Errors in the obituary about Richard Stone
August 23, 2019
In today’s Heritage Florida Jewish News (Aug. 9, 2019), the obituary titled “Richard Stone, Florida’s first Jewish senator since Civil War, dies at 90,” Josefin Dolsten of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wrote that David Levy Yulee, the first Jewish senator from Florida, who served from 1855 to 1861, converted to Christianity. Actually he served from 1845 to 1861.
More important, there is no proof that David Levy Yulee ever converted. Not only was he Florida’s first senator and Florida’s first Jewish senator but he was the first Jew to serve in the U.S. Senate, arriving there before Judah P. Benjamin.
There is a letter written in 1872 by Yulee’s wife, Nannie, who beseeched her husband to be converted and to also have their eldest son converted. This letter can be found among the Yulee papers at the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville. This letter was written well after Yulee’s term in the Senate ended. Unless something surfaces in the future that provides contrary information, it is wrong to say, without evidence, that Yulee converted.
I hope that you will correct these misleading errors.
Rachel B. Heimovics
Founding Managing Editor Southern Jewish History