Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I recently acquired a fine set of the first Jewish translation of the Torah into English. The work was translated by Isaac Leeser (1806-1868), a leading figure of American Orthodoxy.

Before his translation, English Bibles were based on the King James version. Leeser’s work, therefore, no doubt helped combat the influence of missionaries and Christian Bibles.

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Leeser translated the Torah at a time of tremendous Jewish population growth. In 1840 an estimated 15,000 Jews lived in the United States. By 1848, that number had grown to 50,000. With the dramatic rise in population, several Jewish schools were founded, and the Leeser translation gave Jewish students an alternative to non-Jewish Bibles, which were the only English Bibles available to them until that point.

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