STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
Moses Finzi Lobo
(Barbados 1834 - Philadelphia 1904)
Background and Early Life in Barbados
The eldest son of London-born Moses (Matthew) Lobo and Sarah Cohen D'Azevedo, was Daniel Moses Lobo, born on 24 August 1805 in Amsterdam. His younger brother Isaac, born in Suriname, was my maternal great-great-great grandfather. Both brothers emigrated to the island of Barbados, British West Indies - now generally referred to as the Caribbean. When he was 22 years old, Daniel married his first cousin Leah Lobo on 31 October 1827 at the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, Barbados. Leah was born in St. Thomas, British Virgin Islands, and was the daughter of Matthew Lobo's brother David Lobo and his wife Rachel de Leon.
On 20 September 1828, Leah and Daniel became parents of a daughter whom they named Leah Sarah. Sadly, baby Leah Sarah Lobo would never knew her mother. Barely a year after their marriage, Daniel Moses Lobo's wife Leah died on 8 October 1828 in Barbados, just eighteen days after giving birth to their child.
Six years later, Daniel Moses Lobo married Sarah Finzi, born in Barbados on 9 June 1798. They were married at the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, Barbados on 5 January 1834 when Daniel was 29 years old. On 29 March 1834, Sarah's brother Abraham Finzi married Daniel's cousin, Judith D'Azevedo. That year was to be a most eventful one for the family, as on 6 December 1834, Daniel's wife Sarah gave birth to a son. They named him Moses Finzi Lobo - a half brother for six-year old Leah. My great-grandfather Daniel Lobo was Moses' younger first cousin.
Moses Finzi's father Daniel Moses Lobo was a merchant and, like many other Sephardic Jews of that time in Barbados, settled with his wife and family in Swan Street, where they also traded. He operated a dry goods store on Swan Street, which was just around the corner from the Nidhe Israel Synogogue in Bridgetown. Daniel Moses Lobo took an active role in the Jewish community of Barbados, as did his Azevedo relatives. He was the Secretary of the Rebuilding Committee of the Nidhe Israel Synagogue that was badly damaged in the hurricane of 1831 and is recorded as D.M. Lobo in several of the minutes of the Mahamad. Young Moses Finzi no doubt attended the first Jewish religious school which was established, in January, 1844. It is recorded that his second cousin, Mrs. Judith Finzi was superintendent ("Occident," ii. 102).
The Great Fire in Bridgetown
On 3 February 1845 when Moses Finzi Lobo was just eleven years old, a great tragedy struck that no doubt impacted the course of his life. A severe fire broke out at the family's home and business place, No. 20 Swan Street. The fire ravaged his father's property and numerous houses and acres of Lower Bridgetown were burnt, becoming aptly known as Burnt District. The area was subsequently rebuilt, but three years later advertisements placed by John Montefiore appeared in the The Barbados Mercury & Bridgetown Gazette, offering the Lobo property for rent. There are also advertisements for an auction sale of all of D.M. Lobo's furniture and household articles as well as for his stock-in-trade. Sometime after the fire of 1845 and 1848 Daniel Moses Lobo, his wife and children all emigrated to Philadelphia, USA, where they lived the rest of their lives as part of a steadily growing Jewish community there. Many other Jews emigrated from Barbados to America, mostly to Philadelphia and New York. In 1848 there were only 71 Jews left in Barbados, 38 of whom belonged to the congregation.
Dwindling Jewish Community in Barbados
Dr. Laura Liebman interviewed Barbadian historian Dr. Karl Watson in 2010. When asked about the size of the Jewish community at its peak, Dr. Watson replied: "By the middle of the nineteenth century, the minutes of the Mahamad openly lamented that the “ancient” Barbadian Jewish community was under the threat of extinction, fueled by the forces of migration and intermarriage with Christian families. In 1848, the shamash (warden), E.A. Moses, wrote poignantly to a friend about the declining fortunes of the Nidhe Israel community: “You are aware of the departure of my friend Lobo & family and also of S.E. Daniels & family for the United States. M. D’Azevedo and family will very soon follow. My anxieties & labour for our fallen Snoga (Snoga is the diminutive of esnoga, or synagogue) are necessarily increased. Heaven guard it. Amen.”
Life and Career in Philadelphia
Moses Finzi Lobo was a fifteen year old boy in Philadelphia when his father Daniel died in on 23 August 1849. It was the day before his forty-fourth birthday. His widowed mother Sarah lived another eighteen years, and their burials took place in Philadelphia. Young Moses Finzi grew up to be a well respected and prominent journalist with a flourishing career. He died on 17 December 1904 and is buried in the Mount Sinai Cemetery, Philadelphia.
The following article was written about him by Charles J. Cohen and has been published by the American Jewish Historical Society:
"Moses Finzi Lobo was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies, December 6, 1834, and died in Philadelphia November 17, 1904. He came to Philadelphia about 1845, and at twelve years of age attended the public schools, obtaining a good education, which was greatly added to in after years by close study, notwithstanding an active business career. About the year 1859 he entered the employ of the late Henry Cohen, importer of stationery in Philadelphia, and continued there until 1867, finding this position particularly attractive, as he had the privilege of the Sabbath and the holidays. Being devoted to his religious duties, he observed them with much care.
After leaving Mr. Cohen's establishment he occupied several positions on different newspapers, being on the editorial staff of the North American and of the Age , and at the time of the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, through the influence of the late George W. Childs, he was appointed head of the Press Bureau established at that time, and did excellent work. His connection with the newspapers received the highest commendation, particularly from the late William W. Harding, of the Inquirer , and the Hon. Clayton McMichael, of the North American, both of Philadelphia.
Mr. Lobo's knowledge of shorthand was exceptional, and he was frequently chosen to report scientific addresses, his knowledge of terms and scientific phraseology being superior to that possessed by many following the profession at that time. He was private secretary to the Superintendent of the Mint, resigning that position to engage in literary work, beginning with a complete concordance to the poetical works of Milton; this, however, was discontinued on finding that such a publication was already on the market. He wrote much on matters of local history, and was particularly interested in English grammar. In this connection it may be said he noticed that a comma had been misplaced in the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Writing to the Hon. Charles Sumner, the author of the amendment, regarding this error, he received in reply Mr. Sumner's statement that the criticism was justified, but that a greater object had been obtained, and that in his judgment it was unwise to again open the subject.
Of a diffident, retiring nature he did not take that rank in communal affairs to which his abilities entitled him; many of his contributions to literature are not known, since they were published anonymously. He had a few close personal friends who esteemed him highly for his mental and moral worth. At the time of the Civil War he endeavored to enlist, but was prevented by physical disabilities; his pen and word, however, were always found on the side opposing slavery.
In the year 1860 he became associated with the Congregation Mikveh Israel that had just removed on Seventh Street, above Arch Street, and remained a congregant until his death."
Source for the above article:
Author(s): Charles J. Cohen
Source: Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, No. 19 (1910), pp. 197-199 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University PressStable
Moses Finzi Lobo died on 17 November 1904 in 1524 North 8th Street, Philadelphia Pensylvania, U.S.A. and was buried on 20 November 1904.
Inscription on his headstone at Mount Sinai Cemetery Philadelphia:
MOSES FINZI LOBO
BORN BARBADOS DECEMBER 5 1834
DIED NOVEMBER 17 1904
Genealogical information sourced in Holland, Barbados and Canada Other Reference sources: