Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The year was 1866. A brother and sister were embarking on a long and treacherous journey from their hometown of Merzig, Germany. Their destination was the New World. Their aim? To start a new life in the United States.

I found a record of their trip in a miniature Hebrew-German siddur they brought with them on their voyage. On the free-ends of the small volume appears a unique personal prayer for their safety written by the chazzan of their town, Chaim Gershon Schnerb.

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The Jewish community of Merzig was old but small. The travelers, Mayer and his sister Miriam, were from the Hanau family, a prominent family whose members lived in the town for centuries.

In his prayer, the chazzan beseeches G-d – in the merit of the sacrifice of Isaac, the prophecy of Samuel, Eliyahu, and Elisha, and the holiness of tzaddikim of all generations – to protect Mayer and Miriam from dangerous sea creatures. He also asks that the sea remain calm and that the sailors and captain of the ship work diligently, without laziness.

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