When Rosa Simmons Blank died in 1915, the members of the Hebrew Benevolent Society assembled at her home on Glebe Street in Charleston and accompanied her body on the three-block walk to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim for her funeral. It was the first time since the society’s founding in 1784 that it had paid special tribute to a woman.
It was as Rosa Blank would have wanted it because these were not just places for her, but the centers of her 80 years of life built around faith and family. Left as a young widow with five children, Rosa had managed to buy 9 Glebe Street and spent 35 years there raising her family through good times and bad. She had come to America as a 14-year-old and for 20 years was president of the Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society, making “the world better and happier” as the group put it in a resolution after her death. Her son Isadore was president of Beth Elohim, the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in America, from 1917-1937.
Nine Glebe has its own long history, dating from the creation of the Glebe Lands that Affra Harleston Coming, another widow, gave to the minister of the Church of England in Charles Town in 1698. Since being acquired in the College of Charleston’s ambitious expansion in the 1970s, it has been home to provosts, professors, international students and even the college’s winningest basketball coach.
But more than anything 9 Glebe is the forgotten story of Rosa Blank and her family, which owned the house for more than seven decades. . . .
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