Mordecai Noah Historical Marker collection
- Majority of material found within 2010-2013
- Mori, Wayne A. (Person)
Language of Materials
Terms of Access
.5 Linear Feet (1 half manuscript box)
Mordecai Manuel Noah was born on July 14, 1785, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died in New York City on May 22, 1851. He was buried in Beth Olom Cemetery in Queens, New York. An American politician, playwright, journalist and diplomat, he was the most prominent Jew of his day, with a national and international profile.
In the mid 1820s after decades of anti-Jewish attacks in Germany, Mordecai Noah set out to establish a refuge for persecuted European Jews until they could be restored to their historical-biblical home of Palestine. He plan was to come to fruition on Grand Island, NY, near Buffalo. At the time he was ridiculed by many non-Jews for his utopian ideas and criticized by religious Jewish contemporaries as an assimilationist Jew, rejecting prevailing theology. Since the attempt did not come to fruition, he has been viewed variously by some historians as an idealist, a self-promoting land speculator, or, from the opposite viewpoint, a man ahead of his time preceding Theodore Herzl (See bibliographic source list at the end of the finding aid).
On 15 September 1825, Major Mordecai M. Noah, came to Buffalo to dedicate Grand Island, however, plans went awry and the boat planned to take him across did not appear. Through personal connections in the non-Jewish community, he connected with the Reverend Addison Searle, of St Paul’s, who opened the Church for the dedicatory event. Mordecai Noah arrived in grand regalia, along with a band and city notables. Inside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Reverend Searle read the office of Morning Prayer and Mordecai Noah addressed the congregation, proclaiming Grand Island, “Ararat, the City of Refuge” for world Jewry and himself a “judge of Israel.” A specially commissioned 300-pound cornerstone was placed inside the church on the altar for the duration of the ceremony. Chiseled on the stone in Hebrew was the opening lines of the Shema, a central Jewish prayer (in translation): “Hear, O Israel, the Lord God is one.” Added in English was the text: “ARARAT, A City of Refuge for the Jews Founded by Mordecai Manuel Noah in the month of Tizri 5586, Sept. 1825 in the 50th year of American Independence.” The stone is currently located in the Buffalo History Museum in the “Neighbors” Exhibit, after it was located in several places across Buffalo and Grand Island. Decades later, in May 1888, St. Paul’s Cathedral was severely damaged by fire, and another Jewish-Christian relationship was forged with St Paul’s and the local Jewish community, as Rabbi Israel Aaron of Temple Beth Zion offered the use of the synagogue for Christian worship on Sundays until the Cathedral could be rebuilt.
On Sunday, 3 June 2012, members of St. Paul’s Cathedral and local Jewish community leaders gathered to mark interfaith efforts and the cathedral erected an historical marker to commemorate shared moments in history. Cathedral archivist Wayne Mori and Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, organized the design and erection of marker.
In the last two years, alternative Jewish “homeland,” refuges and havens have become a growing area of research among a wide variety of academics, especially in the literary fields. During the two years that Wayne Mori and Jerry Klinger worked on the Mordecai Noah historic marker, once such example of alternative” homeland research was unveiled on the web which related to the marker installation, although there was no connection between the two projects. “Mapping Ararat” - the digital imagining of Ararat – as “An Imaginary Jewish Homelands Project” uses augmented reality to animate Mordecai Noah's 1825 unrealized plan to transform Grand Island, New York into Ararat, a “city of refuge for the Jews.” Publicly available websites materials are reprinted and placed in the collection as context and as an example of the ways in which Mordecai Noah’s plans, although never realized, continue to hold interest for successive generations of researchers in a wide variety of fields in addition to traditional historical scholarship which is also ongoing.
Wayne A. Mori, archivist at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, donated materials in November 2012 that documented his successful efforts to erect a marker with Jerry Klinger, President of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation (a Maryland-based nonprofit organization), who also donated materials in January 2013. The collection was arranged in June 2013 and it was deposited at the University Archives, Special Collections by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project in June 2013.
The Jewish Buffalo Archives Project was founded in late 2007 under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo with a seed grant from the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies. The Archives Project collects mainly 20th century documentation relating to the diverse histories, religious traditions and cultures of Jewish communities within the Greater Buffalo area of Western New York, encompassing the geographic areas of Erie and Niagara Counties and partners with the University Archives at the University at Buffalo to make these records accessible.
Accruals and Additions
- Finding Aid for the Mordecai Noah Historical Marker collection
- Finding aid prepared by Chana Revell Kotzin, June 2013.
- Description rules
- Language of description
- The arrangement and description of the Mordecai Noah Historical Marker collection was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and the Bureau of Jewish Education.