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A Portion of the People
This Happy Land First Families · Pledging Allegiance · Palmetto Jews 
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Maier Triest, Theodore Belitzer, and Phoebe Yates Levy Pember
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Clockwise from top left:

Maier Triest
ca. 1863
Photograph courtesy of Larry W. Freudenberg

Theodore Belitzer
ca. 1861
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Manuscript Archives
Special Collections, College of Charleston Library

Phoebe Yates Levy Pember
ca. 1855
Photograph courtesy of Civil War Times

Originally from Bavaria, Maier Triest served as a militia captain in Charleston before the Civil War. In January 1862, he enlisted in the 24th South Carolina Volunteers as a sergeant major and the next year was promoted to regimental quartermaster, responsible for supplying the troops with shoes, clothing, blankets, and cooking utensils. In 1869, he married German-born Hannah Reichman of Cincinnati and two years later he and his father, Joseph Triest, became American citizens in the South Carolina District Court.

A member of Beth Elohim, Theodore Belitzer served in the Wilmington Rangers and the German Hussars, both companies of South Carolina cavalry. Captured at Wilmington, North Carolina, young Belitzer died when the Federal steamer carrying prisoners to Fort Monroe caught fire at sea.

Charleston-born Phoebe Pember was the first female administrator of Chimborazo hospital, near Richmond, Virginia. During her three-year tenure, some 76,000 wounded and sick soldiers passed through. She had to contend daily not only with death and dying, but also with the rancor of army doctors who resented a woman in a position of authority.

In a letter to her sister Eugenia Levy Phillips, dated September 13, 1863, Pember rejoiced that as a Jew she was not required to turn the other cheek. “At last I lifted my voice,” she wrote, “and congratulated myself at being born of a nation, and religion that did not enjoin forgiveness on its enemies, that enjoyed the blessed privilege of praying for an eye for an eye, and a life for a life, and was not one of those for whom Christ died in vain, considering the present state of feeling.” To what extent she practiced Judaism is not known, but she proposed to her Christian friends “that till the war was over they should all join the Jewish Church, let forgiveness and peace and good will alone and put their trust in the sword of the Lord and Gideon.”

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Last updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2006