captives. If
Decatur refused, Noah would have been imprisoned in the dungeons of Tunis.
Reading the letter quietly, Noah was shocked. He was mortified as an American. He was insulted, defamed and
angered as a Jewish American. He let on to nothing.
The letter read:
At the time of your appointment, as Consul at Tunis, it was not known that the RELIGION which you profess would form
any obstacle to the exercise of your Consular functions. Recent information, however, on which entire reliance may be
placed, proves that it would produce a very unfavorable effect. IN CONSEQUENCE OF WHICH, the President has deemed it
expedient to revoke your commission. On the receipt of this letter, therefore, you will consider yourself no longer in
the public service. There are some circumstances connected with your accounts, which require a more particular
explanation, which, with that already given, are not approved by the President.
I am, very respectfully, Sir,
Your obedient servant
JAMES MONROE "
Though Madison may have been prevailed upon to make Noah a scapegoat, a political cover for his policy of bribing the
Barbary pirates, it was believed very strongly that Tobias Lear, bitter and angry, had played a significant part in
Noah was outraged. Clearing his business in Tunis and making an excusing pretense to the Dey Noah returned to
Washington to clear his name and the vicious insult to American Jews and the new found freedom of the American
Returning to the United States Noah took pen in hand to write the memoirs of his experiences and to put his side of
the story before the public. Noah wrote, Travels in England, France, Spain and the Barbary States. It was a
spirited defense of his actions, his Jewish identity and the falsehood that was being represented that his religion and
malfeasance in office had been the reason for his recall. Noah aggressively wrote about the inconsistencies and the
falsehoods of the accusations.
"My religion an object of hostility? I thought I was a citizen of the United States, protected by the constitution
in my religious as well as in my civil rights. My religion was known to the government at the time of my appointment,
and it constituted one of the prominent causes why I was sent to Barbary; if then any 'unfavorable' events had been
created by my religion, they should have been first ascertained, and not acting upon a supposition, upon imaginary
consequences, have thus violated one of the most sacred and delicate rights of a citizen. Admitting, then, that my
religion had produced an unfavorable effect, no official notice should have been taken of it; I could have been
recalled without placing on file a letter thus hostile to the spirit and character of our institutions. But my religion
was not known in Barbary; from the moment of my landing, I had been in the full possession of my Consular functions,
respected and feared by the government, and enjoying the esteem and good will of every resident. What injury
could my religion create? I lived like other Consuls, the flag of the United States was displayed on Sundays and
Christian holidays; the Catholic Priest, who came into my house to sprinkle holy water and pray, was received with
deference, and freely allowed to perform his pious purpose; the bare-footed Franciscan, who came to beg, received alms
in the name of Jesus Christ; the Greek Bishop, who sent to me a decorated branch of palm on Sunday, received, in return
a customary donation; the poor Christian slaves, when they wanted a favor came to me; the Jews alone asked nothing of
me. Why then am I to be persecuted for my religion?" 10
Moving to New York, Noah began a major letter writing campaign to clear his name. Naphtali Phillips, Noah's uncle
owned the National Advocate and it provided Noah with a readymade public outlet to clear the story of his time as an
American representative to the Barbary States. In time Noah became the chief editor of the paper and discovered another
niche in his life. Noah became a journalist and highly respected editor of many newspapers until his passing in 1851.
Noah was well known in the American Jewish community. His efforts to protect and defend Jewish rights garnered him a
prominent position as a voice of the American Jewish community. Yet his experience with Monroe and the apparent anti-
Semitic motivations of his humiliating recall as Consul to Tunis by Madison supported by Tobias Lear left its mark.
Noah began to develop a concept that was part of every Jew's daily prayer and hope for a return to Zion. Noah had
encountered the Jews of the Barbary Coast. He met Jews on his travels in England and France. England and France had
not emancipated their Jews nor had any country in Europe. Other than America, there was no safe refuge, no home
that the Jews could call their own. Perhaps it was a shocking sense of disillusionment but more likely it was a
realization that no matter how good, how generous, how idealistic the American experiment was, it could also be a
temporary one. Noah began to formulate his own solution to the "Jewish problem." He understood that America would, for
many Jews, be but a temporary home. America was a shining city on the hill as the Pilgrims had characterized the
New World. America was a refuge for Jews and for all refugees. The great Jewish American poetess Emma Lazarus, whose
words would be inscribed on a plaque affixed to the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor eighty years later,
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The
wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me;
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Noah realized America was not going to be the permanent home for all Jews. America was imperfect for all Jewish
yearnings. America was a temporary home for some and a permanent home for others. America was the Jewish refuge in the
same way as Ireland, France, Italy, Greece or Syria, India or China was the homeland for many later immigrants.
