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Leadership

For almost two and a half centuries members of Beth Elohim have been eminent leaders in the city, state and country. Among notable early congregants were Moses Lindo, who before the Revolution helped to develop the cultivation of Indigo (then South Carolina's second crop), and Joseph Levy, veteran of the Cherokee War of 1760-61 and probably the first Jewish military officer in America. Almost two dozen men of Beth Elohim served in the War of Independence, among them the brilliant young Francis Salvador, who as delegate to the South Carolina Provincial Congresses of 1775 and1776, was one of the first Jews to serve in an American legislature. Killed shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Salvador was also the first Jew known to die in the Revolutionary War.

Members of the congregation founded Charleston's Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1784, the nation's oldest Jewish charitable organization, and in 1801 established the Hebrew Orphan Society, also the country's oldest. Both are still active. A Hebrew school where secular as well as religious subjects were taught functioned from the middle of the eighteenth century, and in 1838 the second oldest Jewish Sunday School in the United States was organized. The blind poet Penina Moise was a famous early superintendent.

Other congregants pioneered in steamship navigation, introduced illuminating gas to American cities, and numbered four of the eleven founders of the country's Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Masonry. Both the Surgeon General and the Quartermaster General of the Confederate Army belonged to KKBE.

In 1790 President George Washington responded to the congratulations of K.K. Beth Elohim by writing, "The affectionate expressions of your address again excite my gratitiude, and receive my warmest acknowledgement... May the same temporal and eternal blessing which you implore for me, rest upon your Congregation..."