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Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)


Biography of Rebekah Hyneman

Rebekah Hyneman was born in Pennsylvania in 1816 to Abraham Gumpertz, a Jewish-German storekeeper, and a Christian mother. Rebekah married Benjamin Hyneman, a jewelry peddler, in 1835 and had two children, Elias Leon (born in 1837) and Samuel (born in 1839). While she was pregnant with Samuel, Benjamin went on a peddling expedition to Texas and never returned. It is thought that he was killed by Indians or by bandits.

Rebekah converted to her husband's faith in 1845. Her sister Sarah, who was married to Benjamin's brother Leon, had already converted to Judaism before her marriage in 1834. Within a month of Rebekah's conversion, her religious poetry began to appear regularly in The Occident, a Jewish journal edited by Rev. Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia, the cantor of Congregation Mikveh Israel.

In 1853, a collection of Rebekah's poetry, entitled The Leper and Other Poems was published by Leon Hyneman's publishing house. She also contributed secular poetry, short stories, novellas and serial novels to The Masonic Mirror and Keystone, a newspaper edited by Leon Hyneman.

Much of Rebekah's poetry reflects her affection for her lost husband, Benjamin, and her loneliness without him. I DREAMED OF THEE and THE UNFORGOTTEN are about her love for Benjamin, LIKE SOME LONE BIRD describes her own feelings of desolation and loneliness.

Tragically, Rebekah's son Elias suffered a fate similar to that of Benjamin. A volunteer in the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry during the Civil War, he was captured and died at the Andersonville prison camp. His remains were later recovered and reburied in the cemetery of Mikveh Israel on Federal Street in Philadelphia.