Shearith Israel - 1860
At the dedication of Shearith Israel's new house of worship in New York, April 17, 1818, Noah was asked to be one of
the speakers. Noah expressed the ancient longing of the Jewish people for Zion and the pragmatic realism that
characterized his life.
.they (the Jews) will march in triumphant numbers, and possess themselves once more of Syria, and take their
rank among the governments of the earth. This is not fancy I have been too much among them in Europe and Africa
I am too well acquainted with their views and sentiments in Asia, to doubt their intentions
. Let us then hope
that the day is not far distant when
.we may look forward toward the country where our people have established a
mild, just and honorable government, accredited by the world, and admired by all good men
"Until the Jews can recover their ancient rights and dominions, and take their ranks among the governments of
the earth, this is their chosen country; here they can rest with the persecuted of every clime, secure in person and
property, protected from tyranny and oppression, and participating of (sic) equal rights and immunities. Forty years of
experience have tested the wisdom of our intuitions' and they only will be surrendered with the existence of the
Noah's actions and his period of representation of the United States in Tunis were thoroughly investigated, in a
highly unusual action, by the Attorney General instead of the Department of State. Consul Noah was completely
exonerated of any malfeasance in his official duties. However, his honor, and the assault on the freedoms explicitly
promised to all Americans through the Constitution were not addressed.
Consul Noah presented his report to the State Department in late 1816. It was over a year later before there was a
response. Noah wrote of the incident and the reasons he felt his rights as an American Jew had been attacked in his
travel memoirs as the American Consul to Tunis, Travels in England, France, Spain and the Barbary State, 1819.
"This letter I delivered open to Mr. Graham, then Chief Clerk of the Department of State; Mr. Monroe declining to
see me, instructed Mr. Graham to inquire what I wanted. I had expressed but one desire, from which I never
varied. It was to do me justice; settle my accounts, and if there is a dollar due me, let me know it officially; that
was the first step in my situation, and after mortifying, perplexing, and expensive delays, after twelve months had
elapsed, after three special journeys to Washington, the Attorney General! was instructed to adjust my
claims, and at length I received the following letter;
Department of State, January 14, 1817, AY
Your account as Consul of the United States at Tunis, has been adjusted at this Department, in conformity with the
opinion of the Attorney General of the 30th of December last, of which you have a copy; and a balance of Five
thousand Two Hundred and Thirteen Dollars Fifty-seven Cents, Reported To Be Due You, Will Be Paid To Your Order, at any
time after Congress hall have made the necessary appropriations. A Sum of One thousand Six Hundred and Sixty Four
Dollars, besides a charge of thirty-five per cent, loss on the disbursement of Your Agent at Algiers, is Suspended, for
reason mentioned in the account of which you have been apprised.
I am Sir, respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Being paid for his services was a cause of concern to Noah. He was not a wealthy man. However the real cause of his
protest, his concern for his recall was a flagrant disregard and violation of a sacred belief he had in the American
Constitution and the promise of freedom and equality guaranteed.
"Thus ended my connection with the government, and thus fell to the ground the charge "of going beyond orders;"
nothing then remained of the official charge but my religion, a subject which I had reason to believe, the President
would have reconciled in a suitable manner, but which, after three years delay, has not commanded his attention.
If I have occupied too much space in this work, with recapitulating my official concerns, the reader will bear in
mind, that this is the first attempt since the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, to make the
religion of a citizen an objection to the possession of office; a principle so foreign to the Constitution; to
much at war with the genius and disposition of the people, and as dangerous to the liberties of the country, that
citizens cannot be insensible to the new dreadful features which it exposes; none can hear with indifference this
measure of the government, and none will turn a deaf ear to the representations of an individual who has sustained an
injury. Governments have a natural propensity to encroach upon the rights of citizens, and if those rights are
worthy of being preserved, the utmost caution should be used, to guard them with a vigilance that never slumbers.
If a letter such as I received in Barbary, had been written by the order of a sovereign, presuming that a king
could such a wrong, I should have submitted to it without a murmur, knowing the tenure by which I held my office; but,
my fellow-citizen, the President, to disfranchise me from holding the office of Consul at Tunis, when I am eligible to
the station which he holds, cannot but be viewed as an assumption of power neither known or tolerated. Nothing is
easier than to establish a principle in governments, and nothing is more difficult than to destroy this principle, when
it is found to be dangerous. My letter of recall has become a document on file at the Department of State, which
hereafter may, without the present explanations, go to disfranchise a whole nation14. (the Jewish Nation) I felt it my duty to clear up
this affair, and as I caused my country to be respected abroad, it was not anticipating too much, when I claimed a
reciprocal respect and protection from the government. I had heart it rumored, that Col. Lear was the prominent cause
of that letter having been written to me; he is now dead, and I have only to express my astonishment at the
extraordinary and mysterious influence which he exercised over the administration.
regretted the steps which he had pursued towards me. There was an idea floating in his mind, that I had not been well
treated, but he only regretted it, as it affected him; he had no consideration for my feelings, for my rights or
character; he would have been pleased to have arranged the affair in a manner mutually agreeable, but I had not
presented myself to him with that submissive tone, with that "bondsmen key and bated breath," that he probably expected:
he said I threatened to appeal to Congress; he should have been proud to have seen a citizen thus anxious to support his
rights and character, and he should have aided, not opposed me, not bent the power of government to crush an individual.
