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The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family in Early America – Dr. Laura Leibman

Hosted By: SHINDC

Born a slave in colonial Barbados in 1798, Sarah Brandon Rodrigues’ distinguished Sephardic roots grant her passage to freedom and membership to New York’s white and Jewish elite. Sarah’s children with Ashkenazi husband Joshua Moses go on to marry into the family of Gershom Mendes Seixas (the famed hazzan of Shearith Israel) and serve as presidents of this S&P synagogue. They would also serve in the Mexican-American War and become Civil War heroes. One of Sara’s sons became a surgeon, the first descendant of slaves to graduate from what would become Columbia Medical School (not that the administration appeared aware of the milestone). Her half brother, also born in Barbados, was a judge, an activist, and a Grandee of the San Francisco Jewish community who in 1877, publicly protested Jews being excluded from the Saratoga, NY Hilton Hotel. This new book release documents a true story that seems particularly relevant at a time when Jews grapple with the construct of “whiteness” and Jews of color insist on their rightful place in Jewish life.

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