Born in 1798 to a respected Quaker family in Pennsylvania, Warder Cresson was attracted as an adult to various new Protestant sects, and took an especially keen interest in the Hebrew Bible. In 1844 he set off for the Land of Israel, having secured the position of American consul to Jerusalem, although by the time he arrived he found a letter revoking the appointment. Alan Dowty tells his story:
The Quaker-Turned-Jew Who Briefly Became the First U.S. Consul to Jerusalem
At America’s Best Universities, Biblical Religion Is a Curiosity, if Not a Menace
At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.