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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Anglo Jewish’

Nineteenth-Century Kashrus Observance

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Note: All quotes are fromThe Trend in Jewish Religious Observance in Mid-Nineteenth Century America” by Jeremiah J. Berman, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893-1961); 1947; 37, AJHS Journal, pg. 31 ff. The article is available online at http://www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.
 
During the latter part of 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, many European Jews viewed America as a treife medina (a non-kosher land) from the perspective of traditional Jewish religious observance. It was felt that it was virtually impossible to remain observant in America, and many Jews proved this was indeed the case, as they or their children abandoned much of their religious practices once they arrived in this country.
 

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.

 

There is considerable evidence that until the latter part of the 19th century many Jews did their best to maintain traditional religious observance when it came to kashrus, ritual circumcision (bris milah) and Shabbos.
 

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.

 

In 1846 a Mr. Umstetter served as a volunteer shochet in Norfolk, Virginia. He slaughtered twice weekly for the Jews who lived in this town. Prior to his arrival a number of Jews ate non-kosher food.
 
Samuel Adler, the father of Cyrus Adler, studied the slaughter of fowl with the Philadelphia shochet Leopold Sulzberger before he moved to Van Burn, Arkansas, in 1858. He mastered this skill because he wanted to be sure that his family and the other Jews of Van Buren would have kosher poultry.
 

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:

 

Pueblo, March 20, 1870.
 
It will afford you some interest to hear from this portion of the world, and to learn that even here there are quite a number of Jews respected and respectable. We are 120 miles south of Denver City, which, as you know, is quite thriving.
 
We have experienced great difficulty in complying with our religious duties, but these are lessening every day. Having learnt Shechitah some years since, I make practical use of it here. We have the finest and the healthiest cattle, requiring but little examination. Of course, as yet we have no Synagogue, and the Sabbath is not observed, but there is a prevailing feeling that we should be Jews in fact, as we are in name.
 

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.

 

Volunteer shochtim served either isolated families or tiny settlements. Larger communities consisting of 10 or more families did their best to hire professional shochtim. Anglo-Jewish publications often carried advertisements like these:
 
Wanted – Columbus, Ind., Congregation Chisuk Emunah, shohet, baal korah and teacher in Hebrew.  (The Occident, July 6, 1859)
 
Wanted – By the Israelite Congregation of Wilmington, N. C., Chasan, Shochat, and Mohel, and also to take charge of a Hebrew and English school. (The Hebrew Leader, August 2, 1867)
 
Wanted – By the German Congregation Beth Hasholom of Williamsport, Pa., a Chazan, Shochet, and Teacher, who is able to thoroughly instruct the children in German. Must be himself a German. Salary, $600, and perquisites….(The Jewish Messenger, August 19, 1870)
 
Unfortunately, during the latter part of the 19th century a marked change occurred. Many Jews, influenced by the Reform movement, began to disregard the tenets of kashrus. Shochtim began to disappear from settlements that contained only a small Jewish population.
 

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 llevine@stevens.edu.

Remembering Irene Klass

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

During my 25 years as an editor at The Jewish Press, I accumulated many fond memories of Irene Klass, a”h.

 

When I started my career at The Jewish Press, I had just become a grandmother of a baby girl. This began a wonderful period of personal and professional changes for me. As a former teacher, where one of my duties as an educator was to teach and advise a staff of aspiring journalists of the school newspaper, I appreciated the chance to work at a real newspaper. Being an editor at a popular Anglo-Jewish weekly newspaper opened new vistas for me. And, as a bonus, I had the pleasure of working for the legendary Irene Klass.

 

Way ahead of her time, Irene wrote many articles offering advice on subjects like hand washing and the potential damage caused by loud music at smachot. Those issues have finally caught up with today’s generation. Today, the media’s focus on hand washing to prevent illness and avoid spreading disease (along with the frantic use of hand sanitizers), and the danger to one’s hearing from the persistent loudness of bands and electronic music on iPods, is a testament to her forward thinking.

 

Rabbi Sholom Klass, z”l, andIrene, with theirextraordinary devotion to promoting many important issues affecting the Jewish community, used the influence of The Jewish Press to bring those issues to light – long before there were other Anglo-Jewish publications. Rabbi Klass’s Torah articles brought the light of Torah to The Jewish Press’s readers. I remember how Irene would never go to an event without a batch of the paper’s latest issue.

 

Both Rabbi Klass and Irene had a great sense of humor, and I remember the many delightful conversations I had with each of them. I enjoyed many phone conversations with Irene on every subject from raising children to editing columns in the Magazine section, from recipes for various favorite foods to the best cure for a cold. When I drew my first illustration for one of the columnist’s stories Irene wanted in the Magazine section, my fate was sealed. From that point forward, there were many opportunities to provide a picture to complement the content of the columns. I looked forward each time to fill any open spaces on the pages with a drawing. And Irene never failed to express her appreciation.

 

What I remember most, however, is her kindness toward and concern for everyone with whom she came in contact. Her generosity and chesed to anyone who she learned was in need is well known. Rabbi Sholom and Irene Klass instilled this trait in their children, Naomi Klass Mauer and Hindy Greenwald, who continue to emulate their parents’ wonderful example of tzedakah and chesed.

 

Still ringing in my ears, as I remember conversations we had during which I said something that amused her, is her infectious laugh that would warm anyone who had the privilege of generating such hearty laughter.

 

Irene Klass will be missed by everyone who knew her. May her entire family be comforted by all the fond remembrances offered, and may her memory be a blessing.

Vindication

Friday, January 18th, 2002

It is no secret that there were many people who were very unhappy when The Jewish Press endorsed George W. Bush for President. Indeed, as far as we can tell we were the only Anglo-Jewish publication to do so. We received countless letters from irate readers and organizational types who were aghast that we would fail to support Al Gore who after all chose a member of the Jewish faith ? and an ostensibly Orthodox one at that ? as his running mate. Nor could they understand how we could think of urging Jews to vote for someone they just knew was itching to continue the policies of the senior George Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker, who made no secret of his disdain for the State of Israel.

It was frustrating to us that few of our critics seemed willing to credit the reasons ? in terms of both foreign and domestic issues ? we gave in our editorial endorsement which we continue to believe made out a compelling case for supporting Mr. Bush the younger. In any event, as our front-page story this week indicates, a new poll just published reports that most American Jews have come around to our way of thinking.

The poll, which surveyed 400 registered Jewish voters from November 28 to 29 shows that President Bush's approval rating at 80%, which is four times the percentage of Jewish votes he received in November 2000.

The poll also discloses that in a proposed rematch with Al Gore, the President was shown to double his share of the Jewish vote to 42% compared to 39% for Mr. Gore.

Key Bush administration officials also received high marks: Secretary of State Colin Powell received a 79% favorable rating; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 76%; and Attorney General John Ashcroft, 54%.

Doubtless the current poll results reflect the President's forthright support for Israel's right to defend itself against Arafat's terrorists, in much the same manner as we are pursuing the war against Osama bin Laden and his cohorts. And one cannot help but compare this principled stand with the probable fence-straddling and perhaps worse, of a President Gore following in the steps of his mentor, Bill Clinton, the architect of the current predicament.

Durban

Friday, October 5th, 2001

President Bush and his Secretary of State are certainly deserving of all the praise that will be heaped on them in the Anglo-Jewish media over the United States' withdrawal from the Durban Conference. The proposed anti-Israel resolution was an outrage and it was entirely correct for our government to say that this sort of thing would not be dignified by being the subject of debate or negotiations by us. It was also an important message to the Arab world that the United States has no intention of being part of any gang-up on Israel no matter how popular it is, and that we plan to act on principle.

But we think that there is another important dimension that will soon emerge. To be sure, this was a signal example of the United States standing with Israel. But it was also an example of the United States standing up for its own interests. Make no mistake about it, the Durban Conference was as much a challenge to America and the West as it was to Israel. Israel is viewed by the Third World as a remnant of European colonialism, and the United States as the principal impediment to the ascendancy of the Third World. The effort to delegitimatize the State of Israel, which, after all, was in some respects the political creation of the West and the United States, is also an anti-Western and anti-United States phenomenon. Jesse Jackson hinted at some of this thinking when he said that the U.S. withdrawal had as much to do with America seeking to avoid discussing reparations for slavery as it did for any concern for Israel.

In the last analysis, those comic opera pretenders to statesmanship at Durban will not amount to very much. What does count is that it should now be very apparent that America and Israel share vital interests. And that is a very important development.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/durban/2001/10/05/

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