I have said thus much in proof to political opponents, that I am under no obligation to Mr. Monroe, that my support
of the administration is grounded on principle, on nobler motives than personal favor; and as long as he is in the
administration, and his Measures are calculated to promote the honor and prosperity of our country, so long will I
The letter of recall, sent to him by Monroe in 1815, has mysteriously vanished from State Department archives.
Noah wrote to President Madison, May 6, 1818:
"I would wish, not only for the sake of my co-religionaires, but for that of your administration, that if my letter
of recall, cannot be erased from the Books of the Department of State, that such explanation may be subjoined, and may
prevent any evils arising from the precedent- for as my accounts are adjusted, & a balance struck in my favor, the
objections in that letter, refers solely to my religion, as objection, that I am persuaded you cannot feel, nor
authorize others to feel
Madison wrote back to Noah, May 15, 1818
"It cannot but be agreeable to me to learn that your accounts have been closed in a manner so favorable to you. And
I know too well the justice and candor of the present executive to doubt that an official preservation will be readily
allowed to explanations necessary to protect your character, against the effect of any impressions whenever ascertained
to be erroneous. It was certain, that your religious profession was well known at the time you received your
commission, and that in itself could not be a motive in your recall."
Madison denied any anti-Semitic element in his and in his Secretary of State's decision to recall Noah. His response
left a bad taste for Noah and all Jewish Americans.
America was a land of expanding promise and possibility. American population, economic power and westward expansion
was enormous. The highways of North America were its rivers. Explorers like Henry Hudson searched for the fabled
Northwest Passage, a water route across North America linking Europe to China, between 1607-1611. He explored the
waterway north from New York to the interior. The river was later renamed in his honor the Hudson River. Hudson
never found the Northwest Passage. It never existed. In 1611 during yet another mission of exploration and discovery,
Hudson's crew mutinied. He was cast adrift. His fate is unknown.
First proposed in 1808, the Erie Canal would connect the Hudson River at Albany, NY., across the land mass, to
Buffalo and Lake Erie. From Lake Erie, the Mississippi, the Missouri and other interior rivers offered accessible
access to the vastness of the continent. The Canal was highly political, and proved to be highly controversial because
of the massive debt and scandals involved in its construction. Officially opening, October 26, 1825, the Canal became an
economic boon to New York City. Buffalo, the Canal's Western terminus, prospered mightily.
As a newspaper editor of a major American paper, Noah was very aware of the economic possibilities that the Canal
could bring. He realized there was a possible link, a possible benefit for his developing idea for a temporary solution
to the Jewish problem with Buffalo and the Erie Canal. Opposite Buffalo, in the Niagara River, was a large unpopulated
land mass, an island, 17,381 acres about eight miles long six miles wide. Known locally as Grand
He proposed a new project to create a Jewish refuge, this time in Newport, Rhode Island. It too came to naught.
A year later, in 1821 he ran for Sheriff in New York. The election was more than a simple election it was one filled
with anti-Semitic implications. The struggle for Jewish rights as Americans was not an automatic or a given simply
because the Constitution was written. The struggle for Jewish freedom and rights as Americas was and is a process. In
Maryland, Thomas Kennedy, a Scotch Presbyterian fought a bitter seven year struggle (1819-1826) to give Jews equal
rights as citizens in the State of Maryland. Maryland was one of the last states to maintain a vestige of colonial
rule, a test oath to hold office. In Maryland, as it was in all of the colonial areas, an oath was required of every
office holder that upon election and the assumption of office they as affirmed, as Christians, they would uphold the
laws of the State. A Jew taking such an oath would be lying and would automatically be barred from office because of
his faith. Kennedy, deeply offended by the direct violation of the spirit and letter of the American constitution,
began a seven year struggle to change the Maryland constitution to do away with a religious test oath, to enable Jews to
hold elected office. Kennedy's fight was very bitter and public. It was the most acrimonious in the development of
American religious freedom and toleration, occurring almost fifty years after the Declaration of Independence. Kennedy
would be successful in 1826. The legislation that changed Maryland's history and the American experience was known as
the Jew Bill.
Noah ran for the office of Sheriff in 1821. His disparagers complained that it was not right to elect a Jew sheriff.
He might be called upon to hang a Christian. Noah responded sarcastically, "Pretty sort of Christian that should
required hanging at anyone's hands." Noah won the election.
His concern for his people was never far from his mind. Noah returned to the Grand Island project in 1824-1825. His
associations with Freemasonry convinced Noah of the possibility of a union of interests between Christians and
America was engrossed in the Second Great Awakening; a grass roots Evangelical movement that sprang up in America's
interior and spread across the country, 1790-1840. Christians began calling for a restoration of the Jewish people to
Palestine. In a later time it would be called Christian Zionism. Christians supported Noah's idea, to create a safe
refuge, a homeland under American protection for the Jews near Buffalo. Western New York was the center of many
Evangelical, utopian, and idealistic sect movements. It was also in Western New York that the greatest American born
faith found its origins, Mormonism.
Noah, as did many of the contemporary editors of his time, disparaged the young, dynamic and rapidly growing Mormon
faith. Some have argued that Joseph Smith, Mormonism's founder, may have been influenced by Noah and his efforts to
establish a New Zion in Western New York. Mormons are a valued mainstay of American political support for Israel
The universality of Freemasonry idealism and commonality, its regard for all humanity, linked with the Evangelical
support of Christians for Jewish restoration, especially in the "burned over district18" of Western New York, brought Noah back to focus on
his Grand Island project. Working with friends among the Freemasons, land was purchased on Grand Island. Noah's
project evolved from conjecture, to speculation, from theory to practice.
Using his best theatrical skills, his finest efforts at publicity and showmanship, the pulpit of his newspaper, Noah
proclaimed himself "Governor and Judge of Israel". He called for the creation of a Jewish refuge he named Ararat. His
principal Jewish supporter was, A.B. Siexas of New York City, his Secretary Pro-Temp.
September 15, 1825, thousands of Christians and a smattering of Jews came together just outside of Buffalo, to
inaugurate the Ararat refuge for the Jews.
Speaking before the enormous crowd, some came for millenarist reasons, some for justice, others for economic reasons
and some for the simple entertainment of the event, Noah proclaimed:
"Brothers, Countrymen, and Friends:
Having made known by proclamation the re-establishment of the Hebrew government, having laid the foundations of a
city of refuge, an asylum for the oppressed in this free and happy republic, I avail myself of that portion of my
beloved brethren here assembled, together with this concourse of my fellow citizens, to unfold the principles, explain
the views, and detail the objects contemplated in the great work of regeneration and independence to which it has
pleased the Almighty God to direct my attention.
..Looking forward to a period of regeneration and to the fulfillment of prophecies, the Jews have preserved
within themselves the elements of government in having carefully preserved the oracles of God assigned to their safe
keeping, and the time has arrived when their rights as a nation can be recognized, when, in the enjoyment of
independence the light of learning and civilization, and the obligation of industry and morality, they can cultivate a
friendly and affectionate understand with the whole family of mankind and have no longer enemies on earth.
In calling the Jews together under the protection of the American Constitution and laws, and governed by our happy
and salutary institutions, it is proper for me to state that this asylum is temporary and provisionary. The Jews never
should and never will relinquish the just hope of regaining possession of their ancient heritage, and events in the
neighborhood of Palestine indicate an extraordinary change of affairs."
Noah continued expounding on the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Christian influence and the need for the
Jews to return to Palestine as a buffer state. The restoration of the Jews would restore prosperity and hope to that
part of the world.
He continued in his address:
"Called together to the Holy Land by the slow, but unerring finger of Providence, the Jews, coming from every quarter
of the globe, would bring with them the language, habits and prejudices of each country."
Culturally divergent and needing to learn how to govern as one people, Noah recognized that Ararat would be a
learning center of self government for the Jews, preparing them for the return to Palestine.
Assimilating only in religious doctrines, and divided on temporal affairs, they would present innumerable
difficulties in organizing under any form of government, and the diversity of opinions and views would create factions
as dangerous and difficult to allay as those fatal ones which existed in the time of the first and second Temples. It
is in this country that the government of the Jews must be organized. Here, under the influence of perfect freedom,
they may study laws cultivate their minds, acquire liberal principles as to men and measures, and qualify
themselves to direct the energies of a just and honorable government n the land of the Patriarchs.
"Why should the parent of nations, the oldest of people, the founders of religion, wander among the governments of
the earth, entreating succor and protection when we are capable of protection ourselves? The time has emphatically
arrived to do something calculated to benefit our own condition and excite the admiration of the world: and we must
commence the work in a country free from ignoble prejudices and legal disqualifications a country in which
liberty can be insured to the Jews without the loss of one drop of blood
The day of the planned dedication of the Ararat project began with so vast a number of people who wished to be
present and participate in the momentous events that there were not enough boats to ferry people to Grand Island. Noah
had to improvise and arrange for the temporary laying of the cornerstone on the Buffalo side of the river. Fortunately
for Noah, a good friend of his, from his time as a Barbary Consul, Isaac W. Smith was a resident of Buffalo and knew the
Minister of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Buffalo, Reverend Addison Searle . Searle offered the use of his Church for
the commencement of the first Jewish Colony in nearly 1,800 years and the dedication of the cornerstone that Noah had
commissioned for the event.
