web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Manuel Josephson, Orthodox American Patriot


Manuel Josephson

Manuel Josephson

Share Button

Last month we sketched the life of Manuel Josephson (1729-1796), who immigrated to New York in the 1740s. Manuel was one of the few learned Jews residing in America in the 18th century. His talents were recognized by Congregation Shearith Israel, and he served on the synagogue’s bet din for several years and as its parnas (president) in 1762. He earned his living as a merchant.

In 1776, when it became clear the British were about to occupy New York, Manuel and a number of other Jews who supported the Revolution relocated to Philadelphia. There he became an active member of Philadelphia’s Congregation Mikve Israel and was elected its parnas in 1785. He held this office until 1791.

 

Josephson’s Petition to Build a Mikveh[i]

“In 1784, Josephson presented the following petition to the board of Mikve Israel, asking that a ritual bathhouse (mikveh) be built for the women of the congregation. His motivation is classical in its orthodoxy: inasmuch as the American Jew had been blessed with desirable privileges, it was incumbent upon him to thank God by scrupulously observing the Divine Law. If he failed to do so, all the curses threatened in Holy Writ would descend upon the transgressor.”

Below is Manuel Josephson’s petition, with his spelling and punctuation.

 

It having pleased the Almighty God of Israel to appoint our lot in this country, the rulers whereof he has inspired with wisdom and a benevolent disposition toward us as a nation, whereby we enjoy every desireable priviledge and great preeminence far beyond many of our brethren dispersed in different countries and governments, And in order to manifest our gratitude for those peculiar favors and blessings, we ought, in a very sincere manner, observe a strict and close adherence to those laws and commandments ordained by Him and delivered to our master Moses, of blessed memory, which have been handed down to us in a regular succession to the present time….

In order thereto, we, the subscribers, having taken these matters to heart and duly reflected on the many defects this congregation called Mikve Israel in Philadelphia labours under, and to our great regret and sorrow we find one in particular, which strikes us most forcibly and cannot but affect with astonishment and horror every judicious and truly religious mind. This is the want of a proper mikve or batheing place, according to our Law and institution, for the purification of married women at certain periods….

Now, therefore, in full consideration of the foregoing, we have unanimously agreed that a proper mikve or batheing place for the sole use of our congregation be forthwith built, and that no delay may be made in accomplishing so necessary and laudable a work. We do hereby, each of us for himself, most solemnly and religiously engage and promise to pay such sum of money as is annexed to our respective names, without any hesitation or demur whatever, unto such person or persons as shall hereafter be nominated for the purpose of receiveing the said subscription money and to see the said work carried on and compleated. And we flatter ourselves that evry married man will use the most persuasive and evry other means to induce his wife to a strict compliance with that duty so incumbent upon them, that so the Almighty may look down in mercy upon us, and send the Redeemer to Zion in our days. Amen, so be it.

 

By 1786, the mikveh had been erected and placed under the supervision of the zealous Josephson.

 

Josephson’s Letter to George Washington[ii]

Shortly after the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, George Washington was elected as the first president of the United States. Moses Seixas, the brother of Gershom Mendes Seixas who was the minister of Shearith Israel at the time and minister of Mikveh Israel during the war, wrote a beautiful letter to the new president, filled with warmth and eloquence…. Washington’s famous reply repeated the eloquent words of Seixas and affirmed the equality of the Jews, and declared that America was different from other nations of the world because “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.”

This was to be the second of three letters Washington wrote to different Jewish communities during that year, mainly because of discrimination and infighting among the Jews. Shortly after the inauguration in April 1789, the presidents of the six congregations in the U.S. – New York, Philadelphia, Newport, Charleston, Richmond, and Savanna – agreed to send a joint letter. Then they spent the next year and a half arguing over who would sign it. The original plan called for the letter to be sent from Shearith Israel in New York, as this was originally the capital of the fledgling country. But there were months of delays and meanwhile Congress moved the capital to Philadelphia in January 1790

Then Manuel Josephson…offered to write the letter on behalf of the other congregations. However, the Spanish & Portuguese Sephardic elite who dominated the other congregations objected to the Ashkenazic Josephson, of humble Eastern European origins, considering him unworthy to speak for them. A few months passed in which nothing was done, so finally in May the Savanna congregation, noting and apologizing for the delay in writing, presented a letter to Washington. Washington was gracious in his eloquent reply. In August, Moses Seixas and the Jews of Newport also tired of waiting and presented their own letter, certainly the most famous of the three, along with its often-studied reply.

Finally, in December 1790, Josephson, in a short meeting with Washington, presented a letter from the four remaining congregations from Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, and Richmond. Josephson apologized for the delay in adding their congratulations to those of the rest of the nation. Washington’s reply was shorter than the other two, but was nonetheless warm and appreciative, stating that “The affection of such a people is a treasure beyond the reach of calculation” and conveyed how much pleasure he received from the support and approval of his fellow citizens. He thanked the Almighty for intervening on behalf of the Americans in the “late glorious revolution,” and promised to work just as hard for the country in times of peace as he did during the war. He closed by saying, “May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me, rest upon your congregations.”

Manuel Josephson died on January 30, 1796 and is buried in the Mikveh Israel Spruce St. cemetery. His wife, Rachel, who died on the same Hebrew date, 20 Shevat, a year later, is interred beside him.


[i] This material is taken from the American Jewish Archives, Volume XXVII, November, 1975 No. 2, pages 220-222.

[ii] This material is taken from Mark I. Wolfson, Mikveh Israel History Blog, www.mikvehisraelhistory.com, Manuel Josephson (1729-1796), 2013.

Share Button

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.

No Responses to “Manuel Josephson, Orthodox American Patriot”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Arab rioters hurl objects at Israeli security personnel who use pepper spray to quell the violence emanating from the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount.
Arab Violence Closes Temple Mount to Visitors Again
Latest Sections Stories
Tali Hill, a beneficiary of the Max Factor Family Foundation.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Yeshiva Day School of Las Vegas’s deans, Rabbi Moshe Katz and Rabbi Zev Goldman, present award to Educator of the Year, Rabbi Michoel Paris.

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.

Your husband seems to have experienced what we have described as the Ambivalent Attachment.

The goal of the crusade is to demonize and hurt Israel.

The JUMP program at Hebrew Academy was generously sponsored by Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Levine-Dr-Yitzchok-NEW

“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.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/manuel-josephson-orthodox-american-patriot/2013/06/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: