There have been Jewish Texans since the earliest days of Anglo settlement. Adolphus Sterne, who later converted to Christianity, served in the congress of the Republic of Texas in its earliest days. Albert Moses Levy, a Jewish immigrant from the Nertherlands, served as surgeon-in-chief of the Texan volunteer army. In 1848, Jacob DeCordova laid out the town of Waco and sold plots of land to European immigrants as part of the land business he ran with his half brother Phineas.
By the turn of the twentieth century, approximately fifteen thousand Jews lived in Texas, mostly in the area between Houston and Dallas. Between 1907 and 1914, ten thousand mostly European Jews emigrated to the United States through the port of Galveston. Galveston rabbi Henry Cohen served Congregation B'nai Israel and the Galveston community for sixty-four years, aiding with reconstruction efforts after the 1900 hurricane and later participating in state prison reform. Jewish communities flourished in small towns as well as major cities throughout the twentieth century.
Today, there are thriving congregations throughout Texas and many prominent Jews in Texan life, including Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, and Austin entrepreneur Michael Dell.
To read about these distinguished individuals and Jewish life and culture in Texas visit the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. Browse the Encyclopedia's Texas section by region and city, and learn about Jewish communities from Brownsville to Abilene and from El Paso to Texarkana.
The Texas section of the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities was partially underwritten with a grant from Humanities Texas.