The 400 pound Ararat foundation stone Noah commissioned read:
Hear O' Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one
(Inscribed in Hebrew)
A City of Refuge for the Jews
Founded by MORDECAI MANUEL NOAH
In the month of Tzri, Sept. 1825 &
In the Fiftieth Year of American Independence
An eyewitness to the momentous day, Lewis Falley Allen, recorded:
"Sept. 15, 1825, 10: AM Military and Masonic companies had lined up before the Masonic Lodge. Grand Marshal Colonel
Potter, military, state and municipal officers marched to where the cornerstone was being laid.
"By ten o'clock the military and Masonic companies had lined up before the Masonic Lodge. Within an hour the
procession, led by Grand Marshal Colonel Potter on a prancing steed, was moving. The tramp of soldiery, of national
state and municipal officers, advanced to the spot where the corner stone of a New Canaan was to be laid. Behind the
band and the vanguard filed stewards, apprentices and representatives of their associated crafts, master masons, senior
and junior deacons, senior and junior wardens, asters and past-masters of Lodges, members of the reverend clergy, more
stewards bearing the symbolic corn, wine and oil, and a principal architect, with square, level and plub, flanked on
either side by a Globe, and backed by a Bible. There must have been, too, in this paradoxical pageantry, a sprinkling
of the Chosen People for whom this new Promised Land, this Ararat, had been chosen
And now all eyes were fixed upon a portly gentleman of forty, proudly erect of carriage, florid of face, keen of eye,
sandy-haired over fleshy cheeks and an eagle's beak, who strode just ahead of the rear guard of Royal Arch Masons and
Knights Templar. Over his black costume, majestically austere, were thrown rich judicial robes of crimson silk, trimmed
with the purity of ermine. From his thickish neck depended a medal of gold glistening from high embossments. "
They marched to St. Paul's Episcopal Church. And where should the corner stone of the nascent Utopia be
reposing if not in four-square defiance of all anathema upon the very communion table of St.
To the doors of the church the columns split in two, band played Judas Maccabeus outside, from
inside came Jubilate on the organ, the choir intoned Before Jehovah's Awful Throne to the tune of Old Hundredth,
readings from Jeremiah, Zephaniah , psalms, and the religious service ended. The Reverend Addison Searle, whom Noah
knew as a chaplain on a government ship cruising the Mediterranean. Searle had made the church available to Noah and
was reprimanded by the Episcopal Church later.
Noah spoke, reaffirmed the Chosen-ness of the Jewish people, the reestablishment of the Hebrew government.
..Magniloquently he reaffirmed the Chosen-ness of his People, and the reestablishment of the Hebrew government.
The nations of the old and new world, he said "including the children of Africa, have had their rights acknowledged and
their governments recognized. The oldest of nations, powerful in numbers and great in resources, remains isolated,
without a home, country, or government
In calling the Jews together under the protection of the American
Constitution and laws and governed by our happy and salutary institutions, it is proper for me to state that this asylum
is temporary and provisionary. The Jews never should and never will relinquish the just hope of regaining possession of
their ancient heritage, and events in the neighborhood of Palestine indicate an extraordinary change of affairs."
He continues his oration offering himself as the head of the new Jewish refuge, and talks glowingly of the project
and the economic potential it is theatrical and borders on marketing of Grand Isle.) He issued order to the Jews
of the world as its head, calling for a census, ordering neutrality of the Jews between Greeks and Turks, appointed
ministers and directors, named days of thanksgiving to God,
Proclamation day ended with music, cannonade and libation. 24 guns, recessional, masons retired to the Eagle
Tavern, all with no one ever having set foot on Grand Isle. "19
Noah never abandoned his dream of Jewish restoration. In contemporary terms his discussion about the nature of the
American Indian, and if he was a descendent of the ten lost tribes of Israel, seems eccentric. From Columbus's time and
the age of discovery on into the early 20th century serious respected claims, studies, research and book
written that the American Indian were and are part of the tribes of Israel. Noah's views were very much mainstream
thought in 1837. It was no accident that Noah had Seneca Chief Red Jacket participated in the dedication program of
Noah delivered his research talk before the Mercantile Library Association in New York's Clinton Hall. It was
entitled, Discourse on Evidences of the American Indians being descendents on the lost tribes of Israel. The
ethnological study may be discounted as an artifact of obscure American social history but for the summation and
interpretation that Noah concluded his discourse. The talk was understood in Noah's time and by his audience as a
strong affirmation of the truth of scripture. Arguing that American Indians are the lost tribes of Israel is alien and
absurd to modern ears.
Noah's talk was a clear affirmation of modern American Christian Zionism. To Noah, there was little
Christian about his presentation. His was a very Jewish affirmation of the truth of prophecy and of the ultimate
redemption and restoration to Zion of the Jewish people.
Lewis Falley Allen, a friend of Noah's, who was present at the Ararat dedication, described Noah.
"To understand this matter thoroughly, it is necessary to go somewhat into particulars. I knew Major Noah well.
Physically, he was a man of large muscular frame, rotund person, a benignant face, and most portly bearing
a Jew, thorough and accomplished. His manners were genial, his heart kind, and his generous sympathies embraced all
Israel, even to the end of the earth. He was learned, too, not only in Jewish and civil law, but in the ways of the
world at large
.Although a visionary, - as some would call him- and an enthusiast in his enterprises, he had won
many friends among the Gentiles, who had adopted him into their political associations
.. He was a pundit in Hebrew
law, traditions and customs.
My friend and neighbor, William A. Bird, Esq., had related to me the following anecdote: Many years ago, when his
mother, the later Mrs. Eunice Porter Bird Pawling, resided at Troy, New York, a Society was formed,
for the purpose
of Christianizing the Jews in all parts of the world.
She wrote a letter to Major Noah, asking
his views on so important a subject. He replied in a letter, elaborately setting forth the principles, the faith, and
the policy of the Jewish people, their ancient hereditary traditions, and their venerable history, their hope of a
coming Messiah; and concluded by expressing the probability that the modern Gentiles would sooner be converted to the
Jewish faith, than that the Jews would be converted to theirs." 25
When Noah presented his Discourse on Evidences of the American Indians being descendents on the lost tribes of
Israel on Jewish, he was speaking about the parallels of the American Indian experience and culture with the Jewish.
The thrust of Noah's Discourse was about Jewish life and restoration.
The Discourse, If read differently and in a different time without expanding on the Indian theme, could have
been delivered by Theodor Herzl, Max Nordeau or other late 19th century and early 20th century
From Noah's Discourse:
"Our prophet Isaiah has a noble reference to the dispersed tribes and their redemption, which may be here
appropriately quoted. I use his language, the Hebrew, which from its peculiar associations should be always interesting
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand the second time to recover
the remnant of his people, which shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from
Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea."
"And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the
dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth.
"And there shall be a highway, for the remnant of his people, which shall be left from Assyria, like as it was to
Israel, in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt."
May I not with propriety refer, among other evidences, to the cruel persecutions which have uniformly been practiced
towards the Indians of this continent, not unlike those which the chosen people have suffered for the last eighteen
centuries was the gift of the Great Spirit to them, and their
..Possibly, the restoration may be near enough to include even a portion of these interesting people.
Our learned Rabbis have always deemed it sinful to compute the period of the restoration; they believe that when the
sins of the nation were atoned for, the miracle of their redemption would be manifested. My faith does not rest wholly
in miracles -- Providence disposes of events, human agency must carry them out.
The Jewish people must now do something for themselves; they must move onward to the
accomplishment of that great event long foretold -- long promised -- long expected; and when they DO that mighty power
which has for thousands of years rebuked the proscription and intolerance shown to the Jews, by a benign protection of
the whole nation, will still cover them with his invincible standard.
My belief is, that Syria will revert to the Jewish nation by purchase, and that the facility exhibited in the
accumulation of wealth, has been a providential and peculiar gift to enable them, at a proper time, to re-occupy their
ancient possessions by the purse string instead of the sword.
We live in a remarkable age, and political events are producing extraordinary changes among the nations of the earth.
Russia with its gigantic power continues to press hard on Turkey. The Pacha of Egypt, taking advantage of the
improvements and inventions of men of genius, is extending his territory and influence to the straits of Babelmandel on
the Red sea, and to the borders of the Russian empire; and the combined force of Russia, Turkey, Persia and Egypt,
seriously threaten the safety of British possessions in the East Indies. An intermediate and balancing power is required
to check this thirst of conquest and territorial possession, and to keep in check the advances of Russia in Turkey and
Persia, and the ambition and love of conquest of Egypt. This can be done by restoring Syria to its rightful owners, not
by revolution or blood, but as I have said, by the purchase of that territory from the Pacha of Egypt, for a sum of
money too tempting in its amount for him to refuse, in the present reduced state of his coffers. Twelve or thirteen
millions of dollars have been spoken of in reference to the cession of that interesting territory, a sum of no
consideration to the Jews, for the good will and peaceable possession of a land, which to them is above all price. Under
the cooperation and protection of England and France, this re-occupation of Syria within its old territorial limits, is
at once reasonable and practicable.
.Once again unfurl the standard of Judah on Mount Zion, the four corners of the earth will give up the chosen
. Placed in possession of their ancient heritage by and with the consent and co-operation of their Christian
brethren establishing a government of peace and good will on earth, it may then be said, behold the fulfillment of
prediction and prophecy: behold the chosen and
favored people of Almighty God, who, in defense of his unity and omnipotence, have been the outcast and proscribed of
all nations, and who for thousands of years have patiently endured the severest of human sufferings, in the hope of that
great advent of which they never have despaired: -- and then when taking their rank once more among the nations of the
earth, with the good wishes and affectionate regards of the great family of mankind, they may by their tolerance, their
good faith, their charity and enlarged liberal views, merit what has been said in their behalf by inspired writers,
Blessed are they who bless Israel."26
Noah had expressed his and the Jewish people's age old faith and trust in God's ultimate redemption and
restoration of Zion.
Noah's faith was unshakeable. October 28, 1844, Noah spoke before a crowd of thousands of Jews and Christians at the
dedication of the Tabernacle in New York.
"I confidently believe in the restoration of the Jews, and in the coming of the Messiah; and believing that political
events are daily assuming a shape which may finally lead to that great event, I consider it a duty to call upon the free
people of this country to aid us in any efforts which, in our present position, it may be deemed prudent to
.Remember, therefore, my countrymen, you whose aid is invoked to assist in the restoration that we are to
return as we went forth; to bring back to Zion the faith we carried away with us. The temple under Solomon, which we
built as Jews, we must again erect as the chosen people. You believe that the Messiah has come; you are right in
believing so; you have the evidences I the power and dominion, the wealth, the happiness, the glory that surrounds you.
He has come for you, but how for us? We are still the peeled, the banished, scattered, and oppressed people: the oil on
the surface of the ocean, which mingles not with the heaving billow. For us he is yet to come, and will come. For two
thousand years we have been pursued and persecuted, and we are yet here; assemblages of men have formed communities,
built cities, established government, rose prospered, decayed, and fell, and yet we are here. Rome conquered, and there
are but few traces now of the once mistress of the world; yet we are still here, like the fabled Phoenix, ever springing
from its ashes, or, more beautifully typical, like the bush of Moses, which ever burns, yet never consumes. You believe
that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and you are Christians; were we to believe the same, we should still be Jews.
"With this difference only, what is it that separates the Jew and Gentile? Our law is your law, our profits are your
profits, our hope is your hope, our salvation is your salvation, our God is your God. Why should we change? Why
surrender that staff of Jacob which has guided our steps through so many difficulties? We can never be separated from
our Shepherd; we believe in all that He has promised, and patiently await their fulfillment. Come, therefore, to our
aid, and take the lead in this great work of restoration. Let the first movement for the emancipation of the Jewish
nation come from the free and liberal nation."
..I endeavor in that discourse to convince Christians that in attempting to evangelize the Jews
they violate an affirmative precept of their own faith. I endeavor to show its utter failure; I prove by quotations
from our prophets, that the Jews are to be restored in their unconverted state; I maintain steadfastly their perpetual
belief in the unity and omnipotence of God; I show how peculiarly they are his people; I vindicate the morality of the
Jewish character, and appeal to Christians to do them justice, and to temper that justice with mercy.
..I have studied Christianity from the New Testament, and therefore profess to know more of that
religion and am better able to explain its doctrines that Jews who do not read that book at all, and my own opinions
have been made up from study and reflection, and I feel satisfied that Christians have not comprehended the position in
which they stand towards the Jews, nor the obligations imposed upon them by their own laws, to treat the chosen people
with kindness and consideration, and to extend towards them the hand of succor and of brotherly love."
..The restoration is to be brought about by human agency, and can only be accomplished by and with the consent
of the Christian powers,
We can only be peaceably restored by and with their consent, and if so restored, we
shall beyond doubt, be secure and protected in all our national rights."
.A great change has come over Christians; the Almighty is at work on them, efficiently, practically
the scales are falling from their eyes truth begins to dissipate the clouds of darkness which for ages
have surrounded them. Not many years ago, a few ministers of the gospel ascended the pulpit without preaching against
the Jews; prejudice was kept alive and fed flames of persecution; but now all is changed; all is love, confidence and
regard. The Jews are recognized as God's chosen people, and all his promises of mercy towards them are to be redeemed;
the 'lost sheep of Israel' they have now discovered have never been lost, and they look at us with eyes overflowing with
tears of affection, as the greatest living miracle that exists the true and faithful witnesses of unity of God
and the truth of Scripture. Shall we not profit by this returning kindness and good=will? They have mistaken the very
principles of their own faith in relation to the treatment of the Jews; shall we drive them back again within the pale
of ancient intolerance? Our own prayers teach us a different course; the great family of mankind is recognized without
distinction of sect or creed as participating equally in all the rights, privileges and immunities of Divine favor and
But there is a danger I admit danger, not from Christians, but from ourselves. Danger from
apathy, from indifference danger from a want of nationality. The Jew who keeps his store open on the Sabbath is
still a Jew: he commits a great sin, but pleads necessity. It is his indifference - he has no desire to embrace another
religion or to surrender his own faith; but he cares too little for his own religion to induce him to make a sacrifice
for it. There are many reasons for this which I have not time at present to notice. The Jews want
nationality; you cannot rally them on any given point; you cannot inspire them either with faith or enthusiasm.
We pray fervently and constantly to be restored to Zion; we believe in the coming of the Redeemer, and pray earnestly
for his coming; and yet talk to the mass of our people on the Restoration on their return to Jerusalem and
they express no confidence in it; few would be willing to go; and the coming or our Redeemer the advent of our
Messiah seems to give them no trouble, no solicitude at all. They pray for him from habit, and have no faith in
what they pray for. What is the cause of all this discrepancy between assertion and belief? The want of nationality, I
again repeat: we are a sect, not a nation. The Greeks remained two thousand years in slavery, and yet they arose and
redeemed their country. Why should not the Jews do the same? Christians would honor us even if we failed. Nothing
therefore in my opinion will save the nation from sinking into oblivion but agitating this subject of the
Restoration. We should pass the word around the world - "Restoration of the Jews' 'Justice to Israel' -'the
Rights and Independence of the Hebrews' 'Restore them to their country'- 'Redeem them from captivity."
..The Bible is the rock of our salvation. The great secret of consolidating and keeping the Jews together as
a nation consists in their intermarriages; break down that barrier and allow Jews and Christians to marry, and in two or
three generations we shall be no longer heard of."
. God is at this moment working upon their minds to favor the Jews, while in many parts of the world He is
inclining the Jews to entertain more tolerant views towards the Christians. We in this generation may be impelled to
commence the good work, which succeeding generations will accomplish."
Rabbi Isaac Leeser
Noah completed his presentation and was promptly attacked by the Jews. Rabbi Isaac Leeser27, as editor of the Occident wrote:
"The address of Judge Noah has excited a good deal of attention among our Christian fellow citizens, more so at least
than among ourselves
Leeser had no faith in the goodwill of the European nations or Christians to support restoration or the best
interests of Jews. He spent his career in Philadelphia's Mikveh Israel helping transform American Judaism from the
European model into a more liberal inclusive American model, easing the transition to American Reform Judaism.
Leeser rejected Noah's call for restoration. Acidly criticizing Noah, Leeser wrote:
"An independence so feeble as to be prey to the designing powers of modern Europe
we do not desire nor wish our
people to establish; they had better remain as they are now, scattered over all the earth, rather than expose themselves
to an extermination by some modern Haman."
Noah responded to Leeser's criticism by reaffirming that the aid and support of the Christian world was necessary in
order for the Jews to return to Zion and to succeed, to survive until the Messiah should come.
Noah wrote with the wisdom of prophecy:
"We in this generation may be impelled to commence the good work, which succeeding generations will accomplish."
The irony of Noah's response to Leeser came fifty years later when Theodor Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat. The Jewish
State came about fifty years after Herzl. Many Jews today like to believe that Israel exists because of Israel's might
alone. Israel came to be and continues to be because of the strong support and influence of Christian superpowers such
as the United States.
Mordecai Manuel Noah died of a series of heart attacks in the spring of 1851. He sleeps, largely forgotten by the
American Jewish community, in the Shearith Israel cemetery on 21st street in New York. He is awaiting the
coming of the Messiah and the restoration to Zion.
Jerry Klinger is President of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation
www.Jashp.org / Jashp1@msn.com
Major Noah, American-Jewish Pioneer, by Isaac Goldberg, Jewish Publication Society of
America, 1936, pg. 275-276
Power, Faith and Fantasy, America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, by Michael B.
Oren, W.W. Norton, New York, pg. 72
Major Noah, American-Jewish Pioneer, by Isaac Goldberg, Jewish Publication Society of
America, 1936, pg. 113
Ibid. pg. 115
Ibid. pg. 116
Ibid. pg. 139
During the American Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant, also a later President of the
United States, issued General Order # 11, an order of expulsion for all Jews within the area of his armies control. It
was overturned by President Lincoln. The concept of the order, in its generalized inclusiveness, was similar to
Monroe's to Noah, only President Madison, the author of the Constitution, did not see fit to overturn it as a gross
Ibid pg. 149
Ibid pg. 151
Goldberg, ibid pg. 194
Ibid pg. 209
http://www.sdjewishjournal.com/stories/sept04_1.html Dr. Deborah
Hertz is the Herman Wouk Chair in Modern Jewish Studies at the University of California at San
Ibid Goldberg pg. 210
"Founding the city of Ararat on Grand Island-By Mordecai M.Noah, read before the Society,
March 5, 1866, Lewis Falley Allen, republished by the Cornell University Library Digital collections.
from the March 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine