Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
This was not necessarily the case, however, for the German immigrants who came in the 1840s and 1850s. Many of them were strict in their observance, doing their best to live according to the Torah. It was only in the 1860s and later, when the Reform movement swept the country, that things changed drastically and ritual observance declined.
The first Jewish immigrants were men [and women] of strong Jewish loyalties and generally adhered to traditional Jewish practices. They were quite innocent of reformist ideology. To them Judaism meant living in accordance with the traditional orthodox code. As soon as a handful of these pioneers settled in one place, they usually instituted congregational high holiday worship. Shortly thereafter they bought a piece of land for a burial ground. With little delay they then advertised for a man to come to serve them as reader [Chazan], ritual slaughterer (shochet), circumciser (mohel) and teacher. If their religious practice was technically faulty, as it often was, it was not due to indifference on their part, but to circumstances beyond their control. Evidence of their desire to do their religious duty [comes from] the records we have of their observance of the three basic practices-kosher diet, circumcision and Sabbath.
A licensed shochet was to be found in many settlements with even relatively small Jewish populations. In places where the Jewish population was too small to support a licensed ritual slaughterer, the service was provided by qualified, unpaid individuals who had studied the laws of shechita. In fact, even in the seventeenth century it was not unusual to find baalei batim who were qualified ritual slaughterers.
Illustrative is the example of Michael Hart, Indian trader and merchant who, in 1773, set up shop in Easton, Pa. He acted as his own shochet. George Washington once ate a kosher meal. It was when he stopped for lunch at the home of this Michael Hart.
Congregation B’nai Sholom was founded in Chicago in May 1852 by eleven individuals, many of whom came from the Prussian province of Posen. In 1854 Edward Meirs agreed to serve as the congregation’s unpaid shochet for one year. There was a non-professional shochet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1858, and in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1870. A letter he wrote gives an interesting description of Jewish life in Pueblo:
Another advantage we are beginning to have is as it regards circumcision. We were formerly compelled to send young ones 120 miles to have that rite performed, and now I have already officiated several times with success. I have no doubt, that, ere long, it will be in my power to afford you the information, that, even in Pueblo, the Jews observe the dietary enactments, honor the Sabbath day, and conduct themselves in every way becoming the descendants of those who suffered persecution, even martyrdom, for the cause they deemed right. – N.
People began to openly neglect the observance of the dietary laws both at home and in public. It got to the point where on December 26, 1879, the Anglo-Jewish newspaper The Jewish Messenger published a letter from Reverend H. P. Mendes in which he condemned the serving of non-kosher food at banquets conducted under the aegis of Jewish organizations.
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.
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.
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This is the story of a Holocaust survivor who began her odyssey in Dej, Romania. Chanele Anne Grun Kempler was a teenager when she came to Auschwitz, almost 20 when she immigrated to Montreal and became a famous artist, and 64 when she passed away, alone in her bed, in 1994, on her chest a letter from Yad Vashem informing her that the painting she offered to the organization would be admitted and displayed.
It’s not that I think contractors, painters and tile guys are exclusively greedy, deceitful incompetent people – I think they are just poor businessmen or women!
I look into the flickering flames of the Shabbos candles and I am thankful for the warmth and light that emanates from them and illuminates our home.
Widow of world-famous nuclear scientist and human rights activist, Dr. Andre Sakharov, and an outstanding activist in her own right, Yelena Bonner was invited to speak of the suffering she endured in Stalinist Russia. Instead, the 86-year-old leader of the Russian human rights movement chose to speak about Israel and the Jews. Why?
I wonder why bullying exists in our community and in society at large? I was very surprised at a 30-year-old client’s explanation.
The rebbe had told Meir and Yehudah to take turns, but that wasn’t working out so well.
The sage Hillel summarized the entire Torah by saying, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it.”
Sometimes it is hard to help people, and sometimes you can help people by just using whatever it is you have at the time – even an amazing fishing rod.
Musial told the taunted Jackie Robinson: “I want you to know that I’m not like many of the other guys on my team.”
Brooklyn resident David Siller, currently studying in Israel at Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah in Beit Shemesh, was awarded a trophy for finishing 3rd in his age group (14-18) in a 5-kilometer race for the benefit of the Benjamin Children’s Library of Beit Shemesh.
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.
In last month’s column we traced the early career of Reverend Dr. Henry (Chaim) Pereira Mendes and described his extraordinary service to Congregation Shearith Israel in New York where he served as hazan (chazzan) and minister from 1877 to 1923 and then as minister emeritus from 1924 until his passing in 1937.
Beginning around 1840 the Reform movement began asserting itself as a major force in American Judaism. Indeed, with the rising tide of Reform during the nineteenth century it looked as if Orthodox Judaism might disappear. Many synagogues that had been founded by observant Jews and had remained for years true to halacha found their memberships increasingly calling for the institution of reforms and the abandonment of commitment to authentic Judaism.
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.
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.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/nineteenth-century-kashrus-observance/2011/03/30/
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