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Advantage Shearith Israel, in the ongoing court battles between the oldest congregation in NY City and America, and Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest synagogue building in America.
Last month’s column outlined the struggle that took place at the beginning of the Civil War to get Congress to allow the appointment of Jewish army chaplains. Originally only Christian clergymen could serve as chaplains, and it was only as a result of pressure from the American Jewish community that in 1861 Congress passed a new law allowing ordained clergy of other religions to serve as chaplains. The Reverend Arnold (Adolph) Fischel (1830-1894) played a key role in this effort.
Sampson Simson was born on June 30, 1781 in Danbury, Connecticut and died January 7, 1857 in New York. Sampson's father, Solomon Simson, was also American born. Solomon was partners with his brother Sampson Simson, whom we shall refer to as Sampson the elder.
From 1654, when the first Jews arrived in North America, until 1840, when the first Orthodox ordained rabbi, Rav Abraham Rice, settled in Baltimore, American Jewry was led by chazzanim and baalei batim (private individuals) who had better than average Torah educations. These men did their best to fill the void in rabbinical leadership that characterized American Jewish life until the last few decades of the nineteenth century.
In 1749 the Jews of Charleston, South Carolina established their first synagogue, Kahal Kodesh Beis Elokim (KKBE). Last month we examined the events that led some members of KKBE to establish The Reformed Society of Israelites.
Despite his remarkable qualifications, it became clear to Dr. Schaffer that he would not be able to obtain a rabbinical position in either Germany or Russia.
One of the factors that hindered the proper early development of Judaism in America was a lack of qualified religious functionaries.