Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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BLOCH ----AMERICAN JEWISH LITERATURE
19
and
Antiquities
were also published in Philadelphia (1773) and
in New York (1773-75).
In the several discourses in defense of his conversion to Chris-
tian ity which Judah Monis published in 1722, he drew upon
rabbinic and cabbalistic learning. These discourses appeared in
Boston, a community which had a considerable number of his
former co-religionists, mostly transient Jewish merchants and
traders. Their Puritan neighbors, themselves victims of religious
persecution, often showed a ruthless intolerance of the religious
beliefs and practices of others. The vigorous attempts of the
Puritans at proselytism were often directed at the Jews. The
tracts of Monis, in which rabbinic and cabbalistic lore was drawn
upon in support of Christian teachings, were aimed at gaining
Jewish converts for the new faith their author had embraced.
The Jews of Boston, though less learned than Monis, remained
steadfast in their attachments to the faith of their fathers. Never-
theless, accounts of the rare conversion of a Jew to Christianity
were frequently published in those days and Christian preachers
now and then discoursed on aspects of the Jews and of Jewish
destiny. Thus, in one of his early publications
Discourses on
Saving Knowledge
(Newport, R. I., 1770), Ezra Stiles draws upon
rabbinic and cabbalistic texts pertinent to his discourse on the
Trinity. Incidentally, before Ezra Stiles became president of
Yale University, he lived in Newport, R. I., and there he met
Rabbi Hayim Isaac Karigal of Hebron, who was visiting the
North American colonies.
A Sermon Preached at the Synagogue
in Newpor t . . . on the Day of Pentecost 1773
by Karigal in Spanish
was translated into English by Abraham Lopez and appeared
in Newport. I t was the first Jewish sermon printed in America.
The friendship between Rabbi Karigal and Ezra Stiles presents
the earliest contact in this country between two divines of different
faiths — a Jew and a Christian — who, with mutual respect for
one another, indulged in conversations on religion and made use
of rabbinic and other post-biblical Hebrew texts. Similar conver-
sations of Jews with other Christian divines followed. Rabbinic
texts were often referred to when they tended to support or to
refute one argument or another. As the Jewish community rose
in numbers, their non-Jewish neighbors sought an understanding
of Jewish religious practices and teaching. There arose the need
for literature with the aid of which such knowledge could be
disseminated. Learned Jews — itinerant preachers and rabbis —
who found their way to this country discussed aspects of Jewish
law and lore and contributed to the gradual rise in the demand for
Jewish literature. With the growth of the Jewish population