Courtesy of Library of Congress

Gershom Mendes Seixas 1745-1816

Gershom Mendes Seixas was one of six children of Isaac Mendes Seixas, a Portuguese converso whose family had to flee to London after it came to light that they were continuing to secretly practice Judaism. Like all Jewish religious leaders in colonial and early America, Seixas had no formal ordination as a rabbi, but he was appointed hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel at the age of 23. Seixas soon became one of the most influential Jewish leaders of his time, earned esteem for his support of American Independence, and participated in George Washington's first inauguration. After briefly relocating his congregation to Philadelphia during the Revolution, Seixas returned to New York, where he continued to give the sermons that earned him the title "Patriot Preacher."