Tour Locations | A Stroll through the Heart of Savannah’s Historical District
Jewish Cemetery Monument
Step up to the front of this monument and stop for a moment.
Notice the Jewish menorah on the front of it?
This location where you are standing was not developed until the early 1800's. This remained on the outskirts of the colony for around 70 years.
When the colony was first established, there were 4 rules for the colony.
There was no hard liquor, no slavery, no lawyers, and no Catholics. Additionally, Jews were banned from joining the colony.
There was no hard liquor. They could have beer, ale and wine, but not the hard stuff. Oglethorpe believed that many deaths were caused due to the use of rum and brandies and therefore rallied a prohibition, against the use of it. Today however, we just ask you if you would like it to-go and send you on your way.
There was no slavery, because the Trustees because believed it went against the vision for the small landowners to prosper from their own labor. Also, since Savannah was to be a military buffer protecting the southern colonies from Spanish Florida. The Spanish would offer freedom to slaves in exchange for military service.
The reason for no lawyers, was because the trustees wanted every colonist to be able to plea their own case, they didn't want lawyers in the colony causing division by rallying for clients.
No Catholics -- this was due to Spanish Florida, Spanish Catholics. The Trustees feared they might be Spanish spies or sympathizers within the colony. Therefore, no Catholics were allowed.
The Catholic religion was the only religion expressly forbidden within the colony, the trustees also decided to forbid Jews within the colony. This was a Christian colony, but the harsh realities of colonial life and numerous deaths within the new colony, opened the door for Judaism.
On July 11, 1733, a ship of 42 Jewish passengers arrived unexpectedly. Onboard was a doctor; a welcome sight for Oglethorpe. The colony had already lost numerous members due to illness. With the help of the doctor onboard, the colony could survive. Oglethorpe allowed the Jews to remain in the colony, because the charter did express that it allowed for religious freedom for all non-Catholics. Oglethorpe further defied the trustees charter by allowing the new Jewish settlers to own land.
This area you are standing on and this monument represents the property General Oglethorpe gave to those Jewish immigrants for their cemetery. If you look on the backside of this monument, you will see a list of names of those folks who are buried here around this monument. As I mentioned earlier, this area was not developed until at least 70 years after this became a cemetery.
The bodies of those buried here are still here. When they began to develop this area, they only moved the headstones to the new cemetery. The reason they left the bodies was for fear of reintroducing the diseases these individuals may have died of.
When you're ready, continue south, away from the river, along Bull Street, crossing over Oglethorpe Ave and towards Chippewa Square.