Moses Elias Levy (1782-1854), a Moroccan born Jewish merchant, came to Florida after its cession from Spain to the United States in 1821. Before his arrival, Levy acquired over 50,000 acres in East Florida. In 1822, Levy began development on Pilgrimage Plantation, just northwest of the future town of Micanopy. The plantation's main commodity was sugar cane, which Levy had reintroduced to Florida. Levy and his partners, including the Florida Association of New York, helped to draw Jewish settlers to the area with the goal of creating a refuge for oppressed European Jews in a communitarian settlement, the first on U.S. Soil. Levy's efforts sparked significant economic development, spurring the growth of Micanopy from a small trading post to a bustling town. Pilgrimage was destroyed in 1835 during the Second Seminole War, but Levy's reform efforts continued. He promoted free public education and served as one of the territory's first Education Commissioners. He was also a vigorous advocate for the gradual abolition of slavery and the humane treatment of enslaved people. Levy was the father of David Levy Yulee, one of the first U.S. Senators from Florida and the first U.S. Senator of Jewish heritage in American History.
A FLORIDA HERITAGE SITE
SPONSORED BY THE TOWN OF MICANOPY, MICANOPY HISTORICAL SOCIETY, THE JEWISH AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION, AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE 2015
It has been two hundred years since Levy wanted, tried and failed to create a safe haven for European Jews in America. He wanted them to come, to escape deadly European anti-Semitism. Ironically, today, two centuries later, once again calls are going out to European Jewry, from the United States and Israel. Each of those lands is calling on Jews to escape deadly, resurgent European antisemitism.