Latest update: June 12th, 2013
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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