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Pioneer Jewish Texans

Natalie Ornish; Foreword by Sara Alpern

Publication Year: 2011

With more than 400 photographs, extensive interviews with the descendants of pioneer Jewish Texan families, and reproductions of rare historical documents, Natalie Ornish’s Pioneer Jewish Texans quickly became a classic following its original release in 1989. This new Texas A&M University Press edition presents Ornish’s meticulous research and her fascinating historical vignettes for a new generation of readers and historians. She chronicles Jewish buccaneers with Jean Lafitte at Galveston; she tells of Jewish patriots who fought at the Alamo and at virtually every major engagement in the war for Texan independence; she traces the careers of immigrants with names like Marcus, Sanger, and Gordon, who arrived on the Texas frontier with little more than the packs on their backs and went on to build great mercantile empires. Cattle barons, wildcatters, diplomats, physicians, financiers, artists, and humanitarians are among the other notable Jewish pioneers and pathfinders described in this carefully researched and exhaustively documented book. Filling a substantial void in Texana and Texas history, the Texas A&M University Press edition of Natalie Ornish’s Pioneer Jewish Texans brings back into circulation this treasure trove of information on a rich and often overlooked vein of the multifaceted story of the Lone Star State.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

In 1990 scholars Susan Groag Bell and Marilyn Yalom edited the book Revealing Lives: Autobiography, Biography, and Gender. They wrote, “In an age of daunting machines and awesome bureaucracies, when family, work, and community patterns are undergoing dizzying transformations, it is reassuring to look into a human...

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Introduction to a People

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pp. xi-xii

The long and dramatic story of the Jews in Texas history has never been told.

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1. The Adventurers: Conquistadors and the Search for Freedom

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pp. 1-20

Those conquistadors who rode north, with banners and trumpets, to carry the rule of their king to the farther reaches of New Spain, included Jews whose role in American exploration, adventure, and settlement has often been overlooked....

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2. The Soldiers: Jews in the Battle for Texas Independence, 1826–1842

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pp. 21-46

Jews were among the first and the last to fight in the Texas War for Independence. They participated in battles for sixteen years (from 1826 to 1842), including the climactic battles in 1836—the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto. Jews, whose ages ranged from twelve to fifty-one, fought at the Alamo with Travis, Crockett, and Bowie....

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3. The Colonizers: Opening Texas’ Lands West

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pp. 47-61

Henri Castro of Paris, France, and Jacob De Cordova of Kingston, Jamaica—Texas empresarios of great importance—carried on colonizing in the manner of Stephen F. Austin following Austin’s death in 1836. Castro and De Cordova both were descended from great explorers of the sixteenth century....

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4. The Statesmen: Constructing a Republic and a Nation

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pp. 63-69

David Kaufman and Simon Wiess, two men recognized by their peers for their intelligence, acumen, and leadership capabilities, made important and lasting contributions during the early days of the Texas republic and the transition to statehood....

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5. The Ranchers: Giants of Texas’ Great Cattle Herds

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pp. 71-85

The story of the Halff family captures the excitement, the muscle, and the riches of the cattle industry. At the height of its land acquisition, before the invention...

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6. The Financiers: New Frontiers in Banking

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pp. 87-112

Merchants performed the first banking services in Texas inasmuch as banking was usually an adjunct to other business pursuits. The financial history of Texas follows the demographic patterns, with the embryo of banking beginning with the buccaneers on Galveston Island....

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7. The Wildcatters: From Pipes to Oil Leases

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pp. 113-122

University students continue to benefit from one of Texas’s Jewish pioneers, a wildcatter who gave the University of Texas system the largest endowment in the state’s history. Haymon Krupp, who went from merchant to wildcatter, and Texas Jews who worked in the oil fields, pulling...

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8. The Humanitarian: Galveston and the Gateway Immigration Movement

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pp. 123-132

One characteristic of most Jewish leaders in Texas has been their sense of community responsibility—feeling the need and the impulse to give back something to the people with whom they live and work. In no one’s life was this truer than in that of a small, wiry Texan, Rabbi Henry Cohen...

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9. The Great Merchants: Some Called Them Princes

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pp. 133-171

They may have lived as conquistadors, buccaneers, ranchers, seamen, or oil men—but they were all merchants. They traded with the Indians on the frontier. They sold them booty from the Spanish Main...

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10. Significant Merchant Families: Laying the Economic Foundation for Texas’ Future

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pp. 173-208

Few persons, even Jews, know the role played by the significant merchants who brought needed goods to the settlers who populated frontier Texas in the early days of the republic and later of the state. These merchants contrasted greatly with the merchant princes, with their great department stores in...

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11. The Educators: The Paul Reveres of Education

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pp. 209-225

The best charity, suggested Maimonides, a twelfth-century Jewish philosopher and major theologian of Judaism, is to help others to educate themselves to become self-supporting. Centuries later, Jewish Texans who lived by this principle laid the foundations for Texas educational systems...

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12. The Artists: Vanguards in the Arts

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pp. 227-239

While the Texas frontier meant opportunity to the peddler, trader, land dealer, and merchant, many of the musicians, writers, and painters saw it as a form of banishment...

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13. The Doctors and Other Healers: From the Alamo to the Nobel Prize

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pp. 241-258

The practice of medicine and dentistry in Texas— from livery stable surgeons to Nobel Prize–winning medical scientists—evolved in a short 150 years. Along the way, Jewish physicians and dentists played pivotal roles in pulling Texas from a territory that provided no medical and dental training to a state that boasted...

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14. The Lawyers: Justice for all

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pp. 259-268

Since before the Civil War, Jewish citizens have occupied courtrooms and legal offices in Texas to practice law and combat injustice....

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pp. 269

In the Jewish teachings, we are admonished neither to glorify nor to put our trust in human beings, only in God. When Jews read the story of the Exodus at the Passover seder, the booklet they read from does not even mention Moses, their deliverer from Egypt...

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pp. 271

This book is the result of the cooperation of many persons who helped, some as individuals and others as part of scholarly institutions. Those who gave oral history interviews are referred to in the notes. Those who loaned photographs are credited near the illustrations. others who helped are the following:...


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pp. 273-290


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pp. 291-318


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pp. 319-332


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pp. 333-362

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444330
E-ISBN-10: 1603444335
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603444231
Print-ISBN-10: 1603444238

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 415 b&w illus. 6 maps. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2011