Timeline of Early Indiana Jewish History

A Brief Timeline of Early Indiana Jewish History

1790: A Legal Summons for Louis Pierre Levy in Vincennes, Indiana, the first known reference to a Jew living in Indiana.

1816: Jurist Samuel Judah settles in Vincennes and later becomes the first and only Jewish speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives in 1840.

1819: A family of Fur Traders from England, The David Israel Johnson family, welcomed Henry, who was born in Connersville, Ind., on Feb. 21, 1819. the first known Jewish child born in Indiana.

1820: John Jacob Hays becomes the first known Jew to live in Fort Wayne, Indiana as an Indian Agent.

1837: The Gumberts arrive—the First known Jewish family to permanently settle in Indiana arrive in Evansville.

1838: Moses Falk, an immigrant and Jewish Merchant, arrived from Wurtemburg in Miami County, Indiana.

1842: Bavarian Jewish Peddler Adam Gimbel Arrives in Vincennes, Indiana, and will later create the world’s largest retail empire.

1847: Jews begin to arrive on the Ohio River in the Indiana City of Madison, Indiana.

1848: A Jewish Congregation was founded in Fort Wayne. It is the first known in Indiana.

1849: A Jewish Congregation forms in Lafayette. It’s the second Jewish Congregation known in Indiana.

1850: A partnership in a merchandising firm in Lafayette, Indiana, between Solomon Loeb and Abraham Kuhn that would become One of America’s most prominent Financial dynasties Kuhn, Loeb & Co.

1857: After Rabbi Isaac M. Wise spoke in Indianapolis, The Minhag America prayerbook at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation was adopted nearly two months before Rabbi I.M Wises’ Congregation adopted the Prayerbook, making Indianapolis the first place the American History the Minhag America’s Jewish Liturgy was officially adopted in Jewish religious service.

1854: The Jewish Communities of Indianapolis and LaPorte are both founded.

1859: South Bend’s Jewish Community forms a burial society.

1860: Women were first counted in a minyan in Lafayette, Indiana. This practice was only affirmed in progressive Jewish movements over a century later. This may have been the first instance of Egalitarian Prayer in American Jewish History.

1865: Ligonier forms its first Jewish Congregation, and the first known purposely built Synagogue in Indiana is built in Evansville.

1869: Rodef Sholom Congregation was organized in Wabash, Indiana.

1870: The Jewish community grows to 500, and the South Side begins to see its first Yiddish-speaking Immigrants. A petition by the Jewish Community of Indianapolis urging President Grant to Intervene on behalf of Romanian Jews was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations by Senator Oliver Morton of Indiana, who was also the former Civil War period Governor of Indiana.

1875: Henry Adler of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, made a generous $10,000 first donation to the Hebrew Union College, which became America’s first Rabbinical School.

1877: A unique blended small Jewish Congregation, Sharis/Sharith Israel, forms in Goshen, Indiana, catering to German-speaking and Yiddish-speaking Jews.  

1889: Terre Haute dedicates Temple Israel to a purchased church building converted into a Synagogue.
As president of the board of regents of Indiana’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Frederick Knefler, the Jewish Civil War general, oversaw laying the cornerstone in Indianapolis.

1899: Henry Brown, a Jewish Immigrant from Germany and a local merchant, is elected Mayor of the small town of New Harmony, Indiana. He would serve two terms as Mayor of New Harmony.

1902: Well before the revival of Hebrew as an everyday language, a rare correspondence between a Rabbi from Evansville, Indiana, Marcus A. Dubov, and a non-Jewish American Secretary of State, John Hay, who was from Indiana originally. The Rabbi thanked Hays for the US Government’s Policy of addressing Anti-Semitism in Romania at the time with a letter written in Hebrew, and to the Rabbi’s surprise, Hay replied to Rabbi Dubov in Hebrew. 

1904: The Jewish Federation in Indianapolis was founded to streamline Jewish philanthropy and to assist the massive wave of Jewish Immigrants coming to Indianapolis, speaking mostly Yiddish and Ladino.