DHPA Jewish Historical Resources
In September 1861 The Israelite, a Cincinnati-based Jewish weekly publication, reported that Columbus, Indiana Jews, though “few in number,” “have with a spirit of perseverance and liberality worthy of emulation, organized a new congregation under the title of Chisak Emuna.” Members elected Reverend Simon Benmann as minister as well as a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and three trustees. For the next 150 years, the Columbus Jewry continued to worship together despite a small membership and organizational changes.
The city of Columbus boasts the largest recorded population of Jews in Bartholomew County and serves as the county seat. Since the nineteenth century Bartholomew County residents have relied on a largely agricultural and manufacturing based economy, yet, very few Jews farmed. Instead they usually leased their land to others to do so. In the mid-nineteenth century, Columbus, like most Indiana cities, attracted Jewish families who settled and sustained their livelihoods through wool mills, retail stores, and services.