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A Portion of the People
This Happy Land First Families · Pledging Allegiance · Palmetto Jews 
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Kiddush cup, rice spoon, and cake knife of Lazarus family
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Kiddush cup of Aaron Lazarus
Tiffany, ca. 1850
Private collection

Lazarus family rice spoon
ca. 1830
Private collection

Lazarus family cake knife
Attributed to Wood and Hughes
New York, ca. 1850
Private collection

Adapted from oversize English stuffing spoons, rice spoons served the grain that produced great wealth for lowcountry planters and merchants and fed Carolinians of all ranks. As slave owners, as furnishers of supplies to planters who made their money from “Carolina Gold”—the popular name for the variety of rice grown in the lowcountry—and as citizens eager to assimilate, the Lazaruses took part in the general culture to the fullest extent possible.

The Lazarus family had been in South Carolina at least since the 1740s. Michael Lazarus was living in Charleston when congregation Beth Elohim was chartered in 1749. In the next generation, Marks Lazarus fought with Lushington’s militia in the American Revolution, an outfit that became known as the “Jews Company” because of the number of Jewish men in its ranks.

With their Sephardic roots and Revolutionary ancestor, the Lazaruses belonged to Charleston society and, like their Christian counterparts, were prominent in “church” affairs. In 1820, Marks Lazarus was elected to Beth Elohim’s conservative governing body. Marks’s son, Michael, introduced steam navigation on the Savannah River, and—in opposition to his father—joined the leadership of the Reformed Society of Israelites. A younger son, Joshua, brought gas lighting to the city of Charleston and supported reform at Beth Elohim. He served as congregation president from 1850 to 1861. As late as 1987, a Lazarus family descendant occupied this prestigious post.

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Last updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2006