web analytics
November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan, 5775
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.



Manuel Josephson: A Learned 18th-Century American Jew


Manuel Josephson

Manuel Josephson

The overwhelming majority of Jews who came to America before the Revolutionary War did not have an extensive Jewish education. One exception was Manuel Josephson (1729-1796), who was born and educated in Germany. His extensive knowledge of Judaism qualified him to serve on the beis din of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York. Even though he was an Ashkenazic Jew, he was so highly esteemed that he was elected parnas (president) of the congregation in 1762. He was given the honor of being chassan Bereishis in 1760. On Lag B’Omer of 1759 he married Rachel (Ritzel) Judah. The Judahs were prominent Jews who had resided in New York City since before the Revolution.

Manuel made his living as a merchant. During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), also referred to as the Seven Years’ War, he was engaged in trading at Fort Edward, a British installation. On August 9, 1757 the French captured Fort Henry, another British stronghold located at the southern end of Lake George. The terms of surrender included the withdrawal of the garrison to Fort Edward, with specific terms that the French military protect the British from the Indians as they withdrew from the area.

In one of the most notorious incidents of the French and Indian War, the Indian allies of the French violated the agreed terms of surrender and attacked the British column, which had been deprived of ammunition, as it left the fort. On August 10, Josephson, who was at Fort Edward, wrote two letters to Hyman Levy, another Jewish merchant who did business with the British during the war. In his second letter Manuel described in detail the horrors of what the Indians had done.

Fort Edward, Aug’t 10th, I757.
Mr. Hyman Levy,
Sir:

I wrote you this morning; the post came in this morning but had no letters. Fort Wm. Henry went over to the French yesterday morning at seven o’clock with a very honourable capitulation, all their baggage, arms, colours, etc. The French Gen’l [Montcalm] made a present of a six pounder to Coll. Young in testimony of his gallant behaviour. They were to have been escorted by some of the French troops till they came safe here, but how much has that promise been violated! When our troops came away this morning safe from the French, the cruel Indians (of which ’tis said they have near 3000) fell in the first place among them, took out the women from among them, stript, and afterward scalpt them with their children and sucklings. Almost every young lad and boy among them shared the same most cruel fate…. Mr. Williamson, engineer, is not yet come in; Farrell, the sutler of the Thirty-Five Regiment, and his wife, both killed and scalped. Lieut. Harburt is likewise missing. In short, you never saw such havock and condition the poor people come in camp. Lyon came in safe amongst the rest but much fatigued….

Manuel Josephson[i]

 

Josephson was a strong-willed man who was not afraid to take action when he felt things were not being properly done. Despite having been elected president of the congregation in 1762, “he had trouble with the synagogal leaders a number of years later. He was accused, in 1769, of opposing the ‘good rules and orders instituted by our community’ and was threatened with expulsion.”[ii]

What those “good rules and orders” were, which he violated is not disclosed. The time of “penance” was set at one month. At the expiration of that time no penance was forthcoming and a further extension of one month was granted. The results are unknown, except that after the deadline the officers agreed to “prepare a draft for a new Table of Laws.” Apparently those who had rebelled were either vindicated or perhaps were even justified in their opposition to some of the “good rules and orders” previously enacted.

Josephson seems to have been a man of persistence in his convictions. A few years later, he and two others were cited for their non-conformance to the “ninth hascamah” [a regulation, the type of which we do not know] and consequently were deprived of all Synagogal honors, (and) their vote in the Synagogue, until they would make satisfactory concessions. No further details as to the final outcome are recorded in the Congregational minutes. Perhaps the conflicts in the Synagogue were of a ritual nature, arising of differences between the Ashkenazic and the Sephardic customs and the attitude of the Ashkenazim to the Sephardic form of Communal Government and their rigid enforcement of certain communal laws such as absolute decorum during worship services.[iii]

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 “Manuel Josephson: A Learned 18th-Century American Jew”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Yehudah Glick on the Temple Mount.
Yehuda Glick’s Condition Stabilizing, “He Was Very Lucky” (1:00 PM)
Latest Sections Stories
Collecting-History-logo

Undoubtedly the greatest manifestation of his antipathy was his infamous declaration: “[Expletive] the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway.”

West-Coast-logo

Chaplain Winkler along with the other OJCB chaplains work tirelessly on a daily basis to ensure that all of the Jewish prisoners religious needs are met.

Eller-103114-Busy-In-Brooklyn

“I work around the Jewish calendar, always trying to think of creative spins,” noted Chani.

“Without a high school diploma, you couldn’t work as a garbage collector in New York City; you couldn’t join the Air Force. Yet a quarter of our kids still walked out of high school and never came back.”
– Amanda Ridley

My mother-in-law is totally devoted to her daughters and their children. Her sons’ children on the other hand are treated like second-class citizens.

The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews is designed to tell the whole thousand-year story of the Jews in Poland.

This past summer was a powerful one for the Jewish people. I will always remember where I was on June 12th when I found out that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were kidnapped. I will always remember the look on my sister’s face on June 30th when she told me that they were found. I will […]

Avromi often put other people’s interests before his own: he would not defend people whom he believed were guilty (even if they were willing to pay him a lot of money).

The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from three companies that do business with Israel.

How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?

My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.

Students in early childhood, elementary, and middle school were treated to an array of hands-on projects to create sukkah decorations such as wind chimes, velvet posters, sand art, paper chains, and more.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Glimpses-100314

Practically to his last days the patriarchal founder was at his office almost daily and took an active interest in all matters connected with the business.

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

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/manuel-josephson-a-learned-18th-century-american-jew/2013/05/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: