The First Jewish Senator

(1845-1861, 1855-1861)

The first Jew elected to the U.S. Senate was Florida Democrat David Levy Yulee. Yulee was first elected in 1845 and served until 1851 and then served another term from 1855 to 1861. He was the son of Moses Elias Levy, a Moroccan Jew who made his fortune in timber in the Caribbean, then bought 50,000 acres of land near Jacksonville, hoping to create a New Jerusalem for Jewish settlers. Levy County and the city of Yulee are named after this family. Yulee supported slavery and secession. The second Jew in the Senate was Judah Benjamin. More than two dozen Jews have served in the Senate since then.

Sources: Connie L. McNeely and Susan J. Tolchin, “On the Hill,” in L. Sandy Maisel and Ira Forman, Eds. Jews in American Politics. (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), pp. 50-51; American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Desk Reference, (The Philip Leff Group, Inc., 1999), p. 7.