web analytics
September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Gershom Mendes Seixas: American Patriot (Part III)

Last month’s column dealt with the activities of Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas during and shortly after the American Revolution. Gershom, who served for almost 50 years as the hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, chose to leave the city during the Revolution rather than live under British rule. From 1776 to 1780 he resided with his father in Stratford, Connecticut and from 1780 to 1784 in Philadelphia where he served as hazzan of Congregation Mickve Israel. Upon his return to New York in 1784 he served as hazzan of Shearith Israel until his passing in 1816.

In this concluding article about Seixas we will sketch his service to New York’s Jewish community as well as the wider New York community. In addition, we’ll get some insights into his family life based on his correspondence with one of his daughters.

Serving New York’s Jewish Community[i]

Hazzan Seixas was an expert mohel. “Gershom Seixas served in this capacity throughout his life, winning praise from a local doctor for his surgical expertise even at the age of seventy. The shortage of capable mohalim meant that a child would often be circumcized after the eighth day. Seixas’ correspondence indicates that it was not unusual for two weeks to pass before the operation, and we even find reference to the circumcision of a seven-month old baby. After the operation Seixas would attend the child to check on his health and progress, often administering necessary medicinal remedies. These tasks sometimes ended in Pyrrhic finance when the hazzan would in the end use most or all of his fee to pay for transportation and supplies.

“Seixas filled yet other positions of importance. Often his duties depended on knowledge of religious law and the subtleties of religious judgment based on such law. A number of times he sat on a board which would examine applicants for the position of shohet and supervise the practice of ritual slaughter within the community. At other times he would officiate at wedding ceremonies, often writing the necessary contracts in a handsome Hebrew script. These duties, too, required halachic knowledge in yet other areas.

“The growth in Seixas’ reputation and responsibility supplied him with the necessary stature for preaching to the congregation as their leader and minister. When the European rabbi spoke, it was usually in the form of learned Pilpulistic discourses or in an effort to arouse a transcendent piety, while Seixas’ sermons had a more secular tone. He preached sporadically, interweaving various topics under one heading. The subject which received the greatest amount of attention in these sermons was charity. It is significant that Seixas found it necessary to preach that poverty was no crime nor an outward manifestation of internal evil. He realized that ‘there are rich who are wicked,’ and for him this proved that wealth cannot, therefore, be a reward. He told his fellow congregants that the purpose of a rich man’s life is to help the poor, who in turn suffer poverty to test both the virtue of the rich and their own mettle.

“He asked the congregation to support various charitable societies that disbursed charity secretly to the needy without disclosing the names of the poor to the rest of the community. In these sermons he admonished the congregation, complaining that a few generous souls were forced to carry a disproportionate load. Charity, he preached, is a consummate act of faith. For Gershom Seixas it represented a recognition of man’s stewardship – his caretaker status. By the charitable act, man shows that wealth and goods are not really his but merely in his possession by favor of God for the purpose of doing good deeds.”

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 “Gershom Mendes Seixas: American Patriot (Part III)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Palestinian Authority unity government chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Quiet negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu?
Israeli PM, PA Chairman in Secret Talks?
Latest Sections Stories
Calmer Times. Breslov chassidim on erev Rosh Hashanah in 2012 at the grave of Rav Nachman in Uman.

As optimistic as Menachem Rosenberg is – and he said he is going to Uman – he’s sure that this year, most of the travelers will not tour other religious sites or places in Ukraine.

Three sets of three-day Yomim Tovim can seem overwhelming – especially when we are trying to stay healthy.

Plotkin-092614

Is a missed opportunity to do a mitzvah considered a sin?

Teens-Twenties-logo

The sounds and scents of the kitchen are cozy, familiar, but loud in the silence.

Everyone has a weakness. For some people it is the inability to walk past a sales rack without dropping a few hundred dollars. For others, it’s the inability to keep their house organized.

Not enjoying saying no, I often succumbed to requests viewing them as demands I couldn’t refuse.

His entire life was dedicated to Torah and he became a pivotal figure in the transmittal of the Oral Torah to the next generation.

When you don’t have anyone else to turn to… that’s when you’re tied to Hashem the closest.

While we all go to restaurants for a good meal, it is dessert, that final taste that lingers in your mouth, that is the crown jewel of any dining experience and Six Thirteen’s offerings did not disappoint.

Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.

There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.

In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.

This is an important one in raising a mentsch (and maybe even in marrying off a mentsch! listening skills are on the top of the list when I do shidduch coaching).

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine

In 1787 Jonas wrote a letter to Congress asking that the federal Constitution guarantee religious liberty in the state of Pennsylvania.

Jonas Phillips

Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.

These letters give us the privilege of knowing him in his old age when he is mellow, tempered in his judgments, and sagacious from long experience of dealing with people.

The British evacuated New York on November 25, 1783, and Congress demobilized the American army shortly thereafter.

“Simple, modest, altogether unassuming, Gershom spent his happiest hours with his ever-growing family who were never far from his thoughts.

“Attuned to the ideal of establishing a new Zion in free America, they named their new colony Palestine.

Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/gershom-mendes-seixas-american-patriot-part-iii/2014/07/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: