Collecting Delaware Books

Delaware Jewish History

adas kodesch1941 (14K)
Adas Kodesch Congregation 1941
Lookin up 6th St. from French St.
Adas Kodesch First Synagogue
First Adas Kodesch Synagogue

In 1654 the Portuguese took control of Brazil from the Dutch. The few Jewish traders who had lived there since 1631 fled to New Amsterdam to avoid persecution. Peter Stuyvesant tried to harass them and prevent them from earning a living, but the Dutch East India Company ordered Stuyvesant to give them full rights.

By 1655 two of these Jewish traders were operating on the Delaware River and were mentioned in a document signed at Fort Casimir. Two Jewish men are among the signers of a 1778 oath renouncing the King of England and asserting fidelity to the new state of Delaware. Until the 1870s there was a small Jewish presence in Wilmington, Milford, and Dover. However, there were never enough adult men to meet the requirement for organizing a religious congregation.

After 1870, their ranks were swelled by German and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who settled mostly in Wilmington. The Sir Moses Montefiore Beneficial Society was formed. The first formal religious service was conducted on Rosh Hashanah in 1881. The Orthodox Adas Kodesch Congregation was incorporated in 1889. (See Shortly afterward, a congregation called Ahavath Achim was formed. It merged with Adas Kodesch about 1890. A reform congregation, Oheb Sholom, was formed in 1895.

The Jewish population of Delaware in 1900 was 1,200. (It is about 10,000 today.) Religious, fraternal, social, youth, and charitable organizations were founded. The Wilmington community mounted a very successful fund raising effort after World War I to aid displaced European Jews. The program became a model for similar drives throughout the United States. It was not until after World War II that the first synagogue was dedicated below the canal.


There are a number of books, pamphlets, and serial publications dealing with local Jewish life and history in Delaware. A newspaper and several cook books are included in the list for interested collectors.

"The Jewish Community: Here and There." Chapter 8 of Bill Frank's Delaware by Bill Frank. Wilmington 1987. Includes seven articles by Frank from News-Journal papers. Three deal with Israel and the Holocaust, but four describe local events and people.

Delaware and the Jews edited by Toni Young. Printed by Cedar Tree Press, Wilmington 1979. This is a basic reference. Chapters cover the American Jewish experience, establishment of Judaism in Delaware, four generations of Jewish life in Wilmington, congregations in Newark and Dover, and a Delaware Jewish hall of fame. Chapter authors include Dr. Carol Hoffecker and William P. Frank. It includes a listing of the holding of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware. (See next item.)

jhsd logo

Archives of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware. This collection is housed by the Historical Society of Delaware, 505 Market St., Wilmington DE 19801. It includes manuscripts, photographs, slide presentations, and oral history recordings. The Jewish Historical Society of Delaware has a Web site.

Jewish Delaware 1655-1976, History Sites, Communal Services. Wilmington 1976. 51 pages. Contains several articles, including "A Concise History of the Jews in Delaware" by Rabbi David Geffen (founder of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware.

Delaware Jewry: The Formative Years 1872-1889 by M. David Geffen. A 28-page offprint from Delaware History vol. XVI, no. 4 (Fall-Winter 1975). A mimeographed errata sheet listing nine corrections should accompany this pamphlet.

"The Jews of Delaware" by Elihu Schagrin. Chapter 32 of Delaware, A History of the First State edited by H. Clay Reed. New York 1947.

History of the Jew in Delaware by Samuel Saretsky. Wilmington [1922]. A large pamphlet, apparently published in celebration of the opening of the Jewish Community Center in Wilmington. It includes a history as well as an account of contemporary activities. There are many pages of local advertisements.

Balick, Marvin S. A Social History of the West Second Street Jewish Community, Wilmington, Delaware, 1930-1940. Wilmington, DE: Jewish Historical Society of Delaware, 1997.

Toni Young. Becoming American, Remaining Jewish The Story of Wilmington Delaware's First Jewish Community, 1879-1924, published by University of Delaware Press, 1999.

Congregation Histories

Temple Beth Emeth. 1955. This appears to be a hard cover binding of a number of pamphlets and programs related to the 50th anniversary celebration of the congregation and the dedication of a new synagogue. Includes a history of the congregation and a detailed description and pictures of the building.

Golden Jubilee, Adas Kodesch Congregation 1890-1940. Wilmington [1940]. A congregation history with excellent full-page photographic illustrations. A number of biographies of members with portraits. Indexed. Very nicely printed but the synthetic fabric boards do not wear well.


Off the Capes of Delaware by Benjamin W. Blandford. 1940. Historical fiction for young adults, telling of Jewish-American heroes, the first of whom is a Delawarean.

Grapes of Canaan by Mrs. Elma Levinger. 1930. A novel set in the Wilmington Jewish community.


Jewish Voice. A serial publication since 1943. "The Only Jewish-English Monthly in the State of Delaware." It was founded by Rabbi Simon Krimsky and later sold to the Jewish Federation of Delaware. A collection of this publication would give an excellent picture of recent Delaware Jewish history.

Cook Books

A Book of Favorite Recipes compiled by the Wilmington Chapter of Hadassah. 1979. Includes names of recipe contributors.

Dishes Delicious compiled by the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Emeth. No date but it appears to be before 1950. Some traditional recipes and names of local contributors.

Collecting Delaware Books welcomes additions or corrections to this list.

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