web analytics
August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


American Jewry And The 1840 Damascus Blood Libel


 

Meanwhile news of the dire events at Damascus had reached the shores of America, and the Jews of this country prepared to join in, for the first time in their history, with the exertions of their European brothers, on a matter affecting the honour of all Jewry. It is somewhat difficult to account for the lateness of their action. So far as I can ascertain, it took about 30 days for the European mails to reach America, yet it was not till Aug. 17 that a meeting was held in New York with J. B. Kursheet [Israel Baer Kursheedt[iii]] as Chairman and Theodore J. Seixas as Secretary which, passed resolutions expressing their horror at the treatment of the Damascus Jews and calling upon the President of the United States to intervene on their behalf. Five days later – time went more leisurely in those days – this resolution was sent to Washington, whence almost by return on Aug. 26th. Mr. John Forsyth, the Secretary of State, replied informing the New York Jews that already on the 14th inst. a letter had been sent to Mr. Gliddon, the U. S. consul at Alexandria, ordering him to do all in his power to help redress the wrongs of the Damascus Jews.

On Thursday evening, Aug. 27th, the Jews of Philadelphia held in the vestry of the Mikve Israel Synagogue a memorable meeting at which were present not alone the chief Jews of the city but several representative Christian clergymen, Dr. Ducachet, Rector of St, Stephens, Dr. Ramsay, a Presbyterian minister, and the Rev. Mr. Kennedy, all of whom ultimately spoke. The meeting appears to have been summoned by Hyman Gratz, but the most important figure at it and the orator of the evening was undoubtedly Isaac Leeser[iv], then in the height of his powers. He took the bold course of repudiating the blood-accusation by the simple argument that as both Christianity and Islam were derived from Judaism, if the last advocated ritual murder, the daughter-religions would equally be guilty of the same practice.

 

Given that Mohammed Ali had acknowledged the innocence of the accused Jews on August 28, it is clear that these actions taken by American Jews turned out to be unnecessary.

 

But though the action of the American Jews had no immediate effect, it was not for naught that they had taken a worthy share in the universal protest of Israel against the blood-accusation which affected the honor of all Jews.

When the next occasion arose for united action in the Mortara case, even distant California took part in the universal protest of all Jewry, and in the Russian and Roumanian atrocities of the past 20 years the Jews of America have been expected to take their share in any diplomacy or action that was needed, and have nobly fulfilled that expectation. Their part in the Damascus affair was thus the beginning of the diplomatic or international phase in the history of ‘the American Jews, and in this sense, I venture to think, deserves somewhat fuller attention than has hitherto been given to it.

 


[i]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_libel

 

[ii] Damascus Affair, The Jewish Encyclopedia, Ktav Publishing House, Inc. 1906, page 420. The article is available at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=22&letter=D

 

[iii] For more about I. B. Kursheedt see “America’s First Torah Scholar: Israel Baer Kursheedt,” The Jewish Press, February 7, 2007, page 1 (http://www.jewishpress.com/content.cfm?contentid=20616).

 

[iv] For more about Isaac Leeser see “Isaac Leeser: Architect of Traditional Judaism in America,” The Jewish Press, June 22, 2007, page 1 (http://www.jewishpress.com/content.cfm?contentid=21906).

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “American Jewry And The 1840 Damascus Blood Libel”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility.
Nearing Double Digits in the Democrat Defection from Bad Iran Deal
Latest Sections Stories
South-Florida-logo

An impressive group of counselors and staff members are providing the boys and girls with a summer of fun and Torah learning and a lifetime of wonderful memories.

South-Florida-logo

Rabbi Sam Intrator recently led a summer program in Williams Island, located in Aventura. The event focused on how to find spiritual joy in Judaism. The rabbi cited biblical and Talmudic teachings, ancient Temple rituals, and the words of prayers to establish the role that love and positive thinking have in Torah values. Rabbi Intrator […]

South-Florida-logo

The Iranian deal was sealed on July 14, four and a half months after Netanyahu’s visit. The details of the agreement were shocking and worse than anyone had imagined.

There are so many toys available for newborn to age 5, but how do you choose?

In 1939, with life getting harder for Jews, she and several friends decided it was time to make aliyah, and applied at the Palestina Amt for permits.

I am not sure how many of you readers have had this experience, but I did and it truly tested the limits of my sanity!

Aside from my own 485-page tome on the subject, Red Army, I think Jamie Glazov did an excellent job at framing things in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

We studied his seforim together, we listened to famous cantorial masters and we spoke of his illustrious yichus, his pedigree, dating back to the famous commentator, Rashi.

Jews who were considered, but not ultimately selected, include Woody Allen, Saul Bellow, David Ben-Gurion, Marc Chagall, Anne Frank, and Barbra Streisand.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Rav S. R. Hirsch

Last month we outlined how a few years after Judah Touro’s death a public movement was inaugurated by the citizens of New Orleans to erect a monument to his memory, and that opposition to this tribute came from a number of rabbis throughout the country who claimed that Judaism forbade the erection of any graven […]

Levine-Dr-Yitzchok-NEW

After his marriage he was successfully engaged in the lumber business.

He wrote a strong defense of shechitah in which he maintained that the Jewish method of slaughter had a humanitarian influence on the Jewish people.

This was a most unusual step to take in those days, given the difficulties of travel to Europe. Nonetheless, on May 1, 1860 he sailed from New York on the steamship Hammonia.

The ship’s captain apparently respected the Friedenwalds’ strict adherence to halacha because he allowed them to use his cabin for davening and other religious observances.

I happen to believe that for a couple to spend a few years in kollel is a wonderful way to start a marriage.

Penn wrote the following to a friend in England: “I found them [the Indians of the eastern shore of North America] with like countenances with the Hebrew race; and their children of so lively a resemblance to them that a man would think himself in Duke’s place, or Barry street, in London, when he sees them.”

The special charm of these letters is their immediacy and authenticity of emotion and description.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/american-jewry-and-the-1840-damascus-blood-libe/2011/11/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: