A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.
Sabbath-observing Jews who came to America found themselves at odds with the general society within which they resided. For example,
The pressure of conformity to the customs of the majority affected the Sabbath observance by Richmond Jews. The pressure of business and the attendance of Jews at private schools on Saturday were formidable obstacles to religious orthodoxy. Joseph Marx complained: “Nothing has so seriously caused us to reject our religion as the Christian policy of adopting a different Sabbath, the force of example at least, would carry Jews to the Synagogue, when Christians mass to the Churches, nay there would not be the same clashing of interests, nor a day of labour lost.” 2
The observance of Shabbos meant that Jews could not do business on Saturdays. The institution in many localities of so-called Sabbath Laws (laws forbidding certain activities on Sundays) meant that they were also forced to refrain from doing business on Sunday. “From the earliest times, American legislation has favored regulations of Sabbath observance. The courts have invariably traced the origin of Sunday laws to the Jews’ legislation for the Sabbath, but have calmly transferred the “holy time” from the seventh day of the week to the first.”
The first Sabbath Laws were instituted in 1650 in Connecticut. Other colonies followed suit. The goal was to preserve the sanctity of the day of rest. The Blue Laws (as these laws were referred to) in Connecticut included the following: “No one shall run on the Sabbath day, or walk in his garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting; No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave on the Sabbath day; No woman shall kiss her child on the Sabbath; The Sabbath shall begin at sunset on Saturday.”3
Some Jews felt no need to observe the Christian day of rest, and they opened their businesses on Sundays. As a result, they often found themselves in court.
The earliest cases arising under Sunday laws, where Jews were litigants, date from 1816. In Pennsylvania the defendant’s contention that, as a Jew who scrupulously observed his own Sabbath, he was excepted from the operation of a statute which prohibited worldly employment on Sunday, was not approved.
In 1833 Alexander Marks and another [man] were prosecuted by the Town Council of Columbia, S. C., for having kept their shop doors open on Sunday, thus violating a local statute which regulated Sunday observance. Marks contended that this statute conflicted with the United States Constitution, which guaranteed the free exercise of conscience to all, and that, being a Jew, this local ordinance was unconstitutional. The court, however, did not adopt this view of the situation and upheld Marks’ conviction on the ground that the ordinance in question was proper, for the good of society and in aid of law and order, not of religion.
Over the years, many Jews ran afoul of Sunday Laws; some for relatively minor “offenses.” In 1846, S. A. Benjamin made the mistake of selling a pair of gloves on Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina.
“A city ordinance of 1801 made it a penal offense for any person publicly to expose for sale or sell in any shop, goods, etc., on the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday. Benjamin was found guilty and fined. He admitted that he had sold the gloves, but declared that the law could not compel him to observe the Christian Sabbath as he was a conscientious Israelite who observed the seventh day of the week as his Sabbath. It was held, however, by the appellate court that the ordinance was constitutional, being a police regulation, and that it did not operate in such a way as to cause Benjamin to desecrate his own Sabbath.”
The problem of keeping Shabbos and working on Sunday continued well into the twentieth century. In 1943 Rabbi Dr. Bernard Drachman wrote:
Of the forty-eight states of the Union twenty-four, or exactly half, prohibit all work or business on Sunday. Of the remaining twenty-four, the majority grant partial exemption from Sunday laws to the observer of the seventh-day Sabbath. Three of the far Western states, California, Oregon, and Washington, and the District of Columbia, it may be incidentally remarked, have no Sunday laws. The State of New York, in which the bulk of the Jewish population of this country dwells, has a partial and very limited exemption law. It recognizes habitual observance of another day of the week as “holy time” as a valid defense against prosecution for work or labor done on Sunday. It does not protect against arrest for such labor nor does it permit traffic or business on Sunday at all.4
In recent years, some state legislatures have passed legislation guaranteeing a person the right not to have to work on his or her Sabbath. For example, Connecticut, the state that instituted the first Sunday Laws, has the following statute on its book: “No person who states that a particular day of the week is observed as his Sabbath may be required by his employer to work on such day. An employee’s refusal to work on his Sabbath shall not constitute grounds for his dismissal.“5
Even today some Jews encounter difficulties in the workplace because of their observance of Shabbos. Nonetheless, these obstacles, particularly in metropolitan areas with large Jewish populations, are nowhere near as formidable as those that presented themselves in the eighteenth, nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries.
2 Richmond’s Jewry, 1769-1976: Shabbat in Shockoe, by Myron Berman, University of Virginia Press, 1979, pages 101-102.
4 The Unfailing Light, by Bernard Drachman, The Rabbinical Council of America, New York, 1948, page 231.
5 Connecticut General Statute § 53-303e (b) (1985).
Dr. Yitzchok Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.
We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.
Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.
Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.
A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.
Dear Dr. Yael:
My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.
The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.
Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.
She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.
Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!
Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.
While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.
I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.
Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.
“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.
The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.
Last month’s column sketched the myriad of social programs in which the Orthodox American communal worker and leader Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) was involved. Adolphus married Rachel Seixas Phillips (1828-1881), a descendant of colonial patriot families and together they had eight daughters and a son.
There are many observant Jews who contributed much to secular and Jewish life in America and yet have, unfortunately, been essentially forgotten. One such man is Adolphus Simson Solomons (1826-1910).
Cholera was officially recognized to be of epidemic proportions in New York City on June 26, 1832. The epidemic was at its peak in July and 3,515 out of a population of about 250,000 died. (The equivalent death toll in today’s city of eight million would exceed 100,000.) Sadly, in 1832 there were no effective treatments available for those who contracted this disease.
As this is our third column on the Reverend Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, we’ll begin with a summary of his life.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/jews-and-the-sunday-laws/2007/12/05/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: