Photo Credit:
Sabato Morais

The scene in front of the house was a most memorable one. Men, women, and children from the Russian quarter had gathered there long before the hour fixed for the funeral ceremonies, and with sorrowful faces, waited regardless of the rain, until his body was brought from his house and placed in the hearse. It was not idle curiosity that held them there, it was no expectation of witnessing impressive funeral ceremonies, but an honest desire to pay the last tribute or respect to one whom they regarded as a father. And when the hearse and carriages moved way from the house, they followed it on foot, not in any regular order, but as if each one realized that they would never again feel the kindly influence of his presence and could not bear to have him thus abruptly taken out of their lives. It was a crowd such as follows a departing hero on his way to battle for their cause, except that they were subdued and overawed by the magnitude of their grief.

At the cemetery, a like scene was being enacted. Masses of these people lined the adjoining streets and waited patiently for the funeral to arrive. They knew they could not enter the cemetery grounds, because the space was too limited to admit them. But there they stood, women holding their children by the hand and babies in their arms, men with grey hair and others in the prime of life – a quiet, sad tearful assemblage, waiting for their dead [emphasis in original]. For he was “theirs.” They had been welcome at his house at all times during his life, and he had been a constant visitor at their humble homes. He had been their guide, counselor, and friend in a strange land.

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Sadly, the accomplishments of this great man were soon forgotten. Within a century after his death he had “become almost invisible in standard accounts of the American Jewish past. In a recent survey of scholarly opinions about the ‘Greatest American Jewish leaders’ in American Jewish History Morais did not merit a single mention.”

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[i] ARC MS8 – Sabato Morais Papers – Finding Aid prepared by Arthur Kiron, manuscripts curator and assistant archivist, December 1992, available at http://www.library.upenn.edu/cajs/morais.html

[ii] The Unfailing Light, Bernard Drachman, Rabbinical Council of America, New York, 1948, page 181.

[iii] ARC MS8 – Sabato Morais Papers

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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 then taught as an adjunct at Stevens until 2014. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.
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