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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yitzchok Levine’

Reverend Samuel Myer Isaacs – Champion of Orthodoxy (Part II)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Unless otherwise noted all quotations are from The Forerunners – Dutch Jewry in the North America Diaspora by Robert P. Swierenga, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1994.

Last month’s column sketched the life of Reverend Myer Isaacs, concentrating primarily on his efforts to preserve and foster Orthodoxy in New York City, where he served as the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaaray Tefila from its founding in 1845 to his passing in 1879. Reverend Isaacs’s sphere of influence was not limited to New York. His efforts encompassed a broad range of activities throughout America designed to strengthen Orthodoxy in its battle against the Reform movement.

“In 1857 Samuel Isaacs carried the fight against Reform to the wider Jewish community by launching a periodical, the Jewish Messenger, which he made an effective organ for Orthodoxy. He set the tone and established his themes in the initial ringing editorials, ‘Mammon Worship,’ which condemned materialism; ‘Our Divine Law,’ which commended true religion as the ‘boon and boast of Israel throughout the dispersion’; and ‘The Want of Union,’ which advocated a super board to safeguard Judaism in democratic America. The Jewish Messenger also promoted unified Jewish charities, day schools and seminaries, and orphan asylums. The rabbi turned journalist enlisted in the struggle his sons Myer, Abram, and Isaac as writers and assistant editors.”

In addition to editing The Jewish Messenger, Reverend Isaacs was a contributor to the Jewish newspaper the Asmonean as well as to Isaac Leeser’s monthly Jewish journal the Occident. Many of his articles criticized those who wanted to introduce reforms into religious practice that were against halacha. Reverend Isaacs began his article “The Reform Agitation” with:

In an age like the present, when the most startling theories are mooted, the most pernicious doctrines disseminated, and the strangest systems propagated regarding our religious polity, it becomes every man in whom the latent spark of religion is not extinct to employ all the means in his power to prevent the theorist from putting his visionary schemes into practice, to thwart the worldling in his dangerous doctrines, and to counteract the copyist in his onward course. Carrying out this principle to its fullest extent, I take up my pen, not to exhibit the “cacoethes scribendi” [insatiable desire to write], nor to cater to the taste of the innovator, not for self-aggrandizement, nor for fleeting popularity; but for the sole aim and purpose of demonstrating to the Judaic world that the system we have followed in our dark days and our brighter ones has performed all it was destined to accomplish; and to adduce evidence to prove that reforming our system of worship as regards its spiritual affairs, will entail danger on our nationality, and mainly tend to remove the landmarks which were erected by prudence and caution, and which hitherto have been sufficient to guide the pilgrim of hope to the regions of immortality. [The Occident, Volume II, No. 6]

Jewish Education

Samuel Myer Isaacs realized the future of Judaism depended on Jewish youth receiving a meaningful Jewish education. However, the reality was that during his lifetime most Jewish children were educated in public schools.

“In 1842 Isaacs converted his congregation’s afternoon school into an all-day English and Hebrew school, the New York Talmud Torah and Hebrew Institute, with the Dutch-born Henry Goldsmith as teacher of Hebrew. Although the school began strongly with 80 boys and was one of only three in the entire country, it failed within five years because of financial difficulties. Isaacs was not easily discouraged. In 1852 his congregation again founded a day school, the Bnai Jeshurun Educational Institute, which boasted an enrollment of 177 pupils within a year; but it too had to close after three years (1855) because of insufficient students.”

These attempts to maintain a day school were undermined by the New York state legislature having secularized the public schools. Christian textbooks were eliminated and local school boards could choose daily Scripture readings. In predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, only passages from the Jewish Bible were read. The result was that Jewish parents sent their children to public school where they received no Jewish education. Reverend Isaacs correctly “considered this an unmitigated tragedy.”

He was not deterred by failure, however, and in 1857 established a Hebrew high school where he served “as principal and Hebrew teacher for many years. The school thrived as a boarding institution and offered a college preparatory curriculum.”

Henry Solomon Hendricks

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from “Necrology: Henry S. Hendricks (1892-1959)” by David de Sola Pool, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893 -1961); Sep 1959-Jun 1960; 49, 1-4 AJHS Journal, available online at http://www.ajhs.org/scholarship/adaje.cfm

The sad fact is that within a few generations virtually all the descendants of the Jews who came to America before the Revolution assimilated. An exception was Henry Solomon Hendricks, whose ancestors arrived in America at the beginning of the 18th century and perhaps even earlier. His great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Abraham Haim de Lucena, is first mentioned in New York City records in 1701.

“Though we have no verifying documentary evidence, it is at least very probable that this Abraham Haim de Lucena was either descended from or was close of kin with Abraham de Lucena who came to New Amsterdam in 1655 and who is regarded as one of the most important founders of the historic Congregation Shearith Israel and the American Jewish community.”

Abraham Haim became a freeman on July 6, 1708. “He was an importer and exporter of such goods as wheat, wine, other varied provisions, and ‘Jewish beef.’ In 1705 he joined with sixty-five other merchants of the city in a petition concerning fair valuation of foreign coins. In 1711, in Queen Anne’s War he was one of those who supplied the American expedition against Canada with flour, bread, butter, and peas…”

Abraham Haim de Lucena served as “minister” (chazzan) of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York from 1703 until his passing on August 4, 1725.

Henry Solomon Hendricks was born in New York on August 25, 1892 to Edgar and Lillian Henry Hendricks.

His father died two years later. With deep religious perception his devoted mother brought him up, though he was an only child, with standards of rare simplicity and selflessness. He graduated from the Collegiate School in New York in 1910, attended Williams College from 1910 to 1912, then transferred to Columbia University from which he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in February 1914. He then went with his mother on an educational tour of half a year to countries in Europe and to Egypt and Palestine. On returning he re-entered Columbia University, this time in its Department of Law, from which he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1917. He was then admitted to the bar, and he spent his professional life as a lawyer. He was with the firm of Cardozo and Nathan from 1917 to 1926, in his own office to 1938, with the firm of Hendricks, Robbins and Buttenwieser from 1938 to 1947, and thereafter again in his own office. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the Bar Association of the City of New York, and the New York County Lawyers Association.His hobby was sailing to which he had taken as a lad at the age of twelve. He became so skilled in it that on one occasion he joined in a sail boat race from New London to Bermuda. He was a member of the Knickerbocker Yacht Club.

When the United States entered the First World War he enlisted in the Navy and served as an Ensign from 1917 to 1918. Thereafter he was a member of the United States Naval Reserve. In the Second World War he became a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and he gave service as an appeal agent in implementing the Selective Service Act. Throughout his life he was moved by an intense and meaningful American patriotism.

In 1916, he married Rosalie Gomez Nathan, daughter of Edgar Joshua Nathan and Sara Solis. Their strong and beautiful union was blessed with two daughters, Ruth [Mrs. Hyman A. Schulson] and Sally [Mrs. Robert Weber], and five grandchildren.

Henry Hendricks’s love of and service to his country were based on the fact that many of his and his wife’s ancestors had played key roles in America’s history for almost 200 years. The same was true of his outstanding dedication to Congregation Shearith Israel of New York. His family had been involved in the congregation essentially from its inception.

We have records of the congregation for forty-seven years preceding the Revolution. In nineteen of those years no less than seven members of the Gomez family from which he was descended served as President of the congregation. At that time this also meant serving as President of New York’s Jewish community. His great, great, great grandfather, Uriah Hendricks, who was Parnas Presidente of the congregation in 1791, owned one of the synagogue’s scrolls of the Torah that was violated by British soldiers during the Revolution.

His great-great-grandfather had contributed a substantial sum that materially furthered the erection of Shearith Israel’s Second Mill Street Synagogue that was consecrated in 1818. And of course as mentioned above, his ancestor, Abraham Haim de Lucena, had served as chazzan of the congregation.

As a youth he [Henry] was active in Shearith Israel’s Junior League. He became a Trustee of the congregation in 1923, while still a young man, and because of the able service he was always ready to give with tireless devotion he rose to be its President. He served in that capacity from 1927 to 1930, 1934 to 1935, and from 1939 to 1951. He was Honorary President from 1952 to his death.

However, his efforts were not limited to Shearith Israel.

He translated the principle of noblesse oblige into heightened social service. Among his many communal interests, he gave outstanding constructive leadership in the religious and social organization and integration into American life of the Sephardim who came to this country from the Balkans, Turkey and the Levant in the first three decades of this century. At 133 Eldridge Street in the neighborhood where very many of these newcomers first settled, the Sisterhood of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel conducted a settlement house in which Henry S. Hendricks helped organize a synagogue, Berith Shalom. Besides leading a club in that neighborhood house, he showed a special interest in that downtown congregation. Its members elected him President, a remarkable testimony both to the appreciation of him shown by the members of the congregation and to his personal identification with the newcomers. This office he filled for some years. When Smyrna was devastated by fire in 1921, Mr. Hendricks was among those who organized an emergency Jewish relief committee in New York, and from this there developed the first Sephardic Jewish Community of New York. He served as its Treasurer, and his generosity materially helped the congregation to acquire in Harlem the building that became the center of organized Sephardic life in the city. Later when Sephardim were moving away from Harlem, his openhandedness materially furthered the initial development of organized Sephardic religious life in the Bronx.

Henry was actively involved in the Union of Sephardic Congregations from its inception in 1929. In 1936 he sponsored the printing of the Daily and Sabbath Prayer Book which the Union published.

Henry S. Hendricks was tirelessly busy with his religious, communal, social welfare and professional interests, yet he always had time for his family and friends and for acts of personal kindness. His sterling worth, his innate nobility, his constructive generosity, his thoughtful leadership, his selfless dedication and his unswerving loyalty, made him a precious influence in the life of many. He never sought reward or personal recognition. From his childhood he had been steeped in traditional Jewish living, and his loyalty to Jewish traditions, observances and ideals never wavered. He indeflectibly maintained his religious standards. For him Judaism was both a faith and a way of life.

A Jewish Father’s Letter To Abraham Lincoln

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The Jewish population of the United States in 1860 was somewhere between 150,000-200,000. Approximately 3,000 Jews fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War while 7,000 were found on the Union side.

President Abraham Lincoln’s administration was marked by a few noteworthy incidents affecting the Jews as a body, the most important being the attempt to appoint a Jewish chaplain in 1861-62,1 and the proposed expulsion of the Jews “as a class” from within the lines of General Grant’s army in 1862-63.2

On two occasions Lincoln was sharply criticized by the Jews for his objectionable phraseology. In his first inaugural address he said that “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way our present difficulty.”3

Clearly Jews were not pleased with his reference to Christianity and the blatant exclusion of other religions.

In his November 15, 1862 General Order Respecting the Observation of the Sabbath Day in the Army and Navy, Lincoln announced:

The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiments of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.4

This order, which made no mention of soldiers of other religions, generated a fair amount of discussion in Jewish circles. It also elicited a moving letter from a Mr. Bernhard Behrend, the father of an observant Jewish soldier who had enlisted in the Union Army:

To His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States5

By your order of the 16th day of November, 1862, you recommend that the officers and men of the army shall observe the Sabbath and do no work on Sunday, because we are a Christian people. But according to the Declaration of Independence and according to the constitution of the United States, the people of the United States is not a Christian people, but a free, sovereign people with equal rights, and each and every citizen of the United States has the right and liberty to live according to his own consciousness in religious matters, and no one religious denomination, be it a majority or minority of the people, can have a privilege before the other under this our beloved constitution.

Now by the order of your Excellency you give the privilege to those officers and men in the army who by their religious creed do observe the Sunday as a holy day and a day of rest; but you make no provision for those officers and men in the army who do not want to observe the Sunday as a holy day, (as for instance those Christians called the Seventh-day Baptists and the Jews, who observe the Saturday as a holy day and a day of rest,) that they may enjoy the same privilege as those who observe the Sunday as a holy day, as well as for the heathen or the so called infidels, who do not want to celebrate either the Sunday or the Saturday as a Sabbath, but choose perhaps some other day as a day of rest.

Now I stand before you as your namesake Abraham stood before G-d Almighty in days of yore, and asked, “Shall not the Judge of all earth do justice?” So I ask your Excellency, the first man and President of all the United States, Shall you not do justice? Shall you not give the same privilege to a minority of the army that you give to the majority of it? I beseech you to make provision, and to proclaim in another order, that also all those in the army who celebrate another day as the Sunday may be allowed to celebrate that day which they think is the right day according to their own conscience; and this will be exactly lawful, as the Constitution of the United States ordains it, and at the same time it will be exactly according to the teaching of the Bible, as recorded in Leviticus xix. 18: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Henry S. and Benjamin H. Hartogensis

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Usually Jewish history books deal with those who have made their mark by doing extraordinary things. While such people obviously are important, there are those who may not have enjoyed much fame yet whose efforts and accomplishments were crucial to maintaining Yahadus in their community. Two such men are Henry S. Hartogensis and his son, Benjamin H. Hartogensis, who devoted their lives to the Jewish community of Baltimore.

Henry S. Hartogensis 1

Henry S. Hartogensis was born on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, October 27, 1829, in Hertogenbosch, the capital of Noord Brabant Province in the Catholic southeastern Netherlands. On his father’s side he was descended from the distinguished Rabbi Aryeh Loeb ben Chaim (Breslau), whose authorization of the Rodelheim Machzor is printed on the back page of the Heidenheim edition. His father was a well-known philanthropist, scholar and banker, and was referred to as “Rabbi Samuel,” despite the fact that he refused to let others consider him a rabbi. On his mother’s side he was descended from the well-known Lewyt family.

Nineteen-year-old Henry immigrated in 1848 to Baltimore via New York City to “earn a living” and escape the “financial crash owing to the impending French revolution.” He first started a stationery and printing firm and later owned a large sporting goods store on East Baltimore Street. In 1849 he married a fellow Hollander, Rachel de Wolff, daughter of Jacob who had arrived in the 1830s. In the 1850s Henry’s younger brother Eleazar (Edward) joined the growing family and worked as a clothier. After marrying he moved to Washington, D.C., opened a “dry goods emporium,” and established that branch of the family.In religion, the Hartogensis brothers were strictly Orthodox. Edward helped found the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington and taught in its religious school. Henry frequently officiated as hazan at Baltimore Hebrew [Congregation] until the majority espoused Reform in 1870. He led the minority to start the Chizuk Amuno Congregation in 1871 and served as secretary for twenty years. He also helped fund and erect its new synagogue in 1876, located on Lloyd Street only a few doors from its nemesis, Baltimore Hebrew. When Chizuk Amuno moved uptown in 1892, Hartogensis financed a new Ashkenazic synagogue, Zichron Jacob, located near his home on Baltimore Street, where he served as president, hazan, and “chief mainstay (financial and otherwise).” Earlier, in 1887 Congregation Oheb Shalom’s Society for the Education of the Poor elected him as its secretary.

From 1904 until his death [in 1918], Hartogensis affiliated with Shearith Israel Congregation, which remained an ultra-Orthodox synagogue for a century. Again he served as reader at services and was much honored by the congregation.

Henry took an active part in communal and fraternal organizations, both Jewish and non-sectarian alike. For over 40 years he was involved with the Society for the Education of Poor and Orphaned Hebrew Children (Hebrew Education Society), serving at one time as its director and later as treasurer. He was the manager of the Hebrew Free Burial Society for a quarter of a century and in this capacity attended all funerals, and performed many acts of kindness to the living as well as the dead.

Following a lengthy vacation in the Netherlands in 1890, Hartogensis wrote a report for the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent extolling the virtues of Dutch religious Orthodoxy. Despite their achievements in the arts and literature, in sciences and statecraft, which “compares favorably with the best Israelites of other countries,” Hartogensis boasted, “nowhere have I seen ‘orthodoxy’ so triumphant.” The Dutch had no use for “modern innovations to devotion – viz. the family pew, the organ, the mixed choirs mainly composed of Christians, the mutilation of the prayer-book, and the desecration of the holidays. What we call ‘conservative’ congregations,” Hartogensis added, “are unknown to Holland Jews.” Despite the rising materialism of the young, he concluded with satisfaction, there “are not enough of them in the whole country to form a ‘Reform’ congregation.”

Henry S. Hartogensis passed away on December 25, 1918 leaving behind a wonderful shem tov.

Benjamin H. Hartogensis 2

Henry and Rachel Hartogensis had seven children, several of whom led prominent lives. The most notable of their offspring was Benjamin (April 19, 1865 – July 13, 1939).

Benjamin graduated Johns Hopkins University in 1886. He spent the following year doing graduate work at Hopkins and worked for a short time as an analytic chemist. In 1887 he became the associate editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, serving in this capacity for 12 years. From 1890 to 1896 he also served as one of the editors of the Baltimore American. While engaged in this work, Benjamin studied law at the University of Maryland from 1892 to 1893, earning a law degree.

In December 1893 he was admitted to the bar and three years later began to actively practice law. Benjamin was also the founder and president of the Baltimore branch of the Alliance Israelite Universelle and served as president of the Hebrew Education Society of Baltimore for a number of years. Furthermore, he took an avid interest in the Jewish history of Baltimore and wrote several articles that appeared in the Proceedings of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Staunch devotion to Judaism and Americanism characterized the life and works of Benjamin Henry Hartogensis. As an American, he trenchantly searched for deviations from religious liberty to set them aright. As a Jew, he vigorously maintained unswerving loyalty to the faith and traditions of his fathers, which he sought to perpetuate through education.

The Jews Of Washington During The Civil War

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from “The Jewish Community of Washington, D.C., during the Civil War” by Robert Shosteck, American Jewish Historical Quarterly (1961-1978); Sep 1966-Jun 1967; 56, 1-4; AJHS Journal (available online at www.ajhs.org/scholarship/adaje.cfm).

Washington, D.C. was created in 1790 as a result of a political compromise.

“Washington was a Federal city. It did not have a ‘State’ government. It was under the direct control of Congress for even the simplest of things; schools, streets, courts and land use by private individuals and corporations. Accordingly, Congress dutifully passed on the last day of the first session of the 28th Congress, June 17, 1844, ‘A Bill, concerning conveyances or devices of places of public worship in the District of Columbia.’ The bill did not specifically identify any single religious group or denomination. It did provide that the District Court system would have the ability to appoint or replace trustees overseeing the property or governance of any religious institution.

“The understanding and practice of the law was that only Christian Churches were to be recognized in the nation’s capital. A Jewish house of worship was not welcome.”

Washington Hebrew Congregation

“The Washington Hebrew Congregation was the center of Jewish religious life in the Nation’s capital during the Civil War period. It was organized on April 25, 1852, at the home of Herman Listberger on Pennsylvania Avenue near 21st Street. Solomon Pribram was chosen president of the new group. The twenty or more founders were almost all recent immigrants from Germany. Two years later the Congregation had increased to about forty and included Capt. Jonas P. Levy among its supporters.”

In light of this growth, the congregation began making plans to erect a permanent house of worship. There was one problem, however. While the 1844 law passed by the 28th Congress did not say so explicitly, it was understood that it applied only to Christian churches. Hence, members of the Washington Hebrew Congregation feared a Jewish house of worship would not be welcome. Their only recourse was to get Congress to explicitly state that the 1844 law applied to Jewish houses of worship as well.

“An important event in the life of the young congregation occurred in 1856, under the presidency of Joseph Friedenwald. They submitted through Senator Lewis Cass, a memorial [petition] to the 34th Congress on February 5, 1856, requesting an amendment to existing laws whereby the Hebrew Congregation in Washington would be granted the same rights, privileges and immunities as were granted Christian churches under a law passed [on] June 17, 1844. This bill was passed, and the act was signed by President Franklin Pierce on June 2, 1856. Now the Washington Hebrew Congregation saw its way clear to incorporate under the charter granted by Congress.”

It was not long before the congregation had a chazzan/shochet by the name of H. Melle. In July 1857 it formally adopted a constitution and by-laws, and was incorporated. By October 1860 the congregation was looking for larger quarters for its growing membership.

“A news item [Occident November, 1860] tells this story as follows:

“ ‘We are informed that the Israelites of the national capital are now about closing the purchase of a beautiful large church on Tenth Street, between E and F Streets. The building cost originally $13,000, but the price to be paid for it is $10,000; first payment $2,000…. As the Washington Congregation is neither rich nor numerous, though steadily increasing, our friends would be greatly indebted to all Israelites to assist them to obtain a suitable house of worship.’

“A Philadelphia correspondent reports on his visit to Washington: Six years ago there was not a Minyan to be found in that city; now there are about four hundred Yehudim there.… great credit should be accorded to Capt. Jonas P. Levy, through whose exertions and perseverance, not only a congregation has been formed, but a new building has just been purchased ….”

Samuel Weil was elected chazzan in 1859 and served until 1869. An anonymous correspondent for the weekly newspaper the Jewish Messenger wrote on January 24, 1862:

“There being at present no regular minister, a young man, named [Samuel] Weil, conducts the services. He has a pleasant voice, and his style of reading is not too pronounced. We observe he has introduced some changes in the Minhag – whether they are conducive to increased decorum and devoutness, we cannot say. The portion of the Prophets is read in German, and certain parts of the liturgy are omitted. The prayer for the government was likewise, by some oversight, forgotten. Strange to say, they still retain the selling of Mitzvahs [auctioning of the aliyot], which did not add, on our opinion, to the solemnity of the service. Otherwise, the congregants conducted themselves with marked decorum, and there was a pretty good attendance.”

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The Tyranny of Beauty: Readers Have The Last Word

Editor’s Note: Yitta Halberstam’s article “Purim and the Tyranny of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim” (Family Issues section, March 16) ignited a firestorm of reaction, both pro and con. Hundreds of letters and e-mail responses poured in to our website (JewishPress.com) and the print edition, along with several article-length responses. We published a couple of letters about the article in the March 23 issue, along with a response from Ms. Halberstam. Last week we devoted a full page in Family Issues to some of the e-mails and website comments. The responses keep coming, and so this week we’re letting several more readers have their say – and then we’re turning the page to other matters. Some of the article-length responses can be read on our website.

Facing Reality

I truly regret that Ms. Halberstam was so misunderstood. For starters, the name of the article was “The Tyranny of Beauty.” Anyone who knows anything about Ms. Halberstam knows she is a sincere yiray shamayim who writes with her whole soul. She does not believe the most important quality a female can have is her looks. She believes inner beauty is the lasting beauty.

However, she is also a realist and she is well aware of the shidduch crisis. She knows how many resumes grind themselves out of fax machines and how most of them go unanswered. She knows how it is with shadchanim who try but are limited.

Anyone who is up in arms at the thought of trying to make oneself more attractive – and, needless to say, it is the rare case where a nose job is the issue – should look around and see what is going on today.

I recently tried to set up a family member with a boy learning in kollel, and after I told his mother how brilliant and kind and full of mitzvot the girl is, and the special family she comes from, the mother had two questions for me: Is she pretty and is she blond. This from a kollel mother who fully plans to support the young couple.

Yitta Halberstam in her article lamented the fact that so much emphasis is placed on looks. But if that is the unfortunate reality today, a word to the wise should be sufficient.
Nicole Levy
New York, NY

Blatant Generalizations

In response to cogent criticism about her article by reader Tova Ross (Letters, March 23), Ms. Halberstam asserted that she only wrote the article after years of imploring young men to consider inner beauty when selecting a mate. Again, she emphasized that her article was put forth publicly to help. This is specious at best.

Ms. Halberstam’s blatant generalizations about young women fixing their appearance is an oversimplification of the shidduchim issue. Cosmetics, nose jobs, and hair treatments are not the end all and be all to securing one’s life partner. Further, where in Ms. Halberstam’s article did she direct men to fix their attitude and outward appearance as well?
Barbie Kona
(Via E-Mail)

What About The Boys?

Ms. Halberstam begins her article lamenting the power imbalance in today’s shidduch scene. Boys (really their mothers) are inundated with resumes and girls sit tsitering at home. She presents her advice as the magic solution, yet anyone who takes a second to follow it to its inevitable conclusion would quickly realize it would do nothing but greatly exacerbate the current “crisis.”

In a world where girls are getting plastic surgery left and right because they are pressured to (first by their mothers, as the article suggests, then their friends who are doing the same, then via a shadchan by the boys they date who have come to expect it) they are stripped of any power they once had. Their self worth has been trod upon and they have been relegated to a role of literally doing anything they can to “get a guy.”

Let’s not forget that all of this is the foundation for a marriage. Is this what we want frum Jewish marriages to be based on? The husband should expect his wife to go to extreme measures at his whim? And for those of you who think I’m taking my reasoning too far, I am talking about a world where it is expected that a girl undergo plastic surgery to fix anything and everything that “needs to be” in order to date successfully.

Now let’s flip it around here. Ms. Halberstam is the mother of a dating boy. She presents herself and her son as the pictures of perfection. I get the impression that, as the old cliché has it, no girl is good enough for her baby. Instead of assessing the shidduch world and figuring out what she can do as the mother of a son to alleviate the pressures, she points at mothers of girls and tells them how to make their daughters good enough for her son. It seems to me that mothers of sons, instead of pointing fingers because the girls aren’t “pretty enough,” could stand to sit their precious boys down and discuss realistic expectations.

The Early Jewish Settlement Of Texas

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

In 1519 Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, Spanish explorer and cartographer, led an expedition into Texas with the goal of finding a passage between the Gulf of Mexico and Asia. He and his men were probably the first Europeans to see the land that became known as Texas. At various times between 1519 and 1848, all or parts of Texas were claimed by Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the United States.

Beginning in 1810 the people of Mexico rebelled against Spanish rule and started what became known as the Mexican War of Independence. This armed conflict ended in 1821 with Spain losing control of its North American territories. The new country of Mexico was formed from much of the land that had comprised New Spain – including Spanish Texas.

In 1821 Stephen F. Austin (1793-1836) established the first legal settlement of 300 North American families (termed the Old 300) in Mexican owned Texas. Among this group was Samuel Isaacs, the first Jew to be recorded as settling in Texas. He was granted land located in Fort Bend County. Nothing more is known about him other than he served in the Texas army from 1836 to 1837.

The founding of Austin’s colony marked the beginning of a wave of immigration from the United States to Texas, which at this time was not a part of the U.S. As many as 30,000 American immigrants had arrived by 1835. More followed throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, a number of them Jews.

The Seeligsons, Dyers and Ostermans

The Seeligsons, Dyers, and Ostermans were meticulously observant in traditional religious practice. They did not consider it a deterrent to their absorption into the civic and political activity of the bustling port city. They formed the religious nucleus which created the first Jewish communal organization in the state [of Texas], the Galveston Jewish cemetery (The Occident, Vol. X, No. 7, October, 1852). Reacting to this event, The Galveston News of August 31, 1852, with an eye to the future, wrote: “But we anticipate the organization of a Jewish congregation and the addition of a synagogue to the number of our places of public worship, at no very distant day.”1

Michael Seeligson

Michael Seeligson was born in Holland in 1797 to Sephardic Jewish parents, whose ancestors had fled to northern Europe from the Spanish Inquisition. He came to Galveston, Texas in 1838. The following year his wife Adelaide and his family joined him. Michael and two of his sons played a critical role in the movement to have the Republic of Texas annexed to the United States. Michael served as alderman of the city of Galveston in 1840 and 1848 and in 1853 he was elected the first Jewish mayor of the city.

Michael was especially noted for his wisdom and kindness. These exceptional attributes must have played no small role in the willingness of the predominantly non-Jewish population of Galveston to elect an observant Jew to such a high office.

Leon and Isidore Dyer

Leon (1807-1883) and Isidore (1813-1888) Dyer were born in Dessau, Germany. Their parents, who moved to Baltimore while they were both relatively young, were instrumental in the founding of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1830.

[Leon] Dyer was self-educated. In the early part of his career he worked in his father’s beef-packing establishment (the first in America). As a young man he enjoyed great popularity with the citizens of Baltimore, and filled a number of minor public offices. When the great Baltimore bread riots broke out, he was elected acting mayor, and through his intervention order was soon restored. While Dyer was engaged in business in New Orleans in 1836, Texas called for aid in her struggle for independence. Dyer was at that time quartermaster-general of the state militia of Louisiana. With several hundred citizens of New Orleans he embarked at once on a schooner bound for Galveston, arriving two days after the battle of San Jacinto. He received a commission as major in the Texas forces, signed by the first president, Burnett.The Louisiana contingent was assigned to the force of Gen. Thomas Jefferson Green, and saw active service clearing western Texas of bands of plundering Mexican troops. When Santa Anna was taken from Galveston to Washington, Major Dyer accompanied the guard, and Santa Anna’s autograph letter thanking Dyer for courtesies received on the journey testifies to the general’s gratitude.

In 1848 Colonel Dyer crossed the plains to California, and settled in San Francisco, where he founded a congregation – the first on the Pacific coast.2

Leon’s younger brother Isidore moved to Galveston in 1840 and went into business. He was so successful that he was able to retire in 1861. However, given his business acumen, he was not allowed to enjoy his retirement for long. In 1866 he was elected president of the Galveston Union Marine and Fire Insurance and held this position until 1880.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-early-jewish-settlement-of-texas/2012/02/29/

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