Portrait of Abigail Franks (1696-1756)
Keeping Tradition Alive
Abigail Franks was a colonial era Jew as concerned about intermarriage as many Jews are today. She was married to Jacob Franks, the first parnas (president) of New York's Shearith Israel. She was part of a wealthy family, and while she was never employed, she was well educated and did much reading and writing. One daughter, Phila, married a Christian, and in response, Franks ensured that Phila had no further contact with her family. Although she wanted her children to marry other Jews, she did maintain close personal ties to non-Jews. When it came time for him to marry, Franks she sent her son Naphtali to England, thinking that there were more Jewish women there, and she wrote numerous letters to him, many of which have been preserved. Although Judaism was clearly important to Franks, she never learned Hebrew or Yiddish.