Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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FRIEDMAN — AMERICAN JEWISH LITERARY “ FIRSTS”
47
published in English in America, the “Bay Psalm Book,” to con-
vince the public of its authoritative authenticity, Hebrew words
were printed in Hebrew type and the entire Hebrew alphabet
was reproduced. The printing was crude and there are those
who believe that the Hebrew type was locally handcut. It is
known that there was not a set of Hebrew type in America until
1735 when Harvard imported such type from England to print
Judah Monis’
Hebrew Grammar
, the first such grammar to be
printed in the United States, that Harvard might educate future
clergymen to be able to read the Holy Bible in the language they
believed the Almighty spoke.
From 1669, when Increase Mather published
The Mystery of
Israel's Salvation Explained and Applied
, “An Epistle” addressed
to the Christian reader being “the substance of several sermons
preached,” it was but the first of a flood of printed sermons and
pamphlets from the Puritan clergy dealing with the Jews of the
Old Testament. Indeed, so intense was the admiration of the
founding fathers of the Massachusetts Colony for Jewish ideals
that as early as 1641 they sought to establish their theocratic
government on “the modell of the Judicall lawes of Moses.” At
the same time, seeking and proclaiming religious liberty for
themselves, they had no will to allow Quakers, Papists, Jews or
Heathens to settle in their midst.
One of the beautiful survivals of Jewish literary works in
America is
Parafrasis Comentado sobre el Pentateucho por Illus-
trissimo Sr Ishac del K. K. deAmsterdam
of 1681, a commentary
on the Pentateuch written by Isaac da Fonseca Aboab, who died
in 1693. When, in 1642, the Jews of Brazil became sufficiently
prosperous to have a rabbi, they sent to Amsterdam and had
Rabbi Aboab come out to them. After war broke out in Brazil
between the Dutch and the Portuguese, Aboab returned to Hoi-
land, and, as the first Jewish author who had lived in America,
not only wrote this book, but, described by Kayserling as “an
excellent Hebrew poet,” he left us other works worthy of his
talents and learning.1
The first Colonial Jewish publication was an English trans-
lation of a Hebrew prayer of Rabbi Joseph Yesurun Pinto “per-
formed at the Jews Synagogue in the City of New York,” October
23, 1760, as a “Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the reducing
of Canada to His Majesty’s Dominion,” printed in New York
at the new printing office of W. Weyman. In the following year,
1M. Kayserling, “Isaac Aboab, The First Jewish Author in America,”
Publications of the American Jewish Historical Societyy
No. 5 (1897), pp. 125-136.