To the extent that the political activity of American Jews followed any distinctive pattern in these early decades of the Republic, they were Jeffersonians rather than Hamiltonians, Republican-Democrats rather than Federalists. One reason for this preference was the Jeffersonian dedication to low tariffs, international trade and states' rights planks which appealed to Jewish export and shipping interests. Moreover, the Jewish community was changing from an essentially Iberian to a largely German element. The Jewish immigrants from Germany were often liberal-to-radical political refugees who found the political and social doctrines of the Republican-Democrats attractive. [. . .]
Despite the protests of Noah, "a substantial majority" of the 15,000 or so American Jews supported the Van Buren Administration--that of probably the most radical President in American history prior to the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.l2
In return for this support, or perhaps as a matter of principle, Van Buren supported Jewish protests against the Damascus ritual murder affair of 1840. The Damascus authorities had accused seven Jews of having kidnapped and murdered two Christians so they could secretly drink their blood during Passover services. [. . .]
Mass meetings of the Jewish communities of New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Charleston and other cities sent urgent petitions to the President. At Charleston, a general meeting of all citizens was held, with the support of Mayor Henry L. Pinckney and the Roman Catholic Bishop of the city, to protest the persecution of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire.
American Jews in the Jacksonian Era
In an 1826 memorandum, the Charleston journalist, Isaac Harby, estimated that the largest Jewish community in the United States was that of South Carolina with 1,200 members. He thought New York was in second place with 950 Jews, followed by 400 apiece in Virginia and Georgia, perhaps 350 in New England and the same number in Pennsylvania, 100 in Louisiana and not more than 40 in Florida.
If these figures are accurate, over 55% of American Jewry lived in the South. However, the picture was changing. Harby thought there had been no growth in the Charleston Jewish community for twenty years, while that of New York was rapidly expanding.
The Jew in American Politics (part 2): 1820s-1840s
"a substantial majority" of the 15,000 or so American Jews supported the Van Buren Administration--that of probably the most radical President in American history prior to the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt: