By the mid-1800s, Jews were settled throughout the United States, and many had absorbed the local culture in which they were living. Among the Jews of the south, there were, therefore, Jewish slave-holders. And in the north, there were many Jews involved in the abolitionist movement.
August (Anshl) Bondi (1833-1907) was a Jewish abolitionist who lived neither in the North or the South, but in the disputed territory of Kansas. Actually, he was born and raised in Vienna. He and his family came to America after the failed revolution of 1848, in which he, as a student, took part. While his parents settled in St. Louis, August tried his hands at many jobs along the Missouri River.
Bondi came to Kansas from Missouri as part of a movement of anti-slavery settlers, hoping to out-populate the pro-slavery settlers. Along with two other Jews, Theodore Weiner and Jacob Benjamin, he opened a trading post in Osawatomie. Like other abolitionists, they were harassed by the pro-slavery Border Ruffians. Bondi’s house was burned, his livestock stolen and the trading post trashed.
As an abolitionist, Bondi was drawn to the call of John Brown, the famous abolitionist. Along with Weiner and Benjamin, he signed on as part of John Brown’s “Kansas Regulars” and took part in the Battle of Black Jack. Two years later, the Kansas legislature adopted a constitution as a Free State (no slavery).
After Bondi married and settled down, his home was a station on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War he fought for the Union in the Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. While Bondi and his family did not live within a Jewish community, he remained loyal to his faith, making certain that a rabbi officiated at his daughters’ weddings.
*Title: From the diary of August Bondi, comment on the Emancipation Proclamation
